Category: General Litigation

Access Denied: NJ Appellate Division Clarifies Shareholder’s Right to Inspection of Corporate Records

Access Denied: NJ Appellate Division Clarifies Shareholder’s Right to Inspection of Corporate Records

In R.A. Feuer v. Merck & Co., Inc., the New Jersey Appellate Division, in a to-be-published opinion, narrowly construed the scope of a shareholder’s right to inspect a corporation’s records under N.J.S.A. 14A:5-28 and the common law. A Merck & Co, Inc. shareholder appealed from the dismissal of his complaint seeking various corporate records, including twelve broad categories of documents. The shareholder sought evidence that Merck acted wrongfully in its acquisition of another pharmaceutical firm. After Merck appointed a working group to assess the shareholder’s concerns, the shareholder requested documents pertaining generally to the working group’s activities, communications, and formation; documents provided to the board regarding the target pharmaceutical firm and two of its drugs; and the board’s considerations of the shareholder’s demands and the working group’s recommendation. Merck disclosed pertinent minutes of the board and of the working group, but denied the remainder of the shareholder’s demand. The trial court determined that the shareholder’s demand exceeded the scope of the “books and records of account, minutes, and record of shareholders,” which the shareholder had a statutory right to inspect and that the common law did not expand that statutory right. The Appellate Division affirmed, narrowly construing the plain language...

Gibbons Attorneys Author Article Featured in New Jersey Law Journal

Gibbons Attorneys Author Article Featured in New Jersey Law Journal

Frederick W. Alworth and Jonathan S. Liss, Directors in the firm’s Commercial & Criminal Litigation Department, published the following article in the June 18 issue of the New Jersey Law Journal, after a recent decision by the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division made it more difficult for shareholders to challenge corporate actions in New Jersey. Is this part of a trend toward making New Jersey more business friendly? The full article can be found here.

Eleventh Circuit Rules FTC’s Data Security Cease and Desist Order Against LabMD Is Unenforceable

Eleventh Circuit Rules FTC’s Data Security Cease and Desist Order Against LabMD Is Unenforceable

In its June 6, 2018 decision, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) Final Order against LabMD lacked adequate specificity and therefore was unenforceable. The Eleventh Circuit had previously issued a stay of enforcement of the FTC’s Final Order – as reported by this blog on November 16, 2016  – which had concluded that LabMD’s data security practices were “unreasonable” and constituted an “unfair” business practice in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”), 15 U.S.C. §45(a) and (n). The FTC initiated an enforcement action against LabMD in August 2013, alleging that LabMD, which operated as a clinical laboratory testing center, failed to implement reasonable data security measures to protect patients’ sensitive personal information. LabMD’s alleged data security failures allowed an employee to install and maintain file-sharing software on a work-related computer for a period of at least three years, which allowed exposure of patient information on a peer-to-peer network accessible daily by millions of users. In July 2016, and on appeal following a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, the FTC concluded that LabMD’s failures had caused, and were also likely to cause, substantial consumer injury, including identity theft and medical-identity...

Feeling the Chill: The Petro Lubricant Decision – Can Correcting an Online Error Hurt You?

Feeling the Chill: The Petro Lubricant Decision – Can Correcting an Online Error Hurt You?

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Petro-Lubricant Testing Laboratories, Inc. v. Adelman left unanswered significant questions as to what constitutes a republication when corrections or modifications are made to an online publication, thereby retriggering the statute of limitations for defamation. In a 4-3 opinion, the majority established a test for whether a correction or modification is a republication that increases the likelihood that trial courts will deny summary judgment motions, leaving the question of republication for the jury. The practical effect of this will likely be far fewer corrections to online publications for fear of reviving or extending the applicable statute of limitations. Specifically, the majority held that an online article is republished if an author makes a material and substantive change to the original defamatory article. According to the majority: A material change is one that relates to the defamatory content of the article at issue. It is not a technical website modification or the posting on the website of another article with no connection to the original defamatory article. A substantive change is one that alters the meaning of the original defamatory article or is essentially a new defamatory statement incorporated into the original article. It is...

New Jersey Appellate Division Holds Rescission of Contract Also Rescinds Agreement to Arbitrate Contractual Disputes

New Jersey Appellate Division Holds Rescission of Contract Also Rescinds Agreement to Arbitrate Contractual Disputes

In a recent published opinion, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that an arbitration provision will not survive rescission of the contract in which it is contained unless the parties expressly agree otherwise, and that the issue is properly decided by the trial court and not the arbitrator. This opinion marks one more step in New Jersey’s evolving landscape regarding questions of arbitrability. In Goffe v. Foulke Management Corp., the panel considered two actions consolidated on appeal. Both actions involved consumers who attempted to purchase cars from two separate dealerships. Both consumers signed some of the initial paperwork (which contained an arbitration provision), accepted possession of the vehicle, but returned the vehicles after a few days for different reasons. When their respective security deposits for the vehicles were withheld, they each brought suit claiming wrongful conduct on the part of the dealerships. The defendant dealerships successfully moved to dismiss, asserting that plaintiffs were contractually required to arbitrate their pleaded claims. Plaintiffs appealed. After determining that issues of fact as to whether valid sales contracts had been formed and were enforceable should have prevented dismissal of the actions, the Appellate Division addressed whether the arbitration provisions in the contracts were rescinded...

Third Circuit Awards $10 Million to Plaintiff on Summary Judgment in Recent RICO Case

Third Circuit Awards $10 Million to Plaintiff on Summary Judgment in Recent RICO Case

The Third Circuit recently affirmed a summary judgment in favor of a plaintiff for more than $10 million in damages on federal and state RICO claims. In the process, the court shed light on what evidence shows an “intent to defraud a financial institution” as required to establish bank fraud. In Liberty Bell Bank v. Rogers, et al., a bank sued an individual and entities he owned and controlled, alleging, among other things, violations of the federal and New Jersey RICO statutes. The bank alleged that the defendants developed a scheme through which they fraudulently obtained loans from the bank and further defrauded it by making payments on the loans using a check-kiting scheme. On a motion for summary judgment – in response to which the individual pro se defendant failed to file a responsive statement of material facts, thereby enabling the court to deem certain facts admitted – the district court entered summary judgment in favor of the bank, holding the defendants jointly and severally liable to the bank for more than $10 million, plus attorneys’ fees and costs. The defendants appealed, and the Third Circuit affirmed. In particular, the court affirmed the district court’s finding that defendants had...

Delaware Supreme Court Gives Preclusive Effect to Federal Court  Dismissal of Derivative Suit for Failure to Show Demand Futility

Delaware Supreme Court Gives Preclusive Effect to Federal Court Dismissal of Derivative Suit for Failure to Show Demand Futility

In its highly anticipated opinion in California State Teachers’ Retirement System v. Alvarez, the Delaware Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the dismissal of a group of Delaware shareholders’ derivative actions, holding that a previous dismissal by a federal court for failure to plead demand futility precluded other shareholders from pursuing additional derivative actions so long as the other shareholders were adequately represented in the earlier suit. Following the New York Times 2012 exposure of Wal-Mart executives’ alleged mishandling of bribery allegations, Wal-Mart shareholders brought derivative suits in the Western District of Arkansas and the Delaware Court of Chancery. In May 2015, the Arkansas court dismissed the case before it, because the shareholders had failed to adequately plead demand futility. Prompted by the Arkansas dismissal, the Delaware Court of Chancery initially dismissed the Delaware action, but, after some ping-ponging back and forth between the Court of Chancery and the Delaware Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery issued a supplemental opinion, recommending that the Supreme Court adopt a rule proposed in EZCORP Inc. Consulting Agreement Deriv. Litig., which held that constitutional Due Process permits a derivative suit to have a preclusive effect on a subsequent derivative suit only if the plaintiff in the first...

Gibbons Ranked Best Law Firm and Best Lobbying Firm in Inaugural NJBIZ Reader Rankings

Gibbons Ranked Best Law Firm and Best Lobbying Firm in Inaugural NJBIZ Reader Rankings

Gibbons P.C. has been selected as the best law firm and the best lobbying firm in New Jersey in the inaugural NJBIZ Reader Ranking Awards. The Reader Rankings were compiled through an online survey seeking the best of the best in a wide range of categories and subcategories. According to NJBIZ, “The publication of the 2017 Reader Rankings by NJBIZ is our way of recognizing the regard our readers have for the businesses in their communities. What makes the companies listed here distinct is the devotion they inspire among our region’s business leaders.” Gibbons has been recognized by numerous organizations and publications for the firm’s work on behalf of clients, including being named among the New Jersey Law Journal’s Litigation Departments of the Year, earning the top overall honors in 2014, as well as recognition for the practice areas of class actions (2017), products liability (2016), and commercial litigation (2013). The Gibbons Government Affairs Department has ranked as the #1 lawyer-lobbying firm in New Jersey for nine consecutive years, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission In addition, the firm and Gibbons attorneys are also consistently recognized in annual client-review publications such as the Chambers USA Guide to...

Slow Down You’re Moving Too Fast: Third Circuit Directs District Court to Resolve Motion to Compel Arbitration Before Motion to Dismiss

Slow Down You’re Moving Too Fast: Third Circuit Directs District Court to Resolve Motion to Compel Arbitration Before Motion to Dismiss

In a recent decision, the Third Circuit made it abundantly clear that a motion to compel arbitration must be decided before a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Joshua Silfee filed a lawsuit against ERG Staffing Service, his former employer, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, claiming the company’s payroll policies violated state law because workers were required to use a fee-carrying debit card. ERG filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act, asserting that the arbitration agreement between Silfee and ERG’s payroll vendor precluded the suit against ERG. ERG also filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Silfee’s complaint based on the merits of his state law claims against the company. The district court decided to delay consideration of ERG’s motion to compel arbitration and denied the company’s motion to dismiss the case. ERG appealed. The Third Circuit concluded that the district judge erred in delaying the arbitrability inquiry, explaining that arbitrability is a “gateway” issue and that, after a motion to compel arbitration is filed, a court “must refrain from further action until it determines arbitrability.” The Third Circuit noted that “[t]he seeds of the District Court’s confusion may have been sown...

Third Circuit Clarifies Focus of Preliminary Injunction Standard

Third Circuit Clarifies Focus of Preliminary Injunction Standard

Describing its precedent as “confus[ing]” and “inconsistent,” the Third Circuit recently clarified the test for deciding whether to issue a preliminary injunction. Since the 1970’s, courts in the Third Circuit have decided preliminary injunction applications based upon the following factors: (1) the likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant will be irreparably harmed in the absence of relief; (3) the possibility of harm to others from grant or denial of the relief; and (4) the public interest. However, courts differed as to how these four factors should be applied. In Reilly v. City of Harrisburg, the Third Circuit shed light on how these factors are to be weighed and, at least in part, who bears the burden on each. The Third Circuit held that a movant seeking a preliminary injunction bears the burden of “meet[ing] the threshold for the first two ‘most critical’ factors.” To satisfy the first prong, the movant “must demonstrate that it can win on the merits” by showing that its chances of success are “significantly better than negligible but not necessarily more likely than not.” To satisfy the second prong, however, the movant must show “that it is more likely than not to...