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Houston Business & Commercial Law Blog

Invoking and Defending Against Force Majeure Provisions in the Wake of the Global Health Crisis

The speed and severity by which the global health crisis has impacted businesses and individuals is unprecedented. Businesses have closed, events have been cancelled, and even the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been postponed until 2021. What happens to all those who cannot perform their contractual duties because of the health crisis? What about those relying on others to fulfill their contractual obligations?

Elements of a business disparagement claim.

A good business reputation is vitally important as consumers often make decisions based on reputation alone. Recently, Phoneternet, LLC d/b/a Maestro ("Maestro") asserted a business disparagement claim against LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Inc. ("Lexis") for allegedly providing incorrect business credit reports to Maestro's potential client. Phoneternet, LLC v. LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Inc., 2019 WL 4748271, (N.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 2019).

While Maestro's business disparagement claim was ultimately dismissed, the case provides valuable insight to those asserting or defending against business disparagement claims.

Non-compete dispute for Texas boiler business

Employees acquire valuable information about your business, and firsthand knowledge of its operations, during the course of their employment. Moreover, employers often invest significant resources to educate and train their employees. How can a business protect itself from a former employee vying for its clients? One way is through a non-compete agreement.

In general, a non-compete agreement is a contract in which an employee agrees not to compete in the marketplace with the employer. To be enforceable, "a covenant not to compete must be (1) ancillary to or part of an otherwise enforceable agreement and (2) contain reasonable limitations as to time, geographic area, and scope of activity that do not impose a greater restriction than necessary." Fomine v. Barrett, 01-17-00401-CV, 2018 WL 6376500, at *3 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] Dec. 6, 2018, no pet.).

Celebrity chef files breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty suit

Chef Paul Qui, a Texas-based James Beard award recipient and winner of the ninth season of "Top Chef" recently filed suit against his former business partners for allegedly swindling him out of his earnings and sabotaging the progress of his new Miami hotel restaurant.

In his lawsuit, Qui claims his former business partners Bill Stapleton and Filadelfo Tombetta, through their management company New Waterloo Management, LLC, violated contractual obligations and unjustly profited from Qui's rise to fame.

Trucking company sues Amazon over the use of "Prime" on freight trailers

Prime, Inc. is one of the nation's largest trucking companies. On July 2nd, Prime filed a trademark infringement action against Amazon for using the word "Prime" on its commercial vehicles.

Prime Inc. alleges that Amazon's use of its Amazon Prime logo has caused "irreparable damage to its business, reputation, and goodwill." The trucking company has reportedly used the word "Prime" on its semi-trailers continuously since 1980.

Dismissal of Blue Bell shareholder claim reversed

A stockholder suit against Blue Bell Creameries is getting a second chance at trial, thanks to the Delaware Supreme Court. Originally filed in 2017, the complaint by shareholders alleged mismanagement by executives after the 2015 listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream led to a financial crisis at the company. 

Businesses sue San Antonio over paid sick leave ordinance

Last year, San Antonio joined the Austin in passing a law requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. Last week, business owners fought back.

A coalition of business groups filed a lawsuit alleging that the city ordinance, which is set to take effect on August 1, violates Texas' minimum wage laws.

ADT awarded $4 million in deceptive trade practices suit

A jury in the Southern District of Florida awarded security firm ADT $4 million in damages in the culmination of its deceptive trade practices lawsuit against Alder Holdings, Inc. ADT's dispute with Alder dates back to around 2012 when ADT first accused Alder of encouraging sales staff to falsely present themselves as ADT employees.

ADT accuses Alder of "bait and switch" sales tactics

Shareholder dispute puts century-old trust in the spotlight

The Texas Pacific Land Trust, a 130-year-old trust holding over 900,000 acres of land in the Texas oil and gas basin, has become the center of a high-profile shareholder fight in recent months.

Unusual governing structure leads to tensions

Lawsuit marks new territory for TCPA

British chemical company Venator Materials PLC (Venator) moved to dismiss a series of federal securities class action claims pursuant to the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). Investors allege Venator misled investors about the impact of a fire at one of its plants in Finland. In response, Venator argues that its statements were made according to its right to free speech on matters of public concern.

By doing so, Venator explores previously unexplored territory under the TCPA.

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