Articles Posted in Business Torts

Texas employment cases vary substantially from one to another. Some cases deal with issues like sexual harassment or discrimination, while others pertain to wage and hour laws or allegations of retaliatory discharge following a work injury or whistleblowing incident.

Recently, a Texas appellate court ruled in a case in which the issue was whether a professional football league had the right to tell players that they were not allowed to participate in a “fantasy” fan convention because of the location of the event (a casino in Las Vegas), which the league alleged was prohibited under the league’s gambling policy for players and employees.

Facts of the Case

A capitalist market must be competitive and free if it is to thrive and grow, and consumers in Texas are protected from the unfair practices of monopolies and cartels by both federal and state laws. These laws are usually referred to as antitrust laws as they were passed to curb the anti-competitive business practices of large corporations called trusts. Trusts usually lack serious competition, and this is rarely good for consumers or the economy.

The most important federal antitrust laws are the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act. The Sherman Act was passed in 1880, and it laid the foundation for all subsequent antitrust legislation. The Clayton Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act were passed in 1914. While the Sherman Act painted broad strokes, the Clayton Act focused on specific types of unfair business activity. The Federal Trade Commission Act was passed to establish the agency tasked with enforcing these laws.

Legislators in Texas adopted the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act in 1983. This law tackles anti-competitive practices such as fixing prices and rigging bids. The law can also be used to prevent group boycotts and put a stop to mergers and acquisitions that are not considered to be in the public interest. Violators of the law are usually prosecuted by the state’s attorney general, but private parties can also file lawsuits within four years of a violation.

A woman from Texas has filed a lawsuit against the Swiss agricultural corporation Syngenta. She is one of more than 1,300 farmers who have filed suits claiming that genetically modified crops sold by the company polluted the market, caused serious issues with import to China and destroyed the profitability of their harvest on multiple occasions. At least 163 of the lawsuits have been filed in Texas. They have been now been consolidated into a federal multi-district litigation action to be heard in Kansas.

According to the allegations, Syngenta began to market a strain of corn that had been modified to resist pests in 2010. Although it applied for the Chinese government’s approval for importation at the time, it was not received until the end of 2014. China has been a large market for American corn exports, and its refusal to allow this strain to be imported allegedly caused the price of corn to plummet, leading to the litigation.

The plaintiffs assert that, due to the Chinese government’s refusal to allow contaminated wheat into their country, the price of corn fell by more than 50 percent and remained there for at least two consecutive years. The defendant has denied the claims, and it has stated its intention to combat the allegations in court.

A lawsuit was filed on Oct. 15 in Galveston County District Court by JNP Acquisitions Inc. claiming that a building contract was wrongfully terminated. According to the company, it had agreed to a building contract with two individuals in November 2013. The contract was reportedly terminated after a draw request was made for completed work.

The company also says that at the time the couple terminated the contract, the home was almost completed. The lawsuit asks for $63,480 that the company claim that the couple owed for services rendered. The suit is also seeking damages on top of the amount that was already owed. Finally, the company is asking for interest, attorneys fees and other related court costs.

Those who believe that another party has breached or wrongfully terminated a contract may wish to contact a business law attorney. An attorney may be able to review the business dispute and contract to determine if it has been breached and what recourse may be available. In some cases, the contract itself may specify how the parties may resolve a contract dispute and what damages may be available if it is determined that the contract has been breached.

Business owners in Texas may be interested to learn more about the origin and nature of federal antitrust laws. Comprised of three different acts, these laws have governed certain aspects of business practices in the United States for over 100 years. The Sherman Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act are primarily aimed at preserving fair competition in the marketplace and preventing monopolies from forming.

Although the Sherman Act originally outlawed all restraint of trade, the Supreme Court ruled that it only prohibits unreasonable restraint of trade. In other words, the formation of a business partnership might restrain trade somewhat, but not necessarily in a way that is considered unreasonable. Arrangements between companies to do things like fix prices or rig bids, on the other hand, are violations of the Sherman Act.

The Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits unfair competition and deceptive business practices. According to the Supreme Court, any violation of the Sherman Act is also a violation of business law under the FTC Act. In the Clayton Act, certain unlawful business practices that were not specifically addressed in the Sherman Act are prohibited. Some of these practices include discriminatory prices and mergers that might lead to the creation of a monopoly. Interlocking directorates, or the same person making decisions for multiple competing companies, are also banned by the Clayton Act.

When Joe Wickline got a job as an offensive line coach at Oklahoma State, he never expected to be in that position forever. In fact, his contract with OSU laid out explicit rules for when and how he could be released from OSU to take another job. Specifically, that contract says that OSU is to release him from his position and any liability for damages if he “is offered and accepts a position as the ‘offensive coordinator (with play calling duties) at another NCAA Division I-A Institution.”

The University of Texas at Austin is an NCAA Division 1-A school. Wickline was offered and accepted the job of offensive coordinator in January.

He thought he’d taken a step up the coaching ladder until March, when OSU sued him for breach of contract for leaving the college and demanded over $593,000 in damages. Worse yet, they claimed he wasn’t even UT Austin’s offensive coordinator at all, but merely “an assistant coach in charge of the offensive line.” What gives?

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