Articles Posted in Commercial Law

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Chicago's personal property lease transaction tax ordinance levies a tax on the lease or rental in the city of personal property or the privilege of using in the city personal property that is leased or rented outside the city. The lessee is obliged to pay the tax. In 2011, the department of revenue issued Ruling 11, as guidance to suburban vehicle rental agencies located within three miles of Chicago’s borders. Ruling 11 stated that, in the event of an audit, the department of revenue would hold suburban rental agencies responsible for paying the tax unless there was written proof that the lessee was exempt, based upon the use of the leased vehicle outside the city. Absent such proof, the department would assume that a customer who is a Chicago resident would use the leased vehicle primarily in the city and that a customer who is not a Chicago resident would use the vehicle primarily outside the city. Hertz and Enterprise filed suit. The circuit court enjoined enforcement of the ordinance against plaintiffs with respect to short-term vehicle rental transactions occurring outside the city’s borders. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court found the tax unconstitutional under the state constitution Home Rule Provision. Absent an actual connection to Chicago, Ruling 11, which imposed the tax based on only a lessee’s stated intention or a conclusive presumption of use in Chicago based solely on residency, imposed a tax on transactions that take place wholly outside Chicago borders. View "Hertz Corp. v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Hartney, a fuel oil retailer with a home office in Forest View, in Cook County, accepted purchase orders in the Village of Mark, in Putnam County, through a business with which it contracted. No Hartney employees were involved there. By so structuring sales, Hartney avoided liability for retail occupation taxes of Cook County, Forest View, and the Regional Transportation Authority. Hartney’s interpretation of the law was consistent with regulations published at the time. However, The Illinois Department of Revenue determined, through audit, that Hartney’s sales were attributable to the company’s Forest View office, rather than the Mark location reported by the company, and issued a notice of tax liability. Hartney paid penalties of $23,111,939 under protest and filed suit. The court agreed that the bright-line test for the situs of sale is where purchase orders are accepted. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court, court disagreed. The court found the “Jurisdictional Questions” regulations of the Administrative Code inconsistent with the statutes and case law. The legislature has not adopted a single-factor test for the situs of retail activity. The court’s own precedent calls for fact-intensive inquiry where there is a composite of many activities, and the legislature, by consistently employing the “business of selling” language, has effectively invoked that precedent. The Department of Revenue must abate Hartney’s penalties and tax liability for the relevant period because Hartney’s actions were consistent with its regulations in effect at the time. View "Hartney Fuel Oil Co. v. Village of Forest View" on Justia Law

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The ability of consumers to make purchases on the internet from out-of-state merchants without paying Illinois sales or use taxes caused Illinois retailers to ask the legislature to “level the playing field.” The result was a taxing statute, Public Act 96-1544, effective in 2011, called the “click-through” nexus law. The law was challenged by a group of internet publishers that display website texts or images, such as a retailer’s logo, containing a link to a retailer’s website; they are compensated by the retailer when a consumer clicks on the link and makes a purchase from the retailer. Out-of-state retailers who use such arrangements to generate sales of over $10,000 per year become subject to taxation under the statute. Their challenge was based on the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act, 47 U.S.C. 151, which prohibits discriminatory taxes on electronic transactions, and the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the statute is invalid. The court noted that such marketing, when conducted through print media or on-the-air broadcasting, does not give rise to tax obligations under the Illinois statute. The enactment is a discriminatory tax on electronic commerce within the meaning of federal law, which preempts it. The court did not reach the commerce clause issue. View "Performance Mktg. Ass'n, Inc. v. Hamer" on Justia Law

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Consolidated Grain maintains a grain elevator in La Salle County, sold Rogowski’s crops, and gave him the proceeds by checks paid directly to him. The bank had lent money to Rogowski for which he signed a note and granted the bank a security interest in his crops and any proceeds of their sale. The bank notified Consolidated of its lien by two written notices, one covering crop years 2004 and 2005 and the other covering years 2005 and 2006. The notices listed as covered agricultural commodities “all grain on hand, all growing crops,” without listing their amount or location. The bank obtained a deficiency judgment against Rogowski in 2008, which remains unsatisfied, then sought payment from Consolidated. The trial court ruled in favor of the bank. The appellate court reversed and the supreme court affirmed. The Federal Food Security Act of 1985 provides how notices of security interests are to be worded and provides that there must be a statement of “each county or parish in which the farm products are produced or located,” The court rejected a “substantial compliance” argument and held that the notices were insufficient for failing to strictly comply with the Act. View "State Bank of Cherry v. CGB Enters., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are minority limited partners in Urban Shopping Centers, L.P., in which defendants acquired a majority interest in 2002. Plaintiffs allege breach of fiduciary and contractual duties, claiming that, pursuant to the operating agreement, defendants were not to compete with them in business opportunities. They alleged that defendants stopped growing plaintiffs’ business, disregarded partnership agreement terms, and stole plaintiffs’ opportunities. During discovery, plaintiffs moved to compel production of documents concerning business negotiations in which each defendant’s attorney discussed with nonclients liability and obligations as Urban’s general partner and use of a “synthetic partnership” to avoid partnership obligations. Defendants claimed privilege, but plaintiffs argued that, having disclosed legal advice on these subjects with each other outside of any confidential relationship, defendants could not later object that those subjects were privileged. The motion was granted; defendants refused to comply and were held in contempt. The appellate court affirmed. The supreme court reversed, holding that attorney-client privilege had not been waived because the sought-after disclosures had occurred in an extrajudicial context and were not thereafter used by the clients to gain a tactical advantage in litigation. The “subject-matter waiver” doctrine was not shown to be applicable. View "Ctr. Partners, Ltd. v. Growth Head GP, LLC, " on Justia Law

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Pielet Brothers Scrap Iron and Metal, was founded Arthur Pielet and his brothers shortly after World War II. Arthur sold his interest to his sons in 1986 through an agreement providing for a lifetime payment to him of a “consulting” fee, and, on his death, for a lifetime fee payment to his wife, Dorothy. The agreement was binding on successors and assigns. In 1994, the then- successor company, P.B.S., dissolved, but payments to Arthur continued until 1998, when its successor, MM, had financial difficulties. It filed for bankruptcy in 1999. Litigation began. The trial court awarded Dorothy almost $2 million. In the appellate court, P.B.S. argued the traditional rule that a cause of action that accrued (1998) after dissolution (1994) cannot be brought against a dissolved corporation. The appellate court rejected the argument, holding that Dorothy’s claim could survive, but remanded for determination of whether the companies could be relieved of liability for the fee under a theory of novation. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the claim of breach of contract against P.B.S. could not survive the corporate dissolution. The issue of novation is relevant as to two other successor corporations and required remand. View "Pielet v. Pielet" on Justia Law

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The manufacturer notified franchise dealers that it was discontinuing the Sterling (a subsidiary of Daimler) line of trucks. The letter offered dealers the opportunity to continue as a service dealership under a new agreement. Plaintiff, a dealer, was warned that, following the termination of the existing agreement, if it did not sign the general release and agree to terminate its Sterling franchise, Daimler Trucks would not renew its Detroit Diesel Direct Dealer Agreement. Daimler later terminated that agreement, which plaintiff alleges prevented it from obtaining parts at wholesale and performing warranty work on Detroit Diesel engines. Plaintiff alleged violations of the Motor Vehicle Franchise Act, 815 ILCS 710/1 and claims of breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, and fraud. The circuit court dismissed all but two counts. The appellate court affirmed, holding that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear several counts under the Act, because those counts should have been brought before the Motor Vehicle Review Board. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "Crossroads Ford Truck Sales, Inc. v. Sterling Truck Corp." on Justia Law