Articles Posted in Business Disputes

In Illinois, the elements of tortious interference with prospective business relationships are as follows:

1) A reasonable expectation of the plaintiff entering into a valid business relationship.
2) The defendant’s knowledge of this expectancy.
3) The defendant’s intentional and unjustifiable interference, causing a breach or termination of the expectancy.
4) The plaintiff suffering damage as a result of the defendant’s interference.

Several notable cases have detailed and applied these principles. In Titan Intern., Inc. v. Becker, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants interfered with their prospective business relations with various entities, causing economic harm. In Force Partners, LLC v. KSA Lighting & Controls, Inc., it was highlighted that commercial competitors can interfere with each other’s prospective business relationships as long as the intent is not solely motivated by malice or ill will. Doctor’s Data, Inc. v. Barrett clarified that a reasonable expectancy requires more than the mere hope of a business relationship – a plaintiff must identify a reasonable business expectancy with a specific third party. In Labor Ready, Inc. v. Williams Staffing, LLC, it was established that a company can state a claim against a competitor for tortious interference by alleging that the competitor purposely interfered with prospective business relations through various means, causing the company to lose future business. Lastly, in Giant Screen Sports LLC v. Sky High Entertainment, it was emphasized that a plaintiff must allege that the defendant’s interference prevented the expectancy from being fulfilled.

Additional case law includes Buckley v. Peak6 Investments, LP, which explained that even when an employer’s statement is deemed privileged from a tortious interference claim, the plaintiff can still prevail by showing that the defendant acted with malice. This can be achieved by showing that the defendant made unjustified statements, excessively published statements, or made statements in conflict with the interest which gave rise to the privilege. Furthermore, the terms “tortious interference with prospective economic advantage”, “business expectancy”, and “business relations” are used interchangeably under Illinois law, as noted in Allstate Insurance Company v. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Finally, Butler v. Holstein Association, USA, Inc. clarified that a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant purposefully interfered, preventing the plaintiff’s legitimate expectancy from ripening into a valid business relationship. These cases collectively provide a comprehensive view of tortious interference with prospective business relations under Illinois law.

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Illinois has two rules that can be used to dismiss cases which allows for more flexibility in defending some actions then in federal court where there is only one means to seek dismissal of an action.

A Section 2-615 motion to dismiss and a Section 2-619 motion to dismiss under Illinois law are two distinct legal tools, each serving specific purposes.

A Section 2-615 motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint by challenging whether the complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted. This motion is concerned with defects appearing on the face of the complaint and does not rely on matters outside the complaint. It admits all well-pleaded facts and attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint [5], [7], [12]. The court, in ruling on a 2-615 motion, considers only the allegations in the pleadings.

On the other hand, a Section 2-619 motion to dismiss acknowledges the legal sufficiency of the complaint but asserts that there are certain external defects or defenses that defeat the claims. It admits the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff’s claim but asserts ‘affirmative matter’ outside of the pleading that defeats the claim. This motion is sometimes referred to as a ‘Yes, but’ motion because it essentially says, ‘Yes, the complaint was legally sufficient, but an affirmative matter exists that defeats the claim’.

The two types of motions can be combined under Section 2-619.1, but it is important to maintain procedural distinctions between them. Each part of a combined motion should be limited to and specify that it is made under one of Sections 2-615, 2-619, or 2-1005, and should clearly show the points or grounds relied upon under the Section upon which it is based.

In dealing with these motions, the court interprets all pleadings and supporting documents in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Furthermore, dismissals pursuant to sections 2-615, 2-619, and 2-619.1 are reviewed de novo. Continue reading ›

In Illinois, tortious interference with contract and tortious interference with prospective business relations are two distinct torts with different pleading requirements.

To establish a case for tortious interference with contract, the plaintiff must show the following [7]:
1) Existence of a valid and enforceable contract between the plaintiff and another party
2) The defendant’s awareness of this contractual relationship
3) The defendant intentionally and unjustifiably induced a breach of the contract, which results in a subsequent breach by the other contracting party
4) The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the breach. Continue reading ›

Diversity of citizenship cannot be asserted merely on information and belief when it comes to the members of a Limited Liability Company (LLC). For diversity jurisdiction purposes, the citizenship of an LLC is determined by the citizenship of each of its members. A simple declaration of diversity of citizenship is not enough. The court needs to understand the identity and citizenship of each member. In case any member is an unincorporated association, such as an LLC or partnership, the citizenship must be traced through all layers of ownership to ensure no member shares a common citizenship with the opposing party.

Merely claiming that all members are citizens of a certain state or that no members are citizens of a certain state is insufficient. It is also not enough to claim that an LLC was organized under a specific state’s laws, maintains its principal place of business in a certain state, or that an LLC has a parent corporation. The citizenship of an LLC must be proven by underlying facts, not merely alleged on information and belief. If the members of an LLC have members, the citizenship of all those members must also be set forth. Continue reading ›

In 2023, there were several significant developments in Illinois civil case law.

The case of “PPP-SCH Inc. v. SVAP Hoffman Plaza, L.P.” clarified that a voluntary dismissal disposing of all remaining claims in a case makes appealable those orders preceding the voluntary dismissal that were “final in nature”. However, this ruling was later modified and superseded on denial of rehearing by the same case.

In “Disability Services of Illinois v. Department of Human Services”, the court allowed the transfer and consolidation of a civil rights case and an administrative review case for the sake of convenience and efficiency due to the similarity of legal and factual issues in both cases.

“Wilson v. Estate of Burge” highlighted that claims under Illinois law for intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy were subject to a one-year statute of limitations under the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. Furthermore, the court found that a suspect who was wrongfully convicted based on a confession procured by torture, sufficiently pleaded that an assistant state’s attorney engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct, as required to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The “City of Chicago v. SBR Revocable Living Trust” case was notable for the dismissal of an appeal as moot due to a subsequent order.

Additionally, the court’s interpretation of jurisdiction in “In re K.F.” gave clarity on appeals from final judgments in civil cases and cases arising under the Juvenile Court Act. In “Hernandez v. Illinois Institute of Technology”, the court provided guidance on how to apply Illinois law to unprecedented circumstances like the disruption of traditional university operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, “Doe v. Burke Wise Morrissey & Kaveny, LLC” resulted in the reversal of an appellate court judgment and affirmation of a circuit court judgment, demonstrating the Supreme Court’s role in shaping Illinois civil case law. Continue reading ›

Recent Illinois law regarding the defense of officers and directors of corporations and LLCs encompasses several key factors:

1. Fiduciary Duties: Officers and directors of corporations and LLCs are fiduciaries, holding duties of good faith, loyalty, and honesty to the corporation. They are not permitted to enhance their personal interests at the expense of the corporation’s interests, and should not be in a position where their own individual interests might interfere with their duties to the corporation.

2. Business Judgment Rule: Under the business judgment rule, a presumption exists that corporate decisions made by an officer or director are made on an informed basis and with an honest belief that the action was in the corporation’s best interests. This presumption can be rebutted by allegations that a director acted fraudulently, illegally, or without sufficient information to make an independent business decision [3].

3. Contractual Obligations: Illinois law provides officers of a corporation with a qualified privilege against liability for tortious interference with a contract with the corporation. To overcome this privilege, the plaintiff must assert and plead that the corporate officers acted with malice and without justification.

4. Piercing the Corporate Veil: Generally, corporate officers and directors are not personally liable for the corporation’s actions, as corporations are considered distinct legal entities separate from their officers, shareholders, and directors. However, under certain circumstances, the corporate veil can be pierced to hold officers and directors personally responsible, such as when there is such unity of interest and ownership that the separate personalities of the corporation and the individual no longer exist, or adherence to the fiction of separate corporate existence would sanction fraud or promote injustice.

5. Specifics for LLCs: In the context of LLCs, allegations that officers and directors disguised equity contributions as loans, enabling the company to make interest payments to insiders during a time when the company was either insolvent or undercapitalized, could be sufficient to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty under Illinois law.

These principles form the foundation of a defense for corporate officers and directors in Illinois. Continue reading ›

In the dynamic landscape of condominium and homeowners’ associations (HOAs), board officers and directors are tasked with making crucial decisions to maintain the welfare of their communities. However, there are times when disputes arise, leading association members or condo owners to bring legal action against these leaders. At Lubin Austermuehle — the Business Litigators, we concentrate on defending condominium and HOA board officers and directors facing lawsuits under Illinois law. In this blog post, we will explore the unique legal challenges in Illinois and our legal team’s indispensable roles in safeguarding these community leaders.

Understanding Illinois Condo & HOA Governance

Illinois, like many states, has a comprehensive set of laws and regulations governing condominiums and homeowners’ associations. These laws define the roles and responsibilities of board officers and directors, as well as the rights and obligations of association members or condo owners. Compliance with these laws is essential to maintaining the harmony and functionality of these communities.

Common Legal Issues Faced by Board Officers and Directors in Illinois

Board officers and directors in Illinois can find themselves entangled in various legal disputes, including:

  1. Breach of Fiduciary Duty: Board members owe a fiduciary duty to the association members or condo owners. Allegations of mismanagement, conflicts of interest, or self-dealing can lead to claims of breaching this duty.
  2. Failure to Enforce Declarations and Bylaws: Ensuring the consistent enforcement of community rules and regulations is a crucial responsibility of board members. Failure to do so can result in legal actions by residents who believe their rights have been violated.
  3. Financial Mismanagement: Improper handling of association funds, budgetary issues, or a lack of transparency in financial matters can lead to allegations of financial mismanagement and legal consequences.
  4. Discrimination and Fair Housing Act Violations: Board officers must ensure that all residents are treated fairly and in compliance with fair housing laws. Allegations of discrimination can result in legal action under both state and federal laws.
  5. Contract Disputes: Board officers and directors often enter into contracts for services and maintenance. Disputes can arise if one party feels that the terms of the contract have not been fulfilled.

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Introduction

Shareholder derivative lawsuits are legal actions brought by individual shareholders on behalf of a corporation against its officers, directors, or other insiders. These lawsuits typically allege misconduct, mismanagement, or breaches of fiduciary duties by those in control of the corporation. Defending against a shareholder derivative lawsuit can be complex and challenging, but with the right strategies and considerations, it is possible to protect the interests of both the corporation and its shareholders. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key steps and considerations involved in defending against a shareholder derivative lawsuit.

1. Understand the Basics of Shareholder Derivative Lawsuits

Before diving into defense strategies, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what a shareholder derivative lawsuit entails. These lawsuits are filed on behalf of the corporation, not individual shareholders, and seek to hold company insiders accountable for alleged wrongdoing. Understanding the legal framework is the first step in formulating an effective defense.

2. Evaluate the Merits of the Lawsuit

The first line of defense in any shareholder derivative lawsuit is a thorough evaluation of the merits of the claims. Engage experienced legal counsel to assess the allegations and evidence. Determine whether the allegations have a factual basis and whether they meet the legal requirements for pursuing a derivative action. If the claims lack merit, you may have grounds to seek dismissal. Continue reading ›

Any contract you’ve signed with a company (including the “Terms of Service” most of us don’t read before clicking the box next to “I agree that I have read and agree to the terms”) has included a clause about where you and that company can resolve legal disputes. In some cases, it’s in a certain state, or even a specific county, but increasingly courts have been forcing their customers, vendors, and employees into arbitration.

Arbitration was originally designed as a way for companies to settle legal disputes with other companies outside of court so they wouldn’t flood the court system. But several years ago companies started including arbitration clauses in their contracts with individuals, often without those individuals realizing they were signing away their rights to a fair trial.

As the issue of companies getting out of control when it comes to their arbitration clauses has become more widespread, judges and legislators have started taking measures to curb companies’ use of arbitration agreements with individuals – especially when it comes to their customers and employees.

So far, Pennsylvania is the only state to pass a law requiring all corporations doing business in the state to consent to being sued in Pennsylvania court by anyone, for conduct the corporation engaged in anywhere. Continue reading ›

Donald J. Trump is already facing dozens of criminal charges for allegedly falsifying business records and misusing campaign funds in an alleged attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. Yet Trump is back in court suing his former attorney, Michael Cohen, for $500 million.

The lawsuit accuses Cohen of talking publicly about things that should have remained confidential between him and his former client. The lawsuit also accuses Cohen of telling lies about Mr. Trump in the media and in Cohen’s two books, Disloyal: A Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump, and Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics.

The first book was published prior to the 2020 presidential election, whereas the second was released in 2022. Among other things, the books accuse Trump of being a racist and of lying about just about everything. Continue reading ›

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