People come up all the time — usually lawyers but sometimes small children too — and ask "Blawgletter, what else will come out this Term from the U.S. Supreme Court?" (The tykes say "Mr. Blawgletter".) "Having to do with business law, I mean", they clarify.

Fancy that! As if Mr. Blawgletter has time to track the doings (and not-doings) of what Jeffrey Toobin calls The Nine.

"Ah", you note — that adorable twinkle in your voice. "You wrote a preview about one case, Klein & Co. Futures v. Board of Trade, No. 06-1265; a post on Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, No. 07-219 and another one on District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290; and a dadburn amicus brief in Bridge v. Phoenix Bond & Indemnity, No. 07-210."

True enough. We apparently do have time.  Or at least inclination.  So let’s do have a quick look at what, bidness law-wise, the Court will do by the end-of-Term later this month (calendar here):

Standing for assignees. In Sprint Communications v. APCC Services, Inc., No. 07-552, payphone owners found a nifty way to sue — or, more accurately, not to sue — telephone companies that they believed shortchanged them (on payments for customers’ use of the payphones for toll-free calls). They achieved not suing by assigning their claims "for purposes of collection" to companies that agreed to serve as plaintiffs.  The owners retained the right to any cash the plaintiffs got in the lawsuit.

The question before the Court asks whether plaintiffs that "have no personal stake in the case" and "avowedly litigate only ‘on behalf of’ the assignors" have standing.  If they don’t, claimants will have to find another way to prosecute their claims — presumably by doing it themselves.

Punies for Exxon Valdez disaster. The Exxon Shipping case posits limits on punitive damages under maritime law. An Alaska jury awarded fishermen $5 billion — almost 250 times the compensatory damages — which the Ninth Circuit cut to $2.5 billion. Does the award still punish Exxon too much? In view of the fact that the Exxon CEO wasn’t on the bridge when the Valdez ran aground, should Exxon get any punishment at all?

Reliance for RICO? The Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act requires a civil plaintiff to prove harm "by reason of" any of a hundred or so crimes. The Court has interpreted the phrase as creating a "proximate cause" element. A common predicate offense under RICO, mail fraud, doesn’t demand that anybody relied on the fraud; a mere attempt suffices. But does a mail fraud RICO claim import a reliance element? And if it does must the plaintiff herself do the relying? The Court will tell us when it rules in Bridge v. Phoenix Bond & Indemnity.

Exhausting those patents. The doctrine of patent exhaustion holds that a patent holder can’t sue an infringer that buys an infringing product from the patent holder’s licensee. Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc., No. 06-937, involves a variation on the "first sale" doctrine: Does it matter that the patent holder’s license expressly reserved the right to sue the licensees’ customers for infringement?

The Court dismissed the Klein case, which involved a claim under the Commodities Exchange Act, apparently because it settled.  The Heller suit concerns whether the second amendment trumps a District of Columbia ban on handguns and doesn’t directly implicate business law — unless you buy and sell them or use them for protection or, ahem, to aid in debt-collection activities.  So we’ll leave that one alone.  For now.

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