Articles Posted in Best Business And Class Action Lawyers Near Chicago

How do we know how much a piece of art is worth? For most of us, a professional art appraiser or auction house gives us a number or price range, but that number is based partly on how much the artwork sold for the last time it changed hands, and it turns out determining that number is more tricky than it might initially appear to be.

To start with, who’s really buying the artwork? An auction house or dealer might say that sold a piece to a particular collector, but they rarely meet the collector in person. Instead, they deal with a “friend” of a collector, but that “friend” might turn out to be an “independent agent” who buys the artwork from the auction house or dealer for one price and sells it to someone else at a higher price.

Buyers and sellers are frequently shell companies, rather than individual agents, taking advantage of the secrecy inherent in the art world to conceal their identity.

Most investors would never consider investing millions (much less billions) into an industry with so much secrecy because such secrecy leaves the industry ripe for fraud. But in the case of the art world, it is that very secrecy that makes it so appealing to certain investors.

To combat the fraud that some say has become rampant in the world of art collecting, some people are saying it’s time we treat art dealers and auction houses more like we treat banks.

Banks are already required by law to identify their customers and where their wealth is coming from, as well as any transactions involving more than $10,000 in cash. Now the federal government is considering applying that same law to the art world. The new law would put an end to shell companies acting as collectors, or allegedly buying on behalf of collectors. Continue reading ›

The Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision in a foreclosure action could have far-reaching implications for litigations within the state. In a 5-2 decision, the Court ruled that anyone seeking to serve a defendant in Cook County via special process server must first secure a Cook County judge’s authorization for the summons to be valid.

The case arose from a foreclosure action in Kankakee County. In the underlying case, the plaintiff Municipal Trust and Savings Bank filed a complaint for mortgage foreclosure against defendant Dennis J. Moriarty in December 2016 and issued summons from Kankakee County, where the mortgaged commercial properties are located. A special process server ultimately served the defendant at Rush Hospital in Chicago, which is located in Cook County. Upon the plaintiff’s motion, the circuit court entered a judgment for foreclosure and sale. Following entry of the foreclosure judgment, a sheriff’s sale was held on the property, and plaintiff was the successful bidder. The bank then filed a motion for confirmation of the foreclosure sale.

The defendant filed a Section 2-1401 petition challenging the judgment as void arguing that the circuit court was without personal jurisdiction to enter the default judgment in the foreclosure proceeding. The Defendant asserted that under section 2-202 of the Code, a special process server cannot serve process on a defendant in Cook County without first being appointed by the circuit court. The circuit court denied the defendant’s section 2-1401 petition finding that the special process server was not required to be specially appointed to serve process on the defendant. The appellate court affirmed. The defendant petitioned for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, which granted his petition. Continue reading ›

In a recent order issued in the case of PNC Capital LLC v. TCode, Inc., the trial court swatted down the plaintiff’s excuses for refusing to answer jurisdictional discovery sought by the defendant and ultimately awarded sanctions against the plaintiff after finding that it lacked any substantial justification for its refusal to respond to essential jurisdictional discovery in order to thwart plaintiff’s constitutional right to remove the case to federal court based on diversity of citizenship. The order provides a cautionary tale for plaintiffs who wish to object to discovery issued by another party.

On September 4, 2020, the plaintiff in the case, PNC Capital LLC, which does business under the names Procuretechstaff Consulting Services and PTS Consulting Services, filed a three-count complaint against the defendant, TCode, Inc., in the Cook County state court alleging Breach of Restrictive Covenant (Count I), Tortious Interference with Contract (Count II), and Breach of Non-compete Agreement (Count III). The plaintiff has sought monetary damages of $104,000.

In response, the defendant requested that the plaintiff disclose the plaintiff’s members’ identity and state of citizenship. The purpose of the discovery was to determine if the case was eligible for removal to federal court. To be eligible for removal, the defendant would need to establish a valid basis for federal jurisdiction. In this case, the defendant sought to determine if the requirements for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1332 were met. This requires establishing that the parties are completely diverse (i.e. citizens of different states) and an amount in controversy of more than $75,000. Plaintiff refused to comply, relying on a purported agreement with the defendant’s former counsel to exclusive jurisdiction in state court and venue in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The requirements for removal of a lawsuit from state court to federal court are found in 28 U.S.C. §1446 and provides that a defendant seeking removal must file its notice of removal within 30 days following service of the complaint. However, if the pleadings do not make it clear whether the requirements for removal are met, a defendant must promptly investigate whether the case may be removed. Under such circumstances, the 30-day clock for removal does not begin to count down until the defendant receives information “from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3).

In this case, the plaintiff was a limited liability company. For the purposes of invoking federal diversity jurisdiction, the citizenship of a limited liability company is based on the citizenship of each of its members. Thus, determining whether the case was removable required the defendant to identify each of the plaintiff’s members and their respective citizenships. Jurisdictional discovery is designed to obtain just this sort of information. A plaintiff is not at liberty to conceal facts necessary to the determination of whether the suit is removable or engage in a scheme to preclude the defendant’s timely removal. Rooflifters, LLC v. Nautilus Ins. Co., 13 C 3251, 2013 WL 3975382, at *3–6 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 1, 2013). Continue reading ›

A truck manufacturer was agreed to a settlement after it was sued for selling trucks with defective engines. Two members of the litigation class had filed separate suits against the company in state court. After the settlement was finalized, the manufacturer sought to have those suits dismissed. The plaintiffs attempted to intervene in the court where the settlement was approved, seeking to opt-out of the terms of the settlement. The district court refused and the plaintiffs appealed. The appellate panel affirmed the decision of the district court. The panel found that the plaintiffs had not shown that their decision to refrain from timely objecting to the settlement was an excusable one. The panel determined that the plaintiffs were attempting to obtain the benefit of both the settlement and their separate litigation, as a way of receiving whichever of the judgments was larger. The panel found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in binding the plaintiffs to the terms of the settlement.

A class of owners accused Navistar of selling trucks with defective engines. The suit was settled for $135 million. In June 2019, the district court gave the settlement its preliminary approval. Before the approval could become final, the court had to notify class members of their right to opt out, and it needed to consider any substantive objections by class members who elected to be bound by the settlement. In August 2019 such a notice was sent to all class members. The court held a fairness hearing in November 2019 and rejected some objections to the settlement. In January 2020 the court entered a final judgment implementing the settlement. Continue reading ›

A Cook County judge recently granted final approval to a $25 million class-action settlement to end a sweeping class-action lawsuit accusing well-known HR technology and service company, ADP, of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in the way it supplied equipment and support to employers requiring employees to scan their fingerprints when punching the clock at work.

According to class counsel, more than 40,000 people filed claims under the settlement. According to the terms of the settlement, these individuals will receive a prorated portion of the settlement fund equal to about $375 each. The judge approved an award of $8.75 million in attorney’s fees for class counsel or one-third of the total settlement funds.

The litigation resulting in this settlement dates back to 2017 when the first lawsuit was filed against ADP. In 2018, two additional class-action lawsuits were filed against ADP, all centered on nearly identical allegations. The three cases were eventually consolidated into one proceeding before Judge Atkins prior to the settlement. Continue reading ›

Fleas and ticks can carry Lyme disease, making them dangerous, and even potentially fatal, to us all, but especially to dogs who spend a lot of time outside and in whose fur fleas and ticks like to burrow. But when it comes to a certain flea and tick collar, could the protection against fleas and ticks be worse than the dangers posed by the bugs themselves?

Elanco Animal Health is an Indiana-based pharmaceutical company that makes medications and vaccines for animals, including Seresto flea and tick collars. After almost 1,700 incidents of pet deaths and about 900 humans harmed, all of which were reported as having been linked to the Seresto flea and tick collars, Elanco is now facing a class action lawsuit filed by consumers who allege their dogs were either harmed or killed by the collars, as well as a congressional investigation. Continue reading ›

By now, we’ve all gotten used to hearing stories of high-level executives of huge corporations getting fired for misconduct, and while some people might be glad to see some signs of accountability, it’s usually bittersweet when it gets announced that they received a severance package worth tens of millions of dollars. But now McDonald’s is suing their former CEO, Steve Easterbrook, to return the $37 million he was paid as part of his severance package, claiming his misconduct was more extensive than they realized at the time they negotiated his severance package.

Easterbrook was removed as CEO back in November of 2019 for having a personal relationship with a female colleague. The relationship was apparently consensual and consisted of nothing more than text messages and video calls, but it violated company policy, and as a result, Easterbrook was fired from his position as CEO without cause.

Only after Easterbrook had been fired, and had negotiated his severance package with the company, did the company receive information from an anonymous source claiming Easterbrook had had sexual relations with at least three other women at the company. In one instance, Easterbrook allegedly approved a discretionary stock grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to be granted to one of the women while they were involved. Continue reading ›

An AI company harvested publicly available photographs from social media sites across the internet and then used those photographs to derive a biometric facial scan of each individual in the photograph. The company sold this database to law enforcement agencies to use in identifying persons of interest or unknown individuals. A woman sued in a class action, arguing that the harvesting of biometric data violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. The company removed the case to federal court, and the federal court ruled that the plaintiffs’ claims lacked standing under Article III. The appellate court agreed with the district court and affirmed, ordering that the case be remanded to state court.

Clearview AI is in the business of facial recognition tools. Users may download an application that gives them access to Clearview’s database. The database is built from a proprietary algorithm that scrapes pictures from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Venmo. The materials that it uses are all publicly available. Clearview’s software harvests from each scraped photograph the biometric facial scan and associated metadata, which it stores in its database. The database currently contains billions of entries.

Many of Clearview’s clients are law enforcement agencies. The clients primarily use the database to find out more about a person in a photograph, such as to identify an unknown person or confirm the identity of a person of interest. Users upload photographs to Clearview’s app, and Clearview creates a digital facial scan of the person in the photograph and then compares the new facial scan to those in its database. If the program finds a match, it returns a geotagged photograph to the user and informs the user of the source social-media site for the photograph.

In the wake of a New York Times article profiling Clearview, Melissa Thornley filed suit in Illinois state court under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). BIPA provides robust protections for the biometric information of Illinois residents. Thornley’s complaint, filed on behalf of herself and a class, asserted violations of three subsections of BIPA. Clearview removed the case to federal court. Shortly after removal, Thornley voluntarily dismissed the action. Thornley then returned to the Circuit Court of Cook County in May 2020 with a new, significantly narrowed, action against Clearview. The new action alleged only a single violation of BIPA and defined a more modest class. Continue reading ›

A plastics company purchased ingredients from a producer of rubber products for many years under a series of short-term agreements. A few years after signing a long-term agreement, the rubber producer attempted to unilaterally raise the price of the products it was selling to the plastics company. When the plastics company protested that this was not allowed under the agreement, the rubber producer failed to make scheduled deliveries on time. The plastics company then sought an alternate source of rubber and sued the producer for the difference in cost it paid. The district court determined that the rubber company failed to adequately assure the plastics manufacturer of its ability to perform under the contract, and the plastics company was therefore entitled to seek supplies elsewhere and recoup damages. The appellate panel affirmed, finding that the plastic company’s actions were reasonable under the Uniform Commercial Code.

BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc. designs and manufactures rubber and plastic products, primarily for the automotive industry. Continental Carbon Company manufactures carbon black, an ingredient in many rubber products. Before 2010, BRC bought all the carbon black it needed from Continental, though the two companies did not have a long term supply contract.

In 2009, BRC solicited bids from several suppliers of carbon black, seeking a long-term contract to ensure continuity of supply. Continental won the bidding, and in late 2009 the two companies signed a five-year contract to run to Dec. 31, 2014. Continental agreed to supply BRC with approximately 1.8 million pounds of prime furnace black annually in equal monthly quantities. The contract listed baseline prices for three types of carbon black which were to remain firm throughout the agreement. The contract also included instructions for calculating the feedstock price adjustment to account for fluctuations in the price of oil and gas. Continue reading ›

When a class action settles, class members generally have three options: (1) remain a part of the class, (2) opt-out of the settlement, or (3) object to the settlement. Many courts have bemoaned a perceived rise in the abuse of the third option by class members using a technique commonly referred to as “objector blackmail.” Objector blackmail involves class members filing frivolous objections to a class settlement, appealing decisions approving the settlement over such objections, and then seeking to obtain a side payment from the defendant in exchange for dismissal of their appeals. A recent Seventh Circuit opinion may spell the beginning of the end of this practice.

The issue of objector blackmail was front and center in the case of Pearson v. Target Corp. The plaintiffs in Pearson filed a putative class action alleging that the retailer Target, among others, made false claims about dietary supplements they manufactured and distributed. In March of 2013, the parties reached a settlement and asked the district court to approve it. After the first settlement was thrown out on appeal, the parties then reached a second settlement. Following the district court’s preliminary approval of the second settlement, three class members objected to the settlement. The objections ran the gamut from the number of class counsel’s fees to the failure of the defendants to admit liability under a statute they had not been accused of violating in the case. Continue reading ›

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