A Victory for a Levin Ginsburg Client in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

Court Of Appeals 7th Circuit - YouTube

In a victory for Levin Ginsburg’s client Nano Gas Technologies, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s interpretation of an arbitration award, holding that the defendant could not “wait until he dies” to pay a portion of a damage award. In Nano Gas Technologies, Inc. v. Roe, Case Nos. 21-1809; 1822 (7th Cir., Apr. 25, 2022) the Seventh Circuit ruled that the district court had misinterpreted an arbitration award in concluding that the defendant could satisfy a $500,000 judgment “in such manner as Roe chooses.” In refusing to allow Nano Gas to immediately enforce the underlying arbitration award, the district court interpreted the arbitrator’s “in such manner as [defendant] chooses” language as allowing the defendant to choose when to satisfy the arbitration award, if ever, including by whatever assets he had left at the time of his death. Nano Gas appealed from the district court’s judgment.

Agreeing with Nano Gas, the Appellate Court concluded that, although Mr. Roe “invited ambiguity” through an alternative reading of “in such manner as Roe chooses,” his reading was unreasonable. The Appellate Court recognized that Roe could not “refuse to turn over his only identifiable asset, choose hypothetical forms of payment that may never come to fruition, or require Nano Gas to wait until he dies.” The court agreed with Nano Gas that both the language of the arbitrator’s opinion and common sense resolved this issue. Finally, recognizing that although in certain cases district courts may send a case back to the arbitrator to clarify an award, the Seventh Circuit rejected that procedure in this case because the award’s language compelled only one conclusion.

The panel reversed the district court’s findings regarding Roe’s discretion to satisfy the $500,000 award and remanded to allow Nano Gas to resume enforcing the entire judgment without delay. Levin Ginsburg Shareholder and Chair of Litigation Department, Howard L. Teplinsky, authored the appellate briefs and argued the case on appeal.

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Register for Upcoming Webinar-Branding Concerns

Branding Stock Vectors, Royalty Free Branding Illustrations | Depositphotos

On May 11, 2022, at 12PM CT, the latest LG Webinar will focus on branding concerns from trademark, licensing and litigation perspectives. Presented by Joseph LaPlaca, Roenan Patt, and Kevin Thompson, this webinar will focus on the issues from multiple viewpoints which should be considered when branding your company. Kevin Thompson will discuss general IP concepts relating to branding, Joseph LaPlaca will discuss common branding concerns which arise when licensing your IP, and Roenan Patt will discuss common pitfalls when branding which could help you avoid litigation. This webinar will help brand owners issue-spot these areas of concern and know when to consult with their LG Attorneys. A recording will be available later for those who register. To register, visit https://bit.ly/37pDMnK.

Branding is important to any company, but especially to startups. For a startup, particularly at the outset, its intellectual property may be its only asset. It’s important to understand how protectable this new brand may be, both as a sword and as a shield. It’s important to be able to stop others from infringing, but the new brand also needs to be safe from interference from third parties. Rebranding later on can be the death knell of a business. It’s important to consider all aspects of branding, including packaging, the website, any promotional materials, and whether or not to have a social media presence. How will your business interact with its customers? How will new customers find your business?

To learn more, please attend the webinar, or reach out to Kevin Thompson at (312) 368-0100 or kthompson@lgattorneys.com with any questions.

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Michael Weissman to Present at an Upcoming ISBA Program

Michael L. Weissman will be a speaker at an upcoming Illinois State Bar Association program titled Navigating Today’s Muddy Banking Waters. The program takes place on Thursday, October 4, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Chicago ISBA Regional Office located at 20 S. Clark Street, Suite 900. To register for the program, please click here.

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The Plaintiff’s End Game – Collecting the Judgment

It was a hard fought battle. You successfully sued a party in a commercial dispute who wronged you and a judge or jury awarded you seven-figure sum. Because the Defendant didn’t immediately take out its checkbook, however, you now face the task of collecting the judgment. Oftentimes, litigation doesn’t end when the judge bangs the gavel and you walk out of the courtroom with a judgment – a piece of paper saying that you’re entitled to money. You can’t bring the judgment to a car dealership and buy a car with it and the judgment itself won’t pay your mortgage. So what do you do to turn the judgment into actual dollars?

The Illinois Legislature and Illinois Supreme Court have carefully crafted laws and rules that allow you, as the successful plaintiff, to discover the judgment debtor’s assets in an attempt to collect your judgment. The process usually begins by serving the defendant with Citation to Discover Assets. The Citation to Discover Assets is first served on the defendant, usually either a person or a business, and, much like a summons or a subpoena, commands the defendant to appear at a specified time and place, usually a courtroom, to answer, under oath, questions about its assets. Typically, a Document Rider is attached to the Citation to Discover Assets requiring the judgment debtor to produce documents, such as bank records, titles to property, and the like, that will enable your attorney to locate assets. Importantly, service of the Citation to Discover Assets also acts as a form of lien or injunction on the defendant’s assets, generally preventing the defendant from disposing of assets while the post-judgment proceedings are pending.

As the victor, you are not only permitted to serve a Citation to Discover Assets on the defendant, you are also entitled to serve one on anyone who holds the defendants assets or who owes the defendant money, such as a customer, employer, bank, relative, investment company or anyone holding assets belonging to the defendant. These Third Party Citations require the third-party to provide sworn written answers to your questions within a certain period of time and, if it fails to do so, the judgment can also be entered against that third-party.

After you’ve been able to discover the existence of assets, you then ask the court to enter an order requiring the party holding the assets to turn them over to you. It takes a court order to get a bank to turnover a defendant’s cash. If you’re asking the court to order the turnover of tangible things, as opposed to cash, typically the order will require the assets to be turned over to the sheriff so the sheriff can sell them and turn them into cash.

There are many effective ways to satisfy a judgment, many are complex and require the assistance of an attorney familiar with the procedures. While most litigators know how to obtain a judgment, far fewer know how to effectively collect the judgment, leaving you holding little more than a very expensive piece of paper.

 
For more information on post-judgment proceedings, please contact:
Howard Teplinsky at hteplinsky@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100

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You Can Run But You Can’t Hide… More On Privacy Regulation, GDPR And California. Who’s Next?

On May 25, 2018, the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) went into effect.  US-based companies that had offices in the European Union or European Economic Area (collectively, “EU”) or those companies whose target market consisted of persons living in the EU were forced to take both IT and legal measures to ensure compliance, or face heavy fines or potential court damages.  However, many US-based companies simply decided that they would disable their e-commerce websites to the EU, and discontinue selling products to the EU, as a means of avoiding compliance with the GDPR.

While this strategy of avoidance may be successful for certain companies to avoid taking compliance measures required by GDPR, it will not be successful as a long term strategy as more States (and potentially the federal government) adopt privacy laws similar to the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”).

Passed in June, 2018, the CCPA will become effective January 1, 2020.  Once effective, US companies will have additional regulations with which to comply regarding the processing of personal information (“PI”) of California residents.  PI is defined broadly to include “any information that …relates to … a particular consumer or household”.   The law was designed to provide California consumers with a means of controlling their personal information, putting them in a better position to protect their privacy and autonomy.   Specifically, the CCPA:

  • Gives California consumers the right to know what PI a business has collected about them or their children;
  • Gives California consumers the right to know if such PI has been sold or disclosed for a business purpose, and if so, to whom;
  • Gives California consumers a right to have their PI deleted;
  • Requires businesses to disclose to California consumers if it sells any of the consumer’s PI has been sold, and if so, allows California consumers to request that the business cease any sales of the consumer’s PI;
  • Prevents a business from denying, changing, or charging more for a service if a California consumer requests information about the sale of the consumer’s PI, or refuses to allow the business to sell the consumer’s PI; and
  • Requires businesses to safeguard California consumers’ PI and hold them accountable if such PI is compromised as a result of a security breach arising from the business’s failure to take reasonable steps to protect the security of consumers’ sensitive information.

Who Must Comply?     Companies must comply if, in the course of their business, they receive PI from any California residents and if they or their parent or subsidiary either: (1) generate annual gross revenues in excess of $25 million, (2) collect PI of 50,000 or more California residents, households or devices annually, or (3) generate 50% or more of its annual revenue from selling California residents’ PI.  Interestingly, parent companies and subsidiaries using the same branding are covered by the definition of “business” even if they themselves do not meet or exceed these parameters.  Thus, essentially, most all US companies whose websites collect PI (even though obtaining IP addresses) are subject to the CCPA, unless they can ensure that less than 50,000 California residents or less than 50,000 of their devices visit the company’s site annually.

What about Companies Who Do Not Do Business in California?

Many US companies may have difficulty showing that they do not do business in California.  According to the California Civil Code, only companies whose “commercial conduct takes place wholly outside of California” would be able to avoid the CCPA.  Further, a company outside California is deemed to be “doing business” in California if it actively engages in any transaction for the purpose of financial or pecuniary gain or profit in California”.  Those companies outside California but that are qualified to do business in California may be subject to the CCPA if they enter into “repeated and successive transactions” in California, including online transactions.  However, while this is only limited to California, it is very probably that other states will adopt similar legislation.

Whose Information Is Affected?

The new law defines “consumer” broadly to include not only customers, but also employees, patients, tenants, students, parents and children.  (Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 1798.140(g).  A “resident” includes natural persons who are in California for anything other than a temporary or transitory purpose, and, those natural persons who are domiciled in California who are out of the State for a temporary or transitory purpose.

What Are The Penalties of Non-Compliance?

If a business is not incompliance with CCPA, the California Attorney General’s Office may bring a civil action against the business.   The Office may levy penalties for non-compliance of up to $7500 per intentional violation of any provision or $2500 per violation for unintentional violations that are not cured within 30 days of notification.

What are Companies To Do?

Moving forward, all US Companies must engage in data mapping to determine what PI it collects, and then put in place updated privacy notices, and other procedures to comply with all relevant regulations.  While California is often the ringleader, certainly other states are also developing similar laws aimed at the protecting PI of its residents.  Until such time as a federal privacy regulation is put into place, US companies will need to analyze carefully where they do business and comply with a patchwork of state laws.

To learn more about the CCPA and other privacy related matters, please contact the author:

Natalie A. Remien, CIPP/US at:

nremien@lgattorneys.com or (312) 368-0100.

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Estate Planning and Administration: The Complete Guide

Morris Saunders will be a presenter at a seminar entitled “Estate Planning and Administration: The Complete Guide” for the National Business Institute. Morris will be giving two presentations at Illinois Business and Industry Services located at 1100 East Warrenville Road, Suite 150 Naperville IL 60563. The first presentation titled “Transfers During Life and Inter-Vivos Trusts” will take place on September 26 from 2:30-3:30,  and the second presentation titled “Tax Consequences of Trusts”  will take place on September 26 from 3:30-4:30. To register, or for more information please click here.

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Purchaser Collection of Pre-Closing Rent Deficiency

In the purchase and sale of real property which is leased to tenants, sellers and purchasers must pay particular attention to the allocation of rent collected both before and after the closing.  A typical purchase and sale agreement will include, among other things, language addressing the allocation of rent by the parties for the current period as well as the collection of delinquent rent after closing which is attributable to the seller’s period of ownership prior to closing.  In negotiating a contract, the parties will need to determine whether the purchaser is responsible for attempting to collect pre-closing delinquent rents and the rights of the seller to pursue tenants after closing for any such pre-closing delinquent rents.

Collection of pre-closing delinquent rent can be a complicated issue for purchasers and sellers to resolve.  On the one hand, the purchaser may be reluctant to allow the seller to undermine the financial condition of a tenant by pursuing lawsuits against a tenant that may be paying current rent to the new landlord.  On the other hand, a former owner does not have a full range of typical landlord remedies at its disposal to effectively induce tenants to pay delinquent rent as the former owner cannot assert an eviction action against a tenant and terminate the tenant’s right of occupancy.

The tension between purchasers and sellers with respect to pre-closing, delinquent rent is further complicated by a recently decided opinion issued by the Illinois Appellate Court in 1002 E. 87th Street LLC v. Midway Broadcasting Corporation (2018 IL.) App. 1st 171691, June 5, 2018).  In that case, the Court upheld a lower court ruling that Illinois law does not permit the purchaser of real estate to pursue claims against a tenant for pre-closing, unpaid rent under a lease assigned to the purchaser at closing.  The purchase and sale agreement between the purchaser and seller in that case contained standard provisions confirming that the “landlord” under the lease included any successors and assigns.  It also provided that all obligations and liabilities of the original landlord were binding on the purchaser, as successor landlord.  That would include any pre-closing landlord defaults that remained uncured.  Notwithstanding the successor landlord’s assumption of the lease, including, potential liability for pre-closing defaults of its predecessor, the Court ruled that the successor landlord did not have the right to recover pre-closing rent.  The Court specifically stated that the rule in Illinois is that rent in arrears is not assignable.

The lesson to be learned from the 1002 E. 87th Street case is that it is important to negotiate and set the expectations of the parties with respect to pre-closing delinquent rents at the time of contract.  Since a predecessor landlord may have little power other than initiating litigation (which is not desired by the successor landlord) against a tenant for delinquent rent and the successor landlord is unable to maintain an action for that delinquent rent, parties must give careful thought to the method of addressing the collection of pre-closing delinquent rent.  Fortunately, there are a number of different approaches that the parties may employ to coordinate and enhance the collection of pre-closing, delinquent rent.

For further information regarding the purchase and sale of commercial real estate as well as matters involving the rights of sellers, purchasers and tenants, please contact:

Jeffrey M. Galkin at:

jgalkin@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100.

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Choice of Business Entity (Part 1)

Congratulations, you have decided to start a new business.  You are going to become an “entrepreneur”, a business owner.  You have put together your business plan, located potential business premises, talked with your advisors, and are ready to get started.

You have talked with an attorney and an accountant and they have advised you to form a “business entity”.  Now you have to decide which one is right for you.  So, what are your choices?  Following are just a few options:

Sole Proprietorship.  You could own and operate the business and not form a separate entity.  This is generally the “simplest” legal way of owning and operating a business.  Other than obtaining the required business licenses, all you need to do is to put an “open for business” sign up and you are ready to go.  The business is owned by only one individual and “dies” when the owner either stops doing business or dies.  The individual owner has unlimited liability for all obligations of the business.

Partnership.  If you have decided to go into business with other owners, you could form a partnership.  There are two kinds of partnerships:  general partnerships and limited partnerships.

In a general partnership, you and your partners will have unlimited liability for acts and obligations of the business, including those incurred by any of the partners in the business.  If you have no agreement, the partnership will be governed solely by the laws regarding partnerships in your state.  Without an agreement, if one partner dies or withdraws, the partnership terminates.

In a limited partnership, there must be at least one general partner who manages the affairs of the partnership and who will be liable for all the acts and obligations of the partnership.  The “limited partners” may not participate in the management of the partnership and are treated as investors.  They will not generally be liable for the acts and obligations of the partnership.  The partnership must file a Certificate of Limited Partnership in the state in which it wishes to organize.

In proprietorships and general partnerships, there can be serious legal consequences to the individual(s) who operate the business.  As pointed out, a sole proprietor, while “King” of the business, has unlimited liability for the obligations of the business.  General partners are entitled to their share of the business income, but also have unlimited liability.  Limited partners may not participate in management, but have limited liability.

So, what can a business owner do to limit his or her liability?

[To be continued, in Part 2, where we will discuss Corporations and LLCs, two of the more preferred ways of operating a business in order to minimize personal liability].

If you are starting a business and have any questions, please contact:

Morris R. Saunders at:

312-368-0100 or msaunders@lgattorneys.com.

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Are Your Business E-Mail Messages Legally Compliant?

Overview:

You may have heard of The Can-Spam Act (“Can-Spam”), but if your business engages in email marketing, you must understand the requirements and put processes in place for compliance.  Can-Spam is a federal law that establishes requirements for all outbound commercial messages, regardless of whether they are B to B (business to business) or B to C (business to customer) messages.  The Act also provides recipients the right to have you discontinue your emails to them, which is referred to as an “opt-out” provision.   Finally, it instills high penalties for non-compliance.

Requirements:

The main requirements of Can-Spam are as follows:

  1. Header or subject line information must NOT be misleading.
  2. The subject line must be an accurate descriptor of the content of the message.
  3. Clear and Conspicuous identification that the message is an ad.
  4. Recipients must be provided your address.
  5. You must include an Opt-Out mechanism to avoid future messages.
  6. Opt-out requests must be honored promptly (i.e. within 10 business days).
  7. If you hire another company to handle your e-mail marketing, you are responsible for their compliance with Can-Spam.

Penalties for Non-Compliance:

Each separate email message that does not comply with Can-Spam may be the subject of up to $40,000 or more in penalties, and multiple people may be responsible for violations.  Therefore, both the company whose product or service is being advertised and the marketing company who originated the message may be legally responsible for violations.  In addition to the requirements of Can-Spam, commercial email messages must comply with other laws as well.  For example, if the content is deceptive or misleading information about a product, then the sender may be in violation of the FTC Act and/or other state laws regarding false and deceptive business practices.  Further, impersonation or the unauthorized use of the sender’s computer or system or other such acts are subject to criminal penalties.

Not all commercial messages require compliance with Can-Spam.  Only those messages whose primary purpose is commercial in nature.   For instance, emails to customers concerning their order, or other already agreed-to transaction with your company will avoid the necessity to comply with Can-Spam as they are viewed as relationship or transactional messages.  However, oftentimes a business will send a message that combines elements of transactional or relationship content with commercial content.  At that time, it is important to consult with an attorney for guidance as to whether such a message must comply with Can-Spam or if the message would not fall under the purview of Can-Spam.

If you have any further questions or wish to inquire about our fixed-fee advertising clearance services, please contact:

Natalie A. Remien at:

(312) 368-0100 or nremien@lgattorneys.com.

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