patrick austermuehle

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Last month, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion resolving a long-standing circuit split concerning when a copyrighted work is considered “registered” for the purposes of initiating a copyright infringement lawsuit. The Supreme Court held that a lawsuit for copyright infringement can only be filed after the U.S. Copyright Office actually issues a registration certificate for the work. The case, Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, centered on whether Fourth Estate, an online news organization, could sue Wall-Street.com for copyright infringement after the defendant canceled its license agreement but continued to display Fourth Estate’s content on…
The district court granted summary judgment to a bank on a breach of contract claim where a bank customer was precluded from suing bank for payment of fraudulent checks because customer did not report fraud within 90 days of receiving statement containing copy of first fraudulent check, and account agreement specified that fraud was required to be reported within 90 days. Designer Direct, Inc. has a bank account with PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Three of Designer Direct’s officers are authorized signers on its bank account. Between October 2016 and May 2017, Designer Direct’s former office manager, Kristiana Ostojic, forged…
Employers in New Jersey must review their current policies and practices to ensure compliance with a new statutory prohibition on the inclusion of non-disclosure provisions in employment contracts or settlements involving discrimination, harassment, or retaliation claims. The new law, signed by New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy, on March 18, 2019, and effective immediately, states that employers cannot insist that employees keep confidential the details of such claims or settlements. The law makes clear though that it should not be construed as prohibiting employers and employees from entering into non-compete agreements and confidentiality agreements relating to proprietary information, such as non-public
Although non-compete agreements were originally invented to keep executives from running off to competitors with trade secrets and/or client relationships, many businesses have started taking advantage of noncompete agreements by including them in employment contracts with all their workers – even those at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. Workers earning minimum wage (or close to it) doing things like making sandwiches and entering data into a computer system are being made to sign employment agreements that prohibit them from working in any capacity for a similar company. Despite the fact that these are unskilled jobs (often held by…
As fewer physicians are forming their own practices, they are finding one potential disadvantage to hospital or physician group employment: non-compete agreements. Physician employment contracts, particularly for specialists, increasingly include non-compete agreements or non-solicitation agreements (sometimes referred to collectively as restrictive covenants). This can lead to expensive, protracted legal disputes when doctors attempt to leave one physician group for another or desire to form their own practices. Further, many patients lose contact with their doctors when they switch practices. In a recent survey of nearly 2,000 primary care doctors in 5 states, 45% of the physicians surveyed had covenants-not-to-compete…
Where a class of consumers sued an energy company for breach of contract, fraud, and unjust enrichment, the district court dismissed some, but not all, of the claims. The district court found that the consumers had sufficiently alleged that the energy company violated its agreement to charge rates for electricity based on market conditions and that the consumers had pled a claim for unjust enrichment in the alternative. However, the court found that the consumers failed to allege adequate details of a fraudulent scheme. Verde Energy USA, Inc. was sued by a class of consumers in federal court for the…
Where an employee was free to take the knowledge he had accumulated over his nearly 30-year long career into his next job as a consultant, representing buyers of the products of his former employer. Archer Daniels Midland is one of the largest manufacturers of corn-based sweeteners in the United States. In its most recent fiscal year, the sweeteners division of ADM realized a profit of $600 million. ADM sells its sweeteners to a few hundred buyers in the United States, including Sensory Effects, Inc. and PMP, Inc. ADM categorizes buyers in one of two categories: toll contract or flat rate.…
When a water main was damaged by work performed by a telecommunications company, causing a pharmacy to flood and sustain damage, the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment to the insurance company. The Illinois appellate court found that the policy’s exclusion of coverage for damages relating to water from under the surface of the ground applied to water that originated underground, even if the damage caused by that water occurred above ground. In December 2015, Prekshot Professional Pharmacy was operating in leased space in Peoria, Illinois. Preckshot had a contract of insurance with its insurer, Pharmacists Mutual.…
What if you were a college student and you realized one of your professors kept a seating chart that included comments about each student’s race and judgments on their physical appearance? That’s the possibility that Elmhurst College students faced when an article was published in the student newspaper, The Leader, about Professor Timothy Hays, the music business director at Elmhurst College. A student allegedly took a photo of Hays’s seating chart when he was out of the room and sent it to the school newspaper. The seating chart allegedly contained notes beneath each student’s name relating to their physical appearance,…
Where an agreement between two corporations specified that the parties were required to obtain subrogation waivers for enumerated insurance policies, and the claim was later made to the insurance company under a non-listed type of policy, the insurance company was entitled to recover the amount paid out under claim from the liable party. ArcelorMittal leased lift truck tractors from Gallo Equipment Co. under a written contract. The contract was entered into in January 2011. In September 2012, one of the tractors caught fire at one of ArcelorMittal’s steel mills. The tractor was maintained by Arcelor mechanics under the supervision of…
Where the mortgage on a development company’s property was mistakenly recorded as satisfied, and then later corrected, the mistaken release did not extinguish the debt, and the contract was still effective. Trinity 83 Development borrowed $2 million from a bank in return for a mortgage on real property and a note. Five years later, in 2011, the bank sold both the mortgage and the note to ColFin Midwest Funding, who relied on Midland Loan Services to collect the payments due. Two years later, Midland recorded a “satisfaction” document indicating that all debts associated with the note and mortgage had been…
Sara Tirschwell, an investor who had been hired by TCW in 2016 to raise and run a new distressed debt fund for the giant asset-management firm, suddenly found herself without a job on December 14, 2017. She had been called into a meeting with the firm’s chief compliance officer and general counsel and informed that she had unethically told an employee in another department about a potential deal. According to TCW, it was Tirschwell’s fifth violation in 18 months and grounds for termination. Tirschwell said the firm’s chief executive offered her a $500,000 severance package on the condition that she…
In a lengthy opinion, a split New York appeals court rejected President Trump’s argument that he was immune from a defamation lawsuit by virtue of his position as President. The plaintiff in the libel suit is former Apprentice contestant, Summer Zervos. With this opinion, President Trump joins President Clinton as contributors to the jurisprudence clarifying the contours and extent of presidential immunity. The appellate court in Zervos v. Trump relied heavily upon Clinton v. Jones, the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court opinion which held that presidents aren’t immune from civil actions in federal court based on purely private conduct. The underlying…
When a candidate for governor sued news organization alleging defamation and libel as a result of news organization’s statements concerning candidate’s domestic violence conviction and history as gang member, summary judgment was granted for news organization. The appellate court found that the statements about the candidate’s domestic violence conviction were substantially true, and that the statement’s about the candidate’s history as a gang member, while false, were not made with actual malice. In August 2013, Tio Hardiman declared his intention to run for Governor of Illinois. In January 2014, it was announced that Hardiman’s name would appear first on the…
Where a construction manager overstated amount in mechanic’s lien by more than 100%, and overstatement consisted of work performed by other contractors that manager did not have a contractual relationship with, the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment to restaurant owner alleging constructive fraud on part of the construction manager. In August 2017, MEP Construction filed suit against Truco MP and Randhurst Improvements seeking to foreclose upon a mechanic’s lien and other relief. The complaint alleged that Truco and MEP entered into a verbal contract in April 2014 in which MEP would provide construction management and related…
Our firm today filed an amicus brief or friend of the court brief in the on behalf of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety in an important consumer rights case and commercial law case, arising out of an interpretation of a provision of the Uniform Commercial Code. That provision expressly allows for consumers to revoke acceptance of and return for a full refund a product with hidden defects without having to allow the seller the opportunity to repair the defects. The express language of UCC requires this result yet the trial and the appellate…