News

Court Remands Obamacare Question to 6th Circuit

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday breathed new life into the religious objections of Catholic groups in Michigan and Tennessee to the Affordable Care Act requirement for contraception coverage in health plans, Reuters reports. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the administration’s position in a case that pre-dated the high court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The Supreme Court directed the appeals court to reconsider its decision in light of the June 2014 ruling that allowed certain privately owned corporations to seek exemptions from the provision.

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Nashville Lawyers Launch Online Trademark Service

A trio of Nashville attorneys has launched the online trademark company Trust Tree Legal. The founders -- Bill Ferrell, Randy Michels and Kevin Hartley -- have a combined 30 years of experience in trademark law and patent litigation. The company offers four levels of support ranging in price from $149 to $949 and provides assistance with trademark searches, filing and maintenance; foreign filing; and foreign counterfeits. The trio also offers guidance through a new blog, The Root, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

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Legislative Session Wraps Up

State lawmakers finished their work for the 2015 legislative session just before 10 p.m. last night, the Tennessean reports. Among the bills passed yesterday, lawmakers approved an additional exemption to the Hall tax on investment income, new rules for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and the use of cannabis oil to treat seizures. Among the bills that failed to advance were measures allowing undocumented immigrants’ children who grew up in Tennessee to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities (which lost by one vote), allowing residents of parts of cities to de-annex territory, and banning alcohol sales to people with three or more drunken driving convictions. See a break down of more legislative winners and losers from the Associated Press.

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Business, Legal Leaders Join in Launch of New Court

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle today launched the state’s first Business Court to a gathering of more than 100 business and legal leaders in Nashville. “Keeping businesses here in Tennessee and bringing in new ventures means more jobs for Tennesseans,” Lee said. “This has long-term benefits and is good for all Tennesseans.” The court is a pilot project that officials hope will be expanded to other cities across the state.

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Bill Eases Creation of For-Profit Corporations

Legislation providing some additional flexibility for the creation of for-profit benefit corporations cleared its last major legislative hurdle this afternoon when the Senate adopted SB972/HB767 as amended. The TBA’s Business Entity Study Committee played a critical role in revising the original proposal so that it conforms more closely to Tennessee law.

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AG Reaches Settlement with Middle Tennessee Auto Dealer

Middle Tennessee auto dealer Wholesale Inc. has agreed to immediately change its advertising practices and pay the State of Tennessee $50,000, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today. The state alleged that the defendant made numerous false representations in violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, including use of a fictitious lender called “CreditAble Auto Funding” claimed to be “by military, for military,” offering a limited amount of loans to military personnel. "Our men and women in uniform deserve to be told the truth when considering a consumer purchase," Slatery said.

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Antitrust Concerns May Block Comcast/Time Warner Deal

The Justice Department’s antitrust division is nearing a recommendation to block Comcast Corp.’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable according to sources, Bloomberg News reports. Attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concerns that consumers would be harmed and could submit their review as soon as next week.

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Steen: Bridge the Generation Gap With Clear Communication

In his Tennessee Bar Journal column about how different generations communicate, TBA President Jonathan Steen points out how important good communication skills are -- and why sending a text late at night to a senior partner may not be the best way to make contact. In the April issue's other columns, Eddy Smith covers IRA beneficiaries and creditor protection; Katy Edge explains how banking works for legal marijuana sales; and Bill Haltom comments on Justice Ginsburg’s recent nap before the president’s speech.

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Nashville Lawyers Form New Firm

Four Nashville lawyers have joined together to form the law firm of Surber, Asher, Surber & Moushon. The firm will focus on personal injury, business and construction law, professional liability and insurance defense, and probate and conservatorship law. Joel Surber, Garrett Asher and Matt Moushon were formerly partners at Parker, Lawrence, Cantrell & Smith. Jennifer Surber formerly served as counsel to the Davidson County Probate Court and as Special Probate Master for the Seventh Circuit Court.

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Governor Signs 2 TBA Bills

Two pieces of the TBA’s legislative package were signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last week. SB877/HB1183, which originated with the TBA’s Construction Law Section, makes changes to two sections of the Mechanics’ and Materialmen’s Liens statute that are clerical and procedural in nature. SB144/HB620, which proposed technical changes to the for-profit and non-profit corporations code, was signed into law and has been enacted as Public Chapter 60.

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Reminder: State Business Taxes Due April 15

In Tennessee, April 15 is the due date for business, franchise and excise taxes for companies that report on a calendar year basis. In addition, taxpayers subject to the Hall income tax must file and pay that tax by next Wednesday. More information is available on the Department of Revenue’s website. The department also has extended call center hours through April 16. Taxpayers may call (615) 253-0600 or (800) 342-1003 for assistance from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central.

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TBA Legislative Initiatives Head to Governor for Signature

SB877/HB1183 passed the House chamber this week and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature. The bill makes changes to two sections of the Mechanics’ and Materialmen’s Liens statute that are clerical and procedural in nature. The proposal originated with the TBA’s Construction Law Section. In addition, SB144/HB620, which proposed technical changes to the for-profit and non-profit corporations code, passed both chambers this week. Finally, SB161/HB609, which would treat pension benefits the same as other marital property in divorce proceedings, passed the Senate and is set for a House vote on April 1. Find out more about important bills in the legislature at TBAImpact.

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House Panel Approves Digital Assets Bill

A state House subcommittee has approved legislation setting rules for access to digital information after death or disability, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” has drawn opposition from representatives of Facebook, Google and Amazon on the grounds that it would declare company policies void if they conflict with state law. The bill gives the legal representative of a deceased or incapacitated person authority to decide how pictures and postings on a site will be disposed of, even though the user once gave the site the right to control such things. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur said many social media sites put such provisions in the fine print of their sign-up contracts, which has led to unfortunate situations. Knoxnews has the story.

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FedEx: Shipments Protected by Carrier Law

FedEx Corp. said it shouldn’t be prosecuted for delivering drugs dispensed through Internet sales without prescription because its actions are protected under federal law, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Memphis carrier is fighting money-laundering and drug-trafficking charges that it delivered drugs for online pharmacies, supplying pills to customers who were never examined by doctors. FedEx is also accused of knowing its actions violated federal and state drug laws.

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Court Limits Securities Suits Over Deceptive Comments

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that investors can't sue companies for making misleading statements of opinion prior to a public stock offering just because those statements ultimately turn out to be wrong, WRCB reports. However, the narrow ruling said some opinions in registration documents might omit important facts that could mislead investors, giving them a right to sue for securities fraud.

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AG: Proposed Fees on Commercial Trucks Unconstitutional

Legislation that would impose new fees on trucks traveling Tennessee highways is unconstitutional because the levies would apply disproportionately to trucks owned by out-of-state companies, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in an opinion. SB354, introduced by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, would impose a new "surcharge" on diesel fuel and a "highway maintenance fee" per mile traveled within the state for each commercial motor vehicle weighing 60,000 pounds or more. Slatery says that arrangement violates both the commerce clause and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state companies. Knoxnews has more.

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Judge OKs $10 Million Settlement in Target Data Breach

Target Corp. will pay $10 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over a massive data breach in 2013 that exposed details of as many as 40 million credit and debit card accounts, the Memphis Daily News reports. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson granted preliminary approval of the settlement, allowing people to begin filing claims ahead of another hearing for final approval, which he'll hold in late October or early November.

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‘For-Profit Benefit’ Corporations Set for Senate Committee

Legislation advancing “for-profit benefit corporations” in Tennessee is on Tuesday's calendar for the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. SB972/HB767 would enact the “For-Profit Benefit Corporation Act,” requiring such an entity to identify at least one specific public benefit in order to maintain its status. The bill was heard in the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee this week, where it was strongly backed by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. Mike Yopp, chair of the TBA Business Entity Study Committee, also testified as the TBA has serious reservations about the act as written.

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New Business Court Will be Model for State

A new Business Court in Davidson County will provide “more predictable, consistent results, and more timely resolutions of business disputes,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said in announcing the pilot project. Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle will preside over the court and help develop best practices for future business courts.

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Agency Revamps Business Registration Form

The Tennessee Department of Revenue recently revamped its business registration application with the goal of making it easier to understand and use. The new form also allows users to save their work, exit and return later to any content they previously entered. Demonstration pages that show how to use the application also have been updated. The form should be used to register a new business, notify the department of an address change or pay a range of taxes, including the franchise and excise tax, sales and use tax, television and telecommunications tax, automobile rental surcharge tax and business tax.

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ABA Urges Corporations to Fight Labor Trafficking

The ABA called on Fortune 500 companies this week to help eradicate human rights abuses by adopting and implementing anti-human trafficking policies consistent with its Model Business and Supplier Principles. The group also unveiled a new database to assist companies in this effort. In a letter to CEOs and general counsels, ABA President William C. Hubbard reiterated the need: an estimated 21 million people are subjected to forced labor around the world and 168 million children are in situations of child labor. Read more from group.

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State Agency to Hold Hearing on New Securities Rule

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance will conduct a rulemaking hearing April 22 on a new rule to be known as the “Invest Tennessee Exemption.” The proposed rule would be an addition to current rules governing securities registration and exemptions. The hearing will take place at 2 p.m. Central in Conference Room 8C of the Davy Crockett Tower, 500 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville 37243. Read the full notice, which also includes the text of the proposed rule.

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Vandy Law Prof Weighs in on Licensing Boards Ruling

States have three options to react to a Feb. 25 U.S. Supreme Court ruling making state licensing boards more vulnerable to antitrust lawsuits, say two law professors whose research was cited in the decision. Rebecca Allensworth, associate professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School, and Aaron Edlin, the Richard Jennings Professor of Law and professor of economics at UC Berkeley, argue that states can change the composition of licensing boards, increase supervision of the boards or do nothing. News@Vanderbilt has more.

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Panel OKs TBA Fixes to Business Organization Laws

The TBA bill (SB144/HB 620) to make housekeeping changes to last year’s Nonprofit Corporation Act and the Business Corporation Law moved out of the state Senate Commerce Committee today by a vote of 9 to 0. The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and in the House by Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also met today and recommended passage of amendments to the Rules of Appellate Procedure (SR13) and Rules of Criminal Procedure (SR12), which previously were adopted by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

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Pilot Whistleblower Sues for Wrongful Termination

A Morgan Stanley executive who apparently was a key confidential source in the FBI investigation into Pilot Flying J filed a whistleblower lawsuit in federal court last week alleging he was fired after his role in the investigation was discovered, the Tennessean reports. Financial planner John Verble filed the suit in federal court in Knoxville. He is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and personal brokerage funds.

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