Saturday, October 3, 2015

Torres v. Simpatico, Inc.

Opinion handed down March 25, 2015
The issue at the heart of Torres is the enforceability of a compelled arbitration clause contained in a franchise agreement.[1]  After some franchisees joined together in a putative class action against their franchisers and other individuals associated with their franchise system, alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”),[2] the franchisers attempted to assert the individual arbitration clauses in the franchisees’ contracts.[3]  The district court granted the franchisers’ motion to compel arbitration.  The franchisees then appealed from the district court’s ruling, arguing that the arbitration clauses were unconscionable and unenforceable, but the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision.[4] 

Friday, October 2, 2015

U.S. v. Robinson

Opinion handed down on March 25, 2015[1]
Fred Robinson opened a non-profit charter school in St. Louis in 2006.[2]  In addition to opening the charter school, Robinson had been employed by the Parking Division of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office (“Parking Division”) to inspect parking meters since 1990.[3]  Following suspicious employment records, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation into his employment in late 2009.[4]  The FBI’s investigation, which consisted of many interviews and GPS tracking, concluded that Robinson did not perform his job for Parking Division.[5]  In addition, Robinson was found to have misappropriated the charter school’s funding.[6]  Robinson was charged with eight counts of federal charges, including one for wire fraud (related to the misappropriation of funds for the charter school), two for federal program theft related to the charter school, and five for federal program theft related to his employment by Parking Division.[7]  Before trial, the district court denied Robinson’s motion to suppress the GPS evidence, Robinsons’ motion to sever counts 1-3 and 4-8, and Robinson’s objection to the jury’s composition under Batson v. Kentucky.[8]  At trial, the district court also rejected Robinson’s challenges to certain testimony and parking-related jury instructions.[9]  After the jury found Robinson guilty on all counts, Robinson appealed.[10]  The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings on all issues and charges.[11]

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Lyons v. Vaught

Opinion handed down March 24, 2015[1]
 A former University of Missouri - Kansas City (“UMKC”) part-time lecturer filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against UMKC administrators for retaliation, alleging that they discontinued the lecturer’s appointment due to his speech regarding student athlete favoritism.[2]  The lecturer claimed his protected speech contributed to this adverse employment action taken against him, which would be unlawful due to the First Amendment concerns of public employees.[3]  The Eighth Circuit held that, because the lecturer failed to allege administrators' awareness of the protected speech, it was not clearly established that the adverse employment action was unlawful, and administrators were therefore to be given qualified immunity.[4]

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Andra v. Left Gate Property Holding, Inc.

Opinion handed down Feb. 24, 2015
The plaintiff, Issiah Andra, purchased a vehicle through an eBay online auction service on July 15, 2011.  The defendant, Left Gate Property Holding, Inc. (“Left Gate”) was the seller of the vehicle.  Left Gate was a “top-rated” seller on eBay and headquartered at a seventy-acre facility in Stafford, Texas.
Upon taking delivery of the vehicle, Mr. Andra noticed several inconsistencies between the vehicle’s actual state and what the eBay listing had described.  Left Gate agreed to pay for the necessary repairs, but failed to do so.  Mr. Andra ultimately filed suit against Left Gate in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County.  Left Gate argued that the Missouri trial court did not have personal jurisdiction to hear the case.  The trial court agreed with Left Gate and dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court of Missouri[1] reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case, holding that because of “Left Gate’s substantial, long-term business transactions in Missouri as well as its alleged fraudulent misrepresentations, telephone and mail correspondence, and continuing warranty obligations directed toward a Missouri resident[,] . . . Missouri may assert personal jurisdiction over Left Gate.”[2]