Author: Jeffrey M. Goldstein

Short Salute to Richard Solomon

Jan 24, 2020 - Franchise Articles by |

Salute to Richard Solomon This is a short tribute to Richard Solomon, Esquire, who was a great franchise lawyer. Before his passing, Richard practiced in the franchise and antitrust law areas for almost fifty years. Although Richard did not limit his representation to only franchisees, he did vigorously represent many franchisees and dealers during his career. If nothing else, Richard’s views regarding the motives and abilities of participants in the franchise world were always honest and blunt. Many times, my views were in tune with his. Richard’s articles that had been published on his firm’s old website www.franchiseremedies.com no longer publicly exist. However, some of his writings are still found on www.Bluemaumau.org  Below, I’ve taken a few interesting excerpts from the prolific writings by Richard; right below each one, I’ve set forth my brief thoughts.   The Great Conflict of Protecting Markets or Franchisees Richard Solomon October 10th, 2012 …. When the time comes to read and sign a franchise agreement, if the executives read the contract at all – and many later testify that they didn’t read any of it – they find clauses that say that the franchisor never gave any financial performance information that was not contained in Item 19 of the FDD; that no one is authorized to provide financial performance information on the part of the franchisor; that no one did provide any financial performance information about this franchise; and that if anyone did provide financial performance information, the investing executive did not rely upon […]

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Ohio Federal Court Enforces Restrictive Covenant Against Franchisee & Rejects its FDD Violation Claims

Jan 18, 2020 - Franchise, Dealer & Antitrust Decisions in One Sentence by |

Ohio Federal Court Rejects Former Ice Cream Franchisee’s Arguments to Dissolve Preliminary Injunction and to Maintain Case for Violations of California Franchise Act In case in which franchisee (Schulenburg) defended (and lost) franchisor’s (Handel’s) bid to enforce post term covenant not to compete, franchisee’s counterclaim that franchisor had violated the CFIL by failing to provide an updated and revised FDD to franchisee was dismissed for franchisee’s failure to show that Handel’s CFIL violations caused any damages or articulate any way in which Handel’s violations damaged him, where the revised FDD differed solely with respect to a franchisee’s ability to obtain SBA financing. Handel’s Enters. v. Schulenburg, No. 4:18-CV-00508, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1185 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 6, 2020) Excerpts from Case Below: Handel’s Enters. v. Schulenburg United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division January 6, 2020, Decided; January 6, 2020, Filed CASE NO. 4:18-CV-00508; CASE NO. 4:18-CV-02094)   For [FRANCHISEE] David Scott Levaton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Franchise Legal Support, Westlake Village, CA; Rares M. Ghilezan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Global Legal Law Firm, Solana Beach, Solana Beach, CA. For [FRANCHISOR] Andrew Gregory Fiorella, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP, Cleveland, OH; Elizabeth A. [*2]  Batts, Warren T. McClurg, II, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff – Cleveland, Cleveland, OH; Philip Jeng-Hung Wang, Stoel Rives, LLP, LEAD ATTORNEY, Three Embarcadero Ctr, San Francisco, CA. Judges: PAMELA A. BARKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE. MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER …. The parties have moved […]

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Liberty Tax Franchisee’s Claim Against Bank Derailed by Pleading Defect

Jan 5, 2020 - Franchise, Dealer & Antitrust Decisions in One Sentence by |

Liberty Tax Franchisee’s Claim Against Bank Derailed by Pleading Defect In a recent Liberty Tax franchise case the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Louisville Division found that the franchisee’s tortious interference claim against Republic Bank & Trust Company (“Republic”) should be dismissed based on the franchisee’s lawyer’s failure to properly plead indemnity or contribution required to procedurally assert the claim in federal court; based on this ruling the court did not further consider the other logical problems with the franchisee’s alleged wrongdoing. JTH Tax, Inc. v. Freedom Tax, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-00085-RGJ, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 218210 (W.D. Ky. Dec. 19, 2019)   ***************************************************** Counsel: For JTH Tax, Inc., doing business as Liberty Tax Service, Siempretax+, L.L.C., Plaintiffs: Denise M. Motta, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP – Louisville, Louisville, KY; Julia K. Whitelock, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP – Alexandria, Alexandria, VA; Patrick K. Burns, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP – DC, Washington, DC; Peter G. Siachos, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP – Florham Park, Florham Park, NJ. For the Franchisees Adisa Selimovic, Freedom Tax., Inc., ThirdParty Plaintiffs: Brett M. Buterick, LEAD ATTORNEY, Hill Wallack LLP, Princeton, NJ; Evan M. Goldman, LEAD ATTORNEY, A. Y. Strauss LLC, Roseland, NJ. JTH Tax, Inc. v. Freedom Tax, Inc. United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Louisville Division December 19, 2019, Filed Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-00085-RGJ Excerpts from the Decision: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Plaintiffs JTH […]

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Court Dismisses Franchisee’s Racial Discrimination Claim for Termination

Dec 9, 2019 - Franchise, Dealer & Antitrust Decisions in One Sentence by |

Court Dismisses Franchisee’s Racial Discrimination Claim for Termination In case where plaintiffs-franchisees Nabil Gazaha and NAYAA, LLC (referred to individually and collectively as “Gazaha”) sued defendant KFC Corporation (“KFC”) setting forth claims for common law breach contract resulting from KFC’s termination of a franchise agreement and for race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, federal court in Virginia found, inter alia, that Gazaha failed as a matter of law to present evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, or alternatively, any evidence of pretext necessary to rebut KFC’s asserted non-discriminatory reason for terminating the franchise agreement. KFC’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Defendants’ Counterclaims was GRANTED. [Excerpt Regarding Racial Discrimination from case] 2016 WL 1245010 United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division. KFC CORPORATION, Plaintiff, v. Nabil GAZAHA, et al., Defendants. Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-1077 (AJT/JFA) Signed 03/24/2016 With respect to Gazaha’s claim in Count II for intentional race discrimination and unlawful termination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Court finds that he has likewise failed to adduce evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable trier of fact to find in his favor. 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b) forbids racial discrimination in the making and enforcing of contracts. Section 1981 claims are properly analyzed under the Title VII framework. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 n.1 (4th Cir. 2002). Accordingly, the complaining party must come forward with “direct evidence” of racial discrimination or satisfy the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting scheme. Davis v. Am. Soc. […]

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Court Rules Best Western is not a Franchise and Thus Not Liable for Franchise Act Violations

Dec 4, 2019 - Franchise, Dealer & Antitrust Decisions in One Sentence by |

Court Rules Best Western is not a Franchise and Thus Not Liable for Franchise Act Violations Best W. Int’l Inc. v. Twin City Lodging LLC, No. CV-18-03374-PHX-SPL, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111696 (D. Ariz. July 3, 2019) In a recent case in which the Plaintiff Best Western International Incorporated (the “Plaintiff”) filed suit against Twin City Lodging LLC, Percy Pooniwala, and Santha Kondatha alleging multiple causes of action related to the termination of a Best Western Membership Agreement (the “Membership Agreement”), and in which the Defendants argued that the Complaint must be dismissed because Best Western failed to comply with the requirements of the Minnesota Franchise Act by failing to abide by the disclosure requirements of the Minnesota Franchise Act when selling the franchise to Twin City Lodging LLC, the Court refused to rule that the  Membership Agreement was unenforceable because the plain terms of the Minnesota Franchise Act denote that the statute only applies to franchisors and franchisees, and the Court found that the Plaintiff was not a franchisor, as the Complaint clearly identified the Plaintiff as a non-profit corporation and never identified the Plaintiff as a franchisor or the Defendants as franchisees, instead describing the Plaintiff as a membership organization. (Text of Excerpts from the Case Below) Best Western Int’l Inc. v. Twin City Lodging LLC United States District Court for the District of Arizona July 3, 2019, Decided; July 3, 2019, Filed No. CV-18-03374-PHX-SPL   Reporter 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111696 * Best Western International Incorporated, Plaintiff, vs. Twin […]

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Multi-Unit Franchisee’s Failure to Sign both Franchise Agreements Contemplated by its Development Agreement Leaves its Dispute with its Franchisor Dickey’s Outside the Scope of any Mandatory Arbitration Provision

Nov 16, 2019 - Judge’s Distribution and Franchise Rulings from the Front Lines by |

Multi-Unit Franchisee’s Failure to Sign both Franchise Agreements Contemplated by its Development Agreement Leaves its Dispute with its Franchisor Dickey’s Outside the Scope of any Mandatory Arbitration Provision By: Jeffrey M. Goldstein In a recent decision by the United States Circuit Court for the Tenth Circuit, a franchisee’s (Campbell’s) case against its franchisor (Dickey’s), for various business torts was permitted to remain and  proceed in federal court after the circuit court affirmed the district court’s decision that Dickey’s could not identify a valid written agreement that expressed a mutual intent to arbitrate the dispute. Campbell Invs., LLC v. Dickey’s Barbecue Rests., Inc., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26980 *; __ Fed. Appx. __; 2019 WL 4235345 (10th Cir. 2019). The franchisee, Campbell Investments, a Utah-based company, purchased and briefly operated a Dickey’s Barbecue franchise in South Jordan, Utah. The business relationship quickly deteriorated, and Campbell sued Dickey’s. Although Dickey’s argued that a franchise operating agreement requires arbitration to resolve disputes between the parties. Campbell contended that it never signed an operating agreement when it purchased the restaurant from a former franchisee. The district court ruled in favor of Campbell, denying Dickey’s motion to force the case out of court and into arbitration. Even though it was clear, and both parties agreed, that they had been conducting the franchise business pursuant to some form of operative understanding, the district court held that Dickey’s could not identify a written agreement that contained an arbitration requirement. Making matters somewhat murky on this issue was that […]

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Allegedly Fraudulent Truck Independent Contractor Relationship Held to Fall Within Confines of Ohio Business Opportunity Act

Nov 10, 2019 - Judge’s Distribution and Franchise Rulings from the Front Lines by |

Allegedly Fraudulent Truck Independent Contractor Relationship Held to Fall Within Confines of Ohio Business Opportunity Act By: Jeffrey M. Goldstein In a recent federal court case in the Northern District of Ohio, the Court denied Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiffs’ Ohio Business Opportunity Act (“OBOA”) claim based on alleged fraud. Goodwin v. Am. Marine Express, Inc., No. 1:18-cv-01014, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190965 (N.D. Ohio Nov. 4, 2019). The issue decided by the Court was whether the business relationship between the Plaintiffs and Defendants was legally a “business opportunity” covered by the OBOA. The process engaged in by the Court in determining whether the business relationship was a ‘business opportunity’ is very similar to that carried out by courts in determining whether certain distribution relationships fall within the confines of various state and federal franchise laws. As alleged in the Goodwin Complaint, AMX was a common carrier based in Cleveland that provided intermodal drayage, local/regional cartage, and over the road trucking services, whose customers shipped goods via tractor trailers operated by company-employed drivers or owner-operators, with dedicated leased units. Per Plaintiffs, as part of their “fraudulent scheme,” the individual Defendants directed AMX to transfer titles of semi-truck cabs that they intended to lease to owner-operators, like Plaintiffs, to Gurai Leasing through lease agreements called “Independent Contractor Agreements.” According to Plaintiffs, AMX and Gurai Leasing–as directed and controlled by the individual Defendants–concealed from them the terms of the lease and/or purchase, misrepresented and concealed from them the party from whom […]

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Indentured Servitude in the 21st Century: Employee and Franchisee Noncompete Covenants

Nov 8, 2019 - Reformist Thoughts by |

Indentured Servitude in the 21st Century: Employee and Franchisee Noncompete Covenants By:      Jeffrey M. Goldstein Founding Partner – Goldstein Law Firm, PLLC www.goldlawgroup.com Introduction In a recent decision regarding the right of a former franchisee to operate and work after the conclusion of its franchise agreement, the North Carolina Superior Court (the “Court”) held unenforceable a post-term covenant not to compete (“CNC”). Window Gang Ventures, Corp. v. Salinas, 2019 NCBC LEXIS 24, 2019 NCBC 23, 2019 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 115878, 2019 WL 1471073. However, in so ruling, the Court also found that the Franchisor nevertheless had a legal interest protected by trade secret misappropriation and unfair trade practices laws. The franchisor in Window Gang Ventures, Window Gang Ventures, Corp. (“Window Gang” or “Franchisor” or “Plaintiff”) had franchise locations in 20 states, and “engaged in the business of operating or franchising ‘Window Gang’ locations for residential, commercial, industrial and high-rise cleaning services including window cleaning, blind cleaning, gutter cleaning, window tinting, chimney sweeping, dryer vent cleaning, roof washing, oil remediation, no slips floor, and low and high pressure spray applications.” The Defendant Gabriel Salinas (“Salinas”) was the President of Defendant The Gang Group, Inc. (“Gang Group”), and Defendant Window Ninjas, LLC (“Window Ninjas”).  Defendants Red Window, LLC (“Red Window”), Orange Window, LLC (“Orange Window”), and Blue Window, LLC (“Blue Window”) (together, the “Affiliated Defendants”) are limited liability companies organized by Salinas to operate Window Gang franchises in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, respectively. The factual background of the case, some of […]

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Walk-In Tub Dealer Held to be Franchisee in Franchise Termination

Oct 22, 2019 - Judge’s Distribution and Franchise Rulings from the Front Lines by |

Antitrust Law Daily Walk-in tub seller’s operations qualify as franchises NEWS Walk-in tub seller’s operations qualify as franchises By E. Darius Sturmer, J.D. A marketer/seller/installer of walk-in bathtubs in the New York and New Jersey area could qualify as a franchise with standing to assert counterclaims against Safe Step Walk In Tub Co. under the franchising laws of those states and Connecticut and Rhode Island, the federal district court in New York City has ruled. Therefore, a motion by Safe Step for dismissal of these counterclaims was denied. However, because the allegations were outside the ambit of New York and Rhode Island’s “Little FTC” Acts, claims brought under those statutes were dismissed. The court also discarded numerous claims for unfair competition and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Safe Step Walk In Tub Co. v. CKH Industries, Inc., March 17, 2017, Roman, N.). Safe Step had sued bathtub marketer/seller/installer CKH Industries, claiming nonpayment of certain marketing fees related to the use of Safe Step’s trademarks. CKH counter-sued, alleging that Safe Step was in fact a franchisor who attempted to structure “Dealership/License” agreements to avoid federal and state franchise laws. CKH alleged that Safe Step defaulted under the agreements by refusing to honor its obligations and by terminating those agreements, or failing to renew them, despite CKH’s performance of its side of the bargains. CKH contended that the manufacturer’s actions violated state franchise laws and state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive business practices, and constituted a fraud […]

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Washington Supreme Court Restricts Franchisors’ Pricing of Products and Services to only those that are “Fair and Reasonable” Prices

Sep 21, 2019 - Franchise Articles by |

The Washington Supreme Court has recently ruled Franchisors cannot exceed ‘fair and reasonable prices’ in selling products and services to their franchisees. Specifically, the Court held that under that state’s Franchise Relationship Act that it is an unfair or deceptive act or practice for any person to “sell, rent, or offer to sell to a franchisee any product or service for more than a fair and reasonable price.”  The Washington Supreme Court proceeded to define prolific components of a definition of “fair and reasonable price” for such products. The Washington Court explained: The plain language and the legislative history of the FIPA make clear that a broad understanding of the market and market forces must inform a fact finder determining whether prices are fair and reasonable under the FIPA. A fact finder must take into consideration market forces writ broadly. This includes what the district court relied on—the price at which the franchisor acquired the products or services—but reaches beyond. The prices of competitor franchisors should be taken into account, including whether the prices of all franchisors are the same. So, too, should the statements of profit margin made by the franchisor. Other relevant factors include the franchisor’s charges to other franchisees for the same or similar products or services; what other similarly situated franchisors charge similarly situated franchisees for the same or similar products or services; business and industry practices; the price the franchisor pays for the products or services; and the price at which the franchisee could obtain […]

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