Gibbons Law Alert Blog

Gibbons’s Frank T. Cannone and Peter J. Ulrich, Along With John Geraghty of Marshall & Stevens, to Lead Panel Discussion at NJBIA’s Acclaimed Annual Conference on New & Emerging Energy Technologies

In accelerating its decarbonization goals, New Jersey has committed to cutting in-state greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. New and emerging technologies, including next-generation nuclear, renewable natural gas, biofuels, grid upgrades, microgrids, and more, will be critical to achieving this goal and will be the topics of discussion at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s (NJBIA) 2nd Annual Energy Conference on New & Emerging Technologies, taking place Friday, October 14 at the Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, and featuring many prominent speakers. Gibbons P.C.’s Frank T. Cannone, Chair of the firm’s Corporate Group and leader of its Renewable Energy practice, and Peter J. Ulrich, a Director in the Corporate Group, will lead a conference panel, along with John Geraghty, Managing Director in the Energy & Infrastructure Practice of Marshall & Stevens Incorporated, on “Financing New Technologies and the Inflation Reduction Act.” Gibbons’s leading Renewable Energy practice, under the Corporate Group, has been successfully completing complex client energy projects for many years. Practice attorneys counsel major energy generation organizations, industrial and commercial users, and other energy-related clients in distributed generation and alternative energy sources, including solar, battery storage, hydroelectric power generation, and wind power generation, as well as the increased use of technology in the renewable energy sector. For more information on the...

DNJ Court Denies Request for Early Summary Judgment Finding Motion Made Mid-Fact Discovery Premature

In Metacel Pharmaceuticals LLC v. Rubicon Research Private Limited, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey recently denied the defendant’s request for leave to file a motion for summary judgment with respect to patent infringement. The plaintiff opposed the motion arguing that discovery was ongoing, and, in particular, the defendant had not yet produced certain samples necessary for the plaintiff to evaluate infringement. The plaintiff also argued there were also claim construction issues in the case that had not been resolved. The defendant’s motion was filed approximately two months before the parties’ opening claim construction briefs were due and, per the case’s scheduling order (ECF No. 25), fact discovery was to conclude 30 days after the court’s claim construction opinion. Agreeing with the plaintiff’s position, United States Magistrate Judge José R. Almonte found the defendant’s motion was “premature” and concluded that motions for summary judgment should be filed after claim construction. Gibbons will continue to monitor and report developments in Hatch-Waxman litigation in the District of New Jersey.

NJ Supreme Court to Decide Whether Counsel Fees Are to Be Awarded to a Prevailing Requestor of Government Records Under the Common Law

New Jersey provides a statutory and common law right of access to government records. While New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), the statutory right of access, expressly mandates an award of counsel fees to a prevailing requestor, there has been some confusion among New Jersey courts, based upon the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Mason v. City of Hoboken, as to whether there is a corresponding right to an award of counsel fees to a prevailing common law requestor. The New Jersey Supreme Court has recently granted certification on this issue and will now have the opportunity to unequivocally clarify the right of a prevailing common law requestor to recover the attorney’s fees incurred in challenging a wrongful denial of access. The case before the Supreme Court involves a request by the Asbury Park Press for access to the internal affairs file of a Township of Neptune police sergeant who chased down his ex-wife’s car and executed her with his service revolver in the summer of 2015. That internal affairs file contained more than 25 reports for a host of incidents, including domestic violence and assaultive behavior on the job. There was, understandably, strong public outcry over the horrific event, and the Asbury Park Press sought information about the sergeant’s internal affairs history...

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules on Worker Classification Under the “ABC Test”

In East Bay Drywall, LLC v. Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld a determination by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“the Department”) that 16 workers (individuals and business entities) were misclassified as independent contractors, even though East Bay had provided business registrations and insurance certificates for the workers in question. By way of background, East Bay is a drywall installation business that hires installers on a per-job basis. The Department conducted a routine audit and determined that 16 of East Bay’s workers were improperly classified as independent contractors, instead of employees, and thus directed the company to pay unemployment and temporary disability benefit contributions for these misclassified workers. East Bay challenged the audit results and requested a full evidentiary hearing, which was held before an administrative law judge in the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). At the hearing, East Bay’s principal, Benjamin DeScala, testified that once a project bid was accepted, East Bay contacted workers who were free to accept or decline East Bay’s offer of work, and some had even left mid-project if they found a better opportunity. DeScala explained that some workers had told him they had worked for other businesses, but he did not provide any evidence to support that claim. DeScala also stated...

The Impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on the Energy Investment Tax Credit and Certain Other Energy Tax Provisions

On August 16, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (the “Act”), which includes a number of tax provisions related to green energy. Below is a brief summary of the Act pertaining to the energy investment tax credit (ITC) of Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 48 and certain other energy tax provisions, with the following link to our more detailed article highlighting the impact of the Act on the ITC. Prior Law With Respect to Energy ITC: Until somewhat recently, taxpayers could obtain a 30% ITC for purchasing and placing in service qualifying energy property, especially a solar power system, with that percentage being gradually phased out with reductions commencing for energy property for which construction began in the year 2020. Main Revisions to Energy ITC – New Base Credit Percentage of 6%: Under the Act, the base energy percentage for qualifying energy property placed in service after December 31, 2021 is reduced to 6% unless new prevailing wage requirements and apprenticeship requirements are met. Taxpayers will qualify for a 30% ITC (instead of the base 6% credit) if they meet the new prevailing wage requirements and the apprenticeship requirements. The Prevailing Wage and Apprenticeship Requirements: The prevailing wage requirements require that any laborers and mechanics employed by the taxpayer...

NJ Seeks to Expand Reach of the Spill Act in PCB Contamination Suit Against Monsanto and Others

On August 4, 2022, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued a press release announcing a lawsuit of sweeping, breathtaking scope against Monsanto, Solutia, and Pharmacia ─ all linked to the original Monsanto (“Old Monsanto”), which reorganized its businesses into three separate corporations in the late 1990s ─ seeking natural resource damages (NRDs) for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination across the entire state of New Jersey. Old Monsanto formerly operated a large industrial facility in Bridgeport, an unincorporated community in Logan Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey (the “Bridgeport Site”). In addition to the claims for statewide PCB contamination, the complaint seeks NRDs and other relief in connection with the Bridgeport Site. The suit alleges the three defendants contaminated the area in and around the Bridgeport Site through discharges of many chemicals, including PCBs, over decades of operations at that site. PCBs are a class of toxic synthetic organic chemical compounds that enter the environment by escaping their intended applications, passing into water bodies, sediment, and soils. In a statement announcing the suit, Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said that “PCBs contamination has harmed natural resources and threatened the health of humans and wildlife in every corner of New Jersey . . . includ[ing] many environmental justice communities ─ communities throughout our State that...

Artificial Intelligence System Cannot Be Listed as Inventor

On Friday, the Federal Circuit held that the Patent Act requires an inventor to be a natural person, in response to a patent applicant who alleged that an artificial intelligence system was the inventor of a patent application. Thaler v. Vidal, No. 2021-2347, 2022 WL 3130863 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 5, 2022). The patent applicant, Stephen Thaler, asserted that he develops and runs artificial intelligence systems that generate patentable inventions. Mr. Thaler then sought patent protection through two patent applications and listed the artificial intelligence system as the inventor. After the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied the patent applications for failure to identify a valid inventor, Mr. Thaler and the USPTO adjudicated the matter in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The District Court found that the Patent Act requires an inventor to be a natural person. Thaler v. Hirshfeld, 558 F. Supp. 3d 238, 249 (E.D. Va. 2021), aff’d sub nom. Thaler v. Vidal, No. 2021-2347, 2022 WL 3130863 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 5, 2022). In affirming the District Court’s decision, the Federal Circuit first indicated that it need not perform an “abstract inquiry into the nature of invention or the rights, if any, of AI [artificial intelligence] systems.” Rather, the court began and ended on the “applicable definition in...

Dialing It In: E.D.N.Y. Denies Motion to Compel Production of Cell Phone for Forensic Examination Upon Mere “Speculation” That Metadata Was Deleted or Altered

This blog has previously noted the recent uptick of district courts authorizing forensic experts to conduct examinations and forensic imaging of cell phones to ensure the preservation and production of relevant electronic data. While we have discussed recent cases that have ordered such forensic imaging, such examination is not appropriate in every case and courts must continue to keep such “drastic” and “intrusive” discovery measures in check. In this regard, the District Court for the Eastern District of New York recently denied a defendant’s motion to compel the plaintiff to produce, for forensic examination, a cell phone that recorded videos already produced by the plaintiff in native format.

New Jersey Appellate Division Finds No Ascertainable Loss Where a Plaintiff Never Used a Product and Made Hypothetical Allegations of Loss

On May 31, 2022, the Appellate Division in Hoffman v. Pure Radiance, Inc. affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for a defendant and dismissing the plaintiff’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) claims because the plaintiff could not show that he suffered an ascertainable loss where he never used the product and his allegations were not supported by facts. In this putative class action, serial plaintiff Harold Hoffman sued defendant Pure Radiance, Inc., alleging that it falsely marketed a hair growth product. Specifically, Pure Radiance advertised that its product Re-Nourish could help an individual regrow “a thick, full head of hair, even after years of balding” and was “the world’s first and only hair loss solution that revives dead hair follicles” to regrow hair “in just 30 days.” The advertisement also showed a before-and-after picture of a man’s head, with the before picture showing a balding head and the after picture showing a full head of hair. Based on this advertisement, Hoffman purchased the product and then, after researching the product but before ever trying it himself, filed a proposed class action alleging, among other things, that the ad contained material misrepresentations and that he suffered an ascertainable loss by reason of his purchase of the product for $108.90. Significantly, Hoffman did not receive the...

No Property Damage, No Claim for Business Interruption: New Jersey Appellate Division Affirms Dismissal of Six COVID-19 Business Loss Claims

In a recent decision, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that six businesses were not entitled to insurance coverage for losses sustained when they were forced to close or limit their operations as a result of Executive Orders (“EOs”) issued by Governor Phil Murphy to halt the spread of COVID-19. This ruling follows the general trend nationally in which courts have rejected claims by insureds for business interruption losses incurred due to government orders related to the spread of COVID-19. The decision arose from the consolidated appeals of six businesses that reported losses as a result of the EOs and sued their insurance companies, alleging they improperly refused to cover the plaintiffs’ insurance claims for business losses sustained due to the issuance of the EOs. All six suits were dismissed with prejudice at the trial level pursuant to Rule 4:6-2(e) for failure to state a claim, because the plaintiffs’ business losses were not related to any “direct physical loss of or damage to” covered properties as required by the terms of their insurance policies. The Appellate Division affirmed all six dismissals and further concluded that the losses were not covered under “their insurance policies’ civil authority clauses, which provided coverage for losses sustained from governmental actions forcing closure or limiting business operations under certain circumstances.”...