News

Vonore Business Man Faces Federal Fraud Charges

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Phillip Michael Huddleston, co-owner of Protech Metal Finishing in Vonore, faces federal charges for allegedly defrauding the U.S. Department of Defense of $1.2 million, forcing employees to cover up environmental violations and threatening to fire whistle-blowers. Huddleston's attorney, David Eldridge, said his client maintains his innocence.

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ABA Committee to Survey on LLCs, Partnerships and Unincorporated Entities

The American Bar Association's committee on LLCs, Partnerships and Unincorporated Entities needs your help with a short survey on the ability to merge, enter into interest exchanges, convert and domesticate for each of the five major entities (general partnerships, limited partnerships, LLCs, corporations and nonprofit corporations).

The committee is currently reviewing these acts and the general state of the law regarding these types of transactions so that attorneys know how to address certain issues being raised with respect to these transactions in various states.

Visit this site to take part in the survey.

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Out-of-state In-house Counsel Must Register by July 1

In-house counsel working in Tennessee without a Tennessee law license have until July 1 to register with the Board of Law Examiners or face discipline and a bar examination in order to continue practicing in the state. Changes to Supreme Court Rule 7 adopted by the court in December set up the amnesty provision and the July 1 deadline. 

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Legal Pitfalls in Tennessee's Alcohol Industry; 6 Hours of CLE

Earn six CLE credits while learning about the business and legal impacts of the developing alcohol industry in Tennessee. The Legal Pitfalls of Operating a Vineyard, Distillery and Brewery in the 21st Century will be held June 2, 8:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Lunch will be provided. 

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Trump Could Take Witness Stand as President-Elect

A trial involving Donald Trump and the now-defunct Trump University is scheduled for Nov. 28, meaning the possible president-elect could be called to take the witness stand. Trump is named in a class-action lawsuit that alleges his real estate seminars were a scam. The Associated Press reports two other lawsuits have been filed against the school. 

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Roundup of Bills That Alter or Reverse Earlier Actions

The Tennessean outlines five examples of bills the legislature approved this year that will alter or reverse their earlier actions. Legislative topics include wine in supermarkets, spiritual treatment and horse racing in Tennessee. 

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Beacon Files Suit Over State's Shampoo Licensing Rules

Beacon Center Legal Foundation filed its first statewide legal challenge on behalf of a Memphis resident who wants to change the state’s occupational license requirement for shampooing. According the the foundation, hair washers must complete educational training and receive a license before they are allowed to wash hair in Tennessee. However, Beacon says, there are no schools currently operating in the state that offer the course that is a mandated component of the hair washing license. “These laws are designed by people already in the business who are attempting to unfairly shield themselves from competition at the expense of hard working Tennesseans,” said Braden Boucek, Beacon Director of Litigation. 

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Starbucks Sued Over Amount of Ice in Cold Drinks

A Chicago woman filed a federal lawsuit last week that accuses Starbucks of misleading customers about the ice-to-product ratio in its cold beverages, The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. The suit, which seeks class-action status, claims “a Starbucks customer who orders a Venti Cold Drink receives only 14 fluid ounces of that drink – just over half the advertised amount.” 

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Jimmy Haslam's Deposition Required, Judge Says

An Alabama circuit court judge today denied a request by Jimmy Haslam, Pilot Flying J CEO, to throw out a deposition request. Attorneys for Halsam argue he should not be deposed, calling the deposition a “thinly-disguised effort to obtain discovery from him to be used in the litigation against him, wherever it ends up.” The deposition, scheduled for May 11 in Knoxville, is part of lawsuit claiming the company was involved in a fuel rebate scheme. Read more from The Tennessean

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New Issue of Transactions Available Online

The Spring 2016 issue of Transactions, The Tennessee Journal of Business Law is available online. The journal is published by the University of Tennessee College of Law. Articles include “Braving the Waters: A Guide for Tennessee’s Aspiring Entrepreneurs (5th Edition),” and “Student Note: The Changing Chapter 13 Procedural Landscape After Espinosa and Consequences.” 

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Davidson Business Court March Report Available

The Davidson County Pilot Business Court’s March 31 report is now available online. The report, authored by Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle and attorney Justin Seamon, details the project’s case load, special practices for business litigation and includes answers to frequently asked questions about the court. Additional information and forms regarding the project may be found here

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Court Holds Water Customers May Pursue Suit Without Administrative Proceedings First

The Tennessee Supreme Court today held that customers of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority may file a lawsuit to challenge their rates without first going through administrative proceedings. The authority notified customers they would be assessed an $8 per month charge for 20 years for a program to inspect and repair sewer pipes for all 26,000 of its customers. The plaintiff, American Heritage Apartments Inc., said the fee was unlawful and filed a lawsuit. The trial court dismissed the suit and held that the company must first go through administrative proceedings. The Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, and the Supreme Court agreed that a water and wastewater treatment authority is not considered to be a “utility district” for the purpose of a rate challenge. The unanimous opinion in American Heritage Apartments, Inc. v. The Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority was authored by Justice Holly Kirby.

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Tennessee Banks Take Recruitment Battle to Court

“They all had a gentleman’s agreement — you don’t go after my guys, I won’t go after your guy.” That's how it used to be in Nashville's banking community, but that's not how it is anymore, the Tennessean reports in its coverage of the ongoing legal battle between the two largest Tennessee-based banks, Pinnacle Financial Partners and First Tennessee Bank. The battle is over Pinnacle’s recruitment of eight First Tennessee employees in 2015. Pinnacle denies allegations that a former First Tennessee employee recruited coworkers to work for Pinnacle before moving there himself. 

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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Court Upholds Tax Variance on Verizon Parent Company

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld a decision by the Tennessee Department of Revenue to impose a tax variance on the parent company of Verizon Wireless and ruled the Commissioner of Revenue was within his authority to impose the variance. The lawsuit, filed in 2007 by Vodafone Americas Holdings Inc. and its subsidiaries, asked Tennessee to refund nearly all state franchise and excise taxes it had paid from 2002-2006. The company claimed the apportionment formula in Tennessee’s franchise and excise tax has been incorrectly applied. The Commissioner of Revenue then decided to impose on Vodafone a tax variance that required the company to pay franchise and excise taxes by a formula that varied from the standard apportionment formula in Tennessee’s tax statutes. The trial court and the Court of Appeals both upheld the Commissioner’s decision to issue the tax variance. Read the majority opinion in Vodafone Americas Holdings, Inc. v. Reagan Farr, authored by Justice Holly Kirby, and the dissent by Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins.

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Trump University Suit Moving Forward

A New York judge refused to dismiss claims against Donald Trump for fraud and illegal business practices in relation to Trump University, The Expert Institute reports. Former students are seeking up to $40 million in damages alleging that they were scammed by the program intended to teach students about real estate investing. Trump denies the allegations of fraud. A trial date has not been set in the case.

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Memphis Inventor Sues Carrier for 'Stealing His Ideas'

Steve Olita, a Memphis-area inventor, is suing Carrier Corp. for allegedly using his ideas in its Collierville factory without paying licensing fees, The Commercial Appeal reports. He says the air conditioner manufacturer worked with one of his former employees to copy his ideas to avoid paying. Olita also filed a separate lawsuit against former employees and other companies.

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2017 Trial Date Set for Pilot Fraud Case

The Times Free Press reports a new trial date for former Pilot employees charged with fraud in a fuel rebate scheme has been set for Oct. 24, 2017. The trial was originally scheduled for April, but attorneys for the former Pilot employees asked a federal magistrate for more time to prepare, including sifting through a reported five terabytes of data collected by the government.

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Apple's Appeal Over Electronic Books Rejected

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal from Apple in a case where the company is charged with creating an illegal conspiracy with publishers to raise electronic book prices. The 2010 price hike was in an effort to compete with Amazon.com. Apple has agreed to pay $400 million to be distributed to consumers and $50 million for attorney fees and payments to states who brought the lawsuit, the Associated Press reports.

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Nashville Fashion Brands Gain National Attention

WPLN highlights the emerging fashion industry in Nashville, which includes nationally-recognized brand Elizabeth Suzann. "Developing and sustaining talented designers will take more than boot camps and favorable press mentions," reporter Abby White said. The TBA has taken note of the growing fashion brands in Nashville with its upcoming CLE, Tennessee Fashion Law: Protecting Brands, planned for March 31 at the Tennessee Bar Center.

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Pilot Employees Seek Delay in Fraud Trial

WATE reports eight former Pilot employees charged with fraud and witness tampering filed a motion to delay their April trial due to the “complex nature of the case.” Indictments against the employees, including the company’s former president, claim the employees were involved in a multi-million-dollar fuel rebate scheme. A status conference for the trial is scheduled tomorrow.

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Class Action Suit Filed Against Pilot for Fraudulent Behavior

Two class action suits filed against Pilot in Jefferson and Sevier counties accuse the filling station chain of allegedly breaching contract with customers and committing fraud by concealing information, WATE reports. The plaintiffs claim authorized messages appeared on card-readers for the amount they believed they had paid at the pump. The company, however, placed “holds” on their credit cards between $100-$500. Pilot Flying J said it has not received documentation of the lawsuit.

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Fantasy Sports Regulation Bill Advances

A Senate panel signed off Wednesday on a bill that would create an advisory task force to oversee fantasy sports websites, such as FanDuel and Draft Kings. The two major fantasy sports companies were accused last year of insider trading. The proposed nine-member force would be able to recommend any necessary statutory revisions to the state’s consumer protection laws, The Tennessean reports. The bill, presented by Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, now heads to the the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.

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Guilty Pleas in Patient-Referral Kickback Schemes

Dr. Bruce Rubinowicz, who formally operated several sleep labs in Middle Tennessee, faces five years in prison and a $25,000 fine after pleading guilty Friday to taking cash kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals. Rubinowicz admitted to agreeing to receive cash kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to Nashville-based Air Affiliates, a medical supplier. Bradley Sensing, owner of Air Affiliates, and Lane Wilkinson, owner of a Columbia-based medical equipment supply company, also pleaded guilty to federal charges in the schemes. Read more from the Brentwood Home Page.

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Liquor Retailer Argues Bill is Anti-Trade

A Republican-backed bill that would create a two-store beer and liquor retailer limit has drawn criticism from a Maryland-based stored hoping to expand in Tennessee. Total Wine & More argues the bill (HB 2586 / SB 2094), sponsored by Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, and Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, is an effort to bar competition. Sponsors say the bill's main aim is to the allow supermarkets to stock up before a law allowing grocery stores to sell wine goes into effect July 1, the Associated Press reports.

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