Monday, December 26, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
If a picture speaks a thousand words then Judge Posner certainly makes his point clear in a recently published opinion. Published November 23, 2011, the opinion consolidates appeals in two product liability cases for grants of forum non conveniens in multidistrict litigation. In the first sentence, he begins by indicating the court’s concerns about appellate advocacy in the two cases.
The appellant’s attorney (a practitioner from Houston, TX) was criticized for ignoring precedent and it was done quite creatively. Posner wrote, “The ostrich is a noble animal, but not a proper model for an appellate advocate”. He then includes a picture of an ostrich with its head in the sand followed by another one of a man in a suit (presumably a lawyer) with his head in the sand. The lesson (other than that ostriches don't really bury their heads in the sand)? It is right there in the opinion: “When there is apparently dispositive precedent, an appellant may urge its overruling or distinguishing or reserve a challenge to it for a petition for certiorari but may not simply ignore it.”
Read the whole opinion here
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Does a seller have a duty to disclose that someone has died in a car or house that he is trying to sell?
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Reliable Fire Equipment Company sued two of its salesmen for violating employment agreements which included covenants not to compete. The salesmen had started their own company which provided services to some of Reliable’s customers. The circuit court found the covenants unenforceable and the appellate court agreed. Reliable appealed.
The Supreme Court begins its analysis by explaining that an employment contract that totally restrains trade is void because it “deprives the public of the industry of the promisor, and deprives the promisor of the opportunity to pursue an occupation and thereby support his or her family” but that a covenant not to compete “will be upheld if it contains a reasonable restraint and the agreement is supported by consideration.”
Recognizing that Illinois courts have failed to consistently apply a three-prong analysis that the Court traces back to 1896, the Court explains that a restraint is reasonable if it 1) is no greater than is required to protect a legitimate business interest of the employer, 2) does not impose undue hardship on the employee, and 3) does not injure the public.
Because lower courts have had the most trouble with the first prong - whether the employer has a legitimate business interest needing protection - the Court examines the many factors on which jurists have relied before holding that such factors are “only nonconclusive aids in determining the promisee’s legitimate business interest” and that the proper test is to consider “the totality of the facts and circumstances of the individual case.” The Court then identifies several important factors to consider including “the near-permanence of the customer relationships, the employee’s acquisition of confidential information through his employment, and time and place restrictions” and explains that no factor is determinative; its importance depends on the facts and circumstances in a given case.
Because the case “was tried under an incorrect theory of law” the Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.
Reliable Fire Equipment Company vs. Arnold Arredondo, 2011 IL 111871
Submitted by Brian D. Moore, Class of ’92.