Online review sites such as Yelp have been the bane of companies’ existence ever since they first started popping up on the internet. While businesses work hard to provide each of their customers with the best experience possible, one can never please everyone, and the displeased will inevitably turn to the internet to vent their frustration for all potential clients to see. As problematic as that is for any business (especially small businesses), is suing customers who leave a bad review really the answer?

Lisa Agostino, of Macomb County, Michigan, is being sued by North Wind Heating and Cooling for leaving a bad review of the company on Yelp.

In her review, Agostino said she was overcharged for the air conditioner capacitator the company installed for her. Continue reading ›

After two companies got into dispute over fallout from jointly hosted party during Indianapolis 500, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s view that the plaintiff had no non-speculative evidence of damages, and that the plaintiff had committed a breach of contract by not promoting the event across the social media channels that it agreed to use.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC sponsors the annual Indianapolis 500 race and associated race-weekend events, which include musical acts and other festivities. In 2015, Karma International became a licensee of Maxim, a men’s magazine. Karma has hosted Maxim-branded entertainment at large sporting events, including a party prior to the 2016 Super Bowl in San Francisco.

In early 2016 Karma began negotiations with the Speedway to host a Maxim-branded event at that year’s 100th-running of the race. The parties eventually agreed on terms in a March 2016 agreement. The agreement required each party to cross-promote the event across their social media channels. The Speedway complied with its obligations under the agreement, but Karma never ran the banner ad it promised to show on Maxim.com. It also did not use Maxim’s social-media channels to promote race-weekend events. Continue reading ›

In a series of partial summary judgment opinions, the Delaware Chancery Court threw out all non-competition and non-solicitation claims against Alphatec Holdings, Inc., a medical device company, and its chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Miles in a lawsuit filed by Miles’s former employer, NuVasive, Inc. The suit claimed that Miles violated the non-compete and non-solicitation provisions of his employment agreement when he left to work for rival Alphatec in October 2017.

Miles had worked at NuVasive since 2001 and entered an employment contract in September 2016 which included post-employment restrictions against working for a competitor or soliciting NuVasive employees or customers. In October 2017, Miles resigned from NuVasive and accepted a position as the chairman of Alphatec the following day. NuVasive filed suit a week later, claiming that Miles’s departure was part of a year-long scheme that included discouraging NuVasive from acquiring the smaller Alphatec. Continue reading ›

Some of the top publishing companies recently filed a copyright infringement suit against Audible, an Amazon subsidiary, seeking to enjoin to the audiobook company’s rollout of a new feature called “Audible Captions” which shows the text on-screen as a book is narrated. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seven members of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), including the “Big Five” of publishing: Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishers, and Macmillan Publishers.

Audible announced the new caption feature back in July and set an official rollout date close to the time when students would be returning to classes in the fall.  In advance of filing the lawsuit, many of the plaintiffs sent Audible cease-and-desist letters or released public statements calling the feature “an unauthorized and brazen infringements of the rights of authors and publishers.”

In the simplest terms, Audible Captions displays the text of an audiobook to listeners in real-time while the book is being read to them. Audible generates the text in real-time using Audible’s transcription technology. According to the complaint, “Audible Captions takes Publishers’ proprietary audiobooks, converts the narration into unauthorized text, and distributes the entire text of these ‘new’ digital books to Audible’s customers.” This conversion of audio to text, the plaintiffs allege, constitutes the creation of unauthorized derivative works in violation of the Copyright Act. Continue reading ›

In what is expected to shake up the entire “gig” industry in California, Governor Gavin Newson recently signed into law a bill that rewrote the rules of employment law as it relates to using independent contractors in California. The new law, known as Assembly Bill (AB) 5, is expected to grant hundreds of thousands of workers new job benefits and pay guarantees across numerous industries including ride-hailing companies, trucking, janitorial services, nail salons, adult entertainment, construction, media, and healthcare.

Assembly Bill 5, which curbs businesses’ use of “independent contractors,” gained final approval in the state Senate and state Assembly, largely along partisan lines. Independent contractors, some of whom work for multibillion-dollar technology companies, are generally not covered by minimum wage, overtime, sick leave, family leave, or workers’ compensation laws. Nor do businesses pay into Social Security or Medicare for the independent contractors they retain. Continue reading ›

The Illinois Appellate Court found that a marketing company adequately pleaded a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against one of the former founders of the company who left to work for a competitor. James P. Keane Sr. was one of the founders of Advantage Marketing Group Inc. and owned 35% of the company. When he left his company to purchase and operate a competing business, Advantage sued. The trial court dismissed Advantage’s breach of fiduciary duty claim finding that because Keane was not an officer or director at the time of the alleged conduct, Advantage failed to establish that he owed a fiduciary duty to the company.

The appellate court rejected the argument that only officers or directors of a company owe fiduciary duties to the company. The Court explained that the determination of whether a fiduciary relationship exists must be made based on an examination of the realities of the relationship rather than the employee’s title. Accordingly, the Court examined the nature of Keane’s relationship with Advantage to determine if Advantage adequately alleged that Keane owed fiduciary duties to the company. Continue reading ›

A U.S. District Court judge in Rhode Island recently granted CVS Pharmacy, Inc. a  preliminary injunction to block an executive who ran its Caremark Retail Network from working for Amazon’s online pharmacy PillPack, finding that the move would likely violate the executive’s non-compete agreement.

John Lavin worked as a senior executive for CVS for 27 years, most recently as senior vice president for provider network services at CVS Caremark, a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM). In this role, Lavin negotiated with retail pharmacies on behalf of CVS Caremark. In May 2017, Lavin entered an agreement which contained a covenant not to compete among other restrictive covenants in exchange for restricted stock units worth $157,000, according to the Court’s opinion. Lavin’s non-compete agreement prohibited him from working for a competitor for 18 months after leaving CVS.

A year after entering the agreement, Lavin allegedly began discussions with PillPack about leaving CVS for a position at Pillpack and even interviewed with executives from both PillPack and Amazon. After interviewing, Lavin was ultimately offered the position of director of third-party networks and contracting, reporting directly to PillPack’s CEO. Shortly thereafter, Lavin resigned from CVS and started employment with PillPack. Continue reading ›

Restrictive covenants such as covenants not to compete and non-solicitation agreements are key provisions of many employment agreements and are meant to protect the company’s proprietary information and long-term relationships. Beginning January 1, 2020, business owners in Oregon using non-compete agreements must take into account the notice requirements imposed by a recently passed law or their non-compete agreements will not be enforceable.

Earlier this year, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill (HB) 2992, which imposes a new burden on employers who utilize noncompetition agreements with their Oregon employees. Under the new law, an employer must provide the former employee with a signed, written copy of their non-compete agreement within 30-days following their termination. If an employer does not provide a copy of the non-compete agreement to the former employee within this window, the employer forfeits the right to enforce the non-compete agreement. Continue reading ›

A purchaser of a classic 1973 Ford Bronco sued the car’s auctioneer in Illinois court. The purchaser alleged that the vendor committed fraud by misrepresenting the condition of the vehicle in its advertisements and during the auction. The circuit court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed, finding that the vendor had sufficient contacts with Illinois when it solicited the business of the purchaser via advertisements, its website, and its communications over email and the phone.

In January 2018, John Dixon saw an advertisement posted by GAA Classic Cars, LLC on a car-related website. The advertisement listed a 1973 Ford Bronco for sale at auction. Dixon responded to the advertisement by sending an email to GAA requesting more information about the Bronco including how to bid for it. GAA responded with an email to Dixon, inviting Dixon to bid on the Bronco at the auction scheduled for March 2, 2018. GAA’s email told Dixon that he could participate via live simulcast bidding or on the telephone via phone bidding. GAA added that Dixon could find more information about the Bronco at GAA’s website. Dixon asked for pictures of the Bronco’s engine. GAA responded by email that it would send him pictures of the engine once GAA received the Bronco from its owner. GAA told Dixon that the auction price for the Bronco should run around $30,000.00 – $40,000.00. Continue reading ›

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