Author: Jeffrey M. Goldstein

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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Goldstein Law Firm, PLLC Receives Innovative Complex Commercial Litigation Law Firm Award – USA 2019

Sep 16, 2019 - Blog by |

Lawyers Worldwide Awards Magazine GOLDSTEIN LAW FIRM, PLLC   The Lawyers Worldwide Awards Innovative Lawyers 2019 celebrates the leading, most prolific firms, that have continually displayed a high degree of quality, tenacity and ability to punch above their weight within their area of specialization. The Goldstein Law Firm, PLLC, led by founding partner Jeffrey M. Goldstein, is a nationally recognized litigation boutique that specializes in complex commercial litigation focusing on antitrust, contracts, franchise, dealership, distribution, RICO and unfair trade practices disputes.   The Goldstein Law Firm, PLLC for 2019 was awarded in the category of: Complex Commercial Litigation Law Firm of the Year – USA   The Lawyers Worldwide Award Magazine Innovative Lawyers 2019, is created via a thorough, global poll of the readership, which asks the voting readers to put forward their nominations for those Advisors that are, in their opinion ‘Innovative Lawyers’ within their chosen area of specialization.

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Franchisor Cannot Require Arbitration of Dispute With New Franchisee Where New Franchisee Failed to Sign a New Franchise Agreement as Part of Franchise Purchase From Prior Franchisee

Sep 15, 2019 - Franchise, Dealer & Antitrust Decisions in One Sentence by |

The United States Circuit Court for the Tenth Circuit ruled that a restaurant franchisor, Dickey’s Barbecue, was not entitled to require arbitration of disputes between it and a new franchisee, who had purchased the restaurant from a prior franchisee, because the new franchisee had never executed a franchise agreement, and because Utah law required that an arbitration agreement be contained in a written document setting forth the scope of the dispute to be arbitrated; without a signed franchise agreement between the new franchisee after its purchase of the franchise from a prior franchisee, the franchisor could not demonstrate—through recourse either to the text of the asset purchase agreement or evidence presented to bolster its “course of dealing” theory—that the new franchisee ever assumed the written obligations of the prior franchisee, including specifically the agreement to arbitrate disputes. Campbell Invs., LLC v. Dickey’s Barbecue Rests., Inc., No. 18-4055, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26980 (10th Cir. Sep. 6, 2019) Click on Link Below to Read Full Decision Campbell Invs._ LLC v. Dickey_s Barbecue Rests._ Inc._

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Auto Manufacturer Franchisor Falls Prey to Amended Colorado Car Dealer Act’s New Expanded Relevant Market Definition

Sep 12, 2019 - Franchise, Dealer & Antitrust Decisions in One Sentence by |

  In a Colorado federal court case interpreting the Amended Colorado Car Dealer Act in which the car dealer agreement “expressly reserved” for the defendant car manufacturer “the unrestricted right to grant others the right to sell Kia products,” and noted also that plaintiffs are “not being granted an exclusive right to sell Kia products in any specified geographic area,” and stated that defendant “may add new dealers to, relocate dealers into or remove dealers from” the geographic area “as permitted by applicable law”, and where the plaintiff franchisee dealers alleged that defendant’s plan to establish the proposed dealership violated Colo. Rev. Stat. § 44-20-125 (“CDA”), a statute which creates a private right of action for “an existing motor vehicle dealer adversely affected by” a distributor’s plan to reopen, relocate, or establish a “same line-make motor vehicle dealer,” and where the CDA requires any manufacturer seeking to “establish an additional motor vehicle dealer, reopen a previously existing motor vehicle dealer, or authorize an existing motor vehicle dealer to relocate” to provide at least sixty days notice to all of its existing dealers “within whose relevant market area the new, reopened, or relocated dealer would be located”, and where the CDA was amended to define the “relevant market area” as the greater of “the geographic area of responsibility defined in the franchise agreement of an existing dealer” and “the geographic area within a radius of ten miles of any existing dealer of the same line-make of vehicle as the proposed additional […]

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Halal Guys Franchisee Fails to Obtain Preliminary Injunction from Illinois Court to Prevent Termination

Jul 31, 2019 - Judge’s Distribution and Franchise Rulings from the Front Lines by |

A few days ago, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied a plaintiff franchisee’s preliminary injunction request, thereby dooming the ‘Halal Guys’ franchisee’s legal attempt to remain in business after it was terminated by its franchisor. As with many other restaurant franchise terminations, the franchisee in this case was repeatedly defaulted for health and other operational food violations. At the end of the day, the federal court was not persuaded by the franchisee attorney’s focus on an email in which one of the franchisor owners had told the quality inspector to ‘go hard’ on the franchisee when conducting one of the last inspections. As the Court noted, the franchisee had failed to establish its right to the emergency injunction because it failed to individually specifically address, and rebut, under oath, each of the alleged food violations upon which the termination was based. The Court’s analysis of the denial of the emergency relief was exceedingly traditional; however, the decision did appear to contain a small analytical inconsistency when it found both that the plaintiff franchisee had an ‘adequate remedy at law’ [through a damages award in a later trial down the line] and that the franchise brand might not suffer if the Court had chosen to allow the franchisee to continue operating as a branded restaurant. H Guys Ltd. Liab. Co. v. Halal Guys Franchise, Inc., No. 19-cv-4974, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124052 (N.D. Ill. July 25, 2019) Please Click on the Link Below to Read […]

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Little Caesars Easily Decimates Franchisees’ Anemic Legal Arguments and Obtains Preliminary Injunction Order

Jul 17, 2019 - Franchise, Dealer & Antitrust Decisions in One Sentence by |

In this breach of contract and trademark infringement case, where the pizza restaurant franchisor, Little Caesars Enterprises, Inc., sued the franchisee operators of several pizza restaurants for repeatedly violating the franchise agreement by, inter alia, violating operational standards, failing to pay royalties, and operating with the Little Caesars trademarks after the franchise terminations, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted the franchisor’s request for a preliminary injunction, thereby shutting down the franchisees’ operation of the restaurants pending trial; in so doing, the Court rejected resoundingly the franchisees’ poorly constructed and irrelevant legal and factual defenses to the preliminary injunction. Little Caesar Enters., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, July 16, 2019, Decided, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117942 Please Click On Link Below to Read Full Decision. Little Caesar Enters._ 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117942

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Petroleum Franchisor Required to Litigate Franchisee Dealer’s Wrongful Termination Claim

Jul 15, 2019 - Franchise, Dealer & Antitrust Decisions in One Sentence by |

The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey rejected the petroleum franchisor’s request to dismiss on summary judgment the gasoline dealer franchisee’s case for wrongful termination because, according to the Court, the defendant bears the burden of proof in actions under the PMPA, and the bulk of defendant’s evidence was testimonial and thus subject to credibility determinations; material disputes existed regarding the following facts, going to the franchisor’s good faith in demanding changes to the renewal agreement: (1) the existence of a formula for calculating increases in rent at Defendant’s franchises — although Defendant contended such a policy exists, it cited oral deposition, in-court testimony, or affidavits, uncorroborated by any written policy; (2) whether the petroleum franchisor’s employees, Deakin and McGee, in fact warned plaintiff that rental values would increase when they initially met; (3) whether the franchisor’s employees, Deakin and McGee, suggested, during that initial meeting, that plaintiff franchisee could operate a truck stop at the property; (4) whether defendant failed to provide the franchisee dealer with training; whether the franchisee’s need for training was apparent; and whether the franchisor had a training program that was available; (5) whether the franchisor placed franchisee dealer’s account on COD status in retaliation for her request to operate the station as a commission; (6) whether the franchisor defendant had a motive not to renew the agreement, as shown by the strained relationship between Sathu, Deakin, and McGee; (7) defendant franchisor received an offer from Tim Horton’s to open a franchise at the location; and (8) the substantial increase in rent, which […]

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