Hellmuth & Johnson attorneys Heidi Bassett and Katherine Herman have secured a summary judgment and a permanent injunction for their client, Pulver Towing.
Pulver, a well-known business in the Rochester community since 1945, conducted two repossessions of equipment from a similar business (the plaintiff). The plaintiff sued Pulver for: (1) trespass; (2) conversion; (3) civil theft; and (4) violation of the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act. After a hard fought battle, the Court ruled in Pulver’s favor, dismissing all of the plaintiff’s claims.
In issuing its decision, the Court found that Pulver did not trespass when it conducted the repossession following the plaintiff’s non-payment of equipment leases. The lease language operated as consent for the repossession, and consent was never revoked. The Court also found that, as a matter of law, Pulver did not commit civil theft or conversion because the plaintiff did not own or have a right to possess the equipment after default. Finally, the claim that Pulver engaged in deceptive trade practices by allegedly telling the plaintiff’s customers the company was bankrupt failed without any evidence to support it. The Court noted that the plaintiff admitted in a deposition that none of his customers actually said this rumor came from Pulver.
At the same time, the Court granted summary judgment for Pulver on its own claims under Minnesota’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The plaintiff’s determination to compete with Pulver led him to register numerous internet domains that contained Pulver’s name, and one that automatically redirected internet traffic from Pulver to the plaintiff’s website. The plaintiff created another website to solicit complaints about Pulver, and made it appear as though the complaints were solicited by the Rochester Police Department or Pulver itself. The Court found that not only did the plaintiff’s actions create confusion about Pulver’s connection to the domains, the plaintiff intended this result, entitling Pulver to an award of attorneys’ fees. Now, the plaintiff is permanently enjoined from the registration or use of any internet domain names that contain Pulver’s name.
“We were proud to represent Pulver in this case and are very pleased with the Court’s decision,” stated Heidi Bassett, lead attorney. “This result affirms the values of fair play and honest business dealings embodied by businesses across Minnesota, including Pulver. The law reflects these values, but it is the responsibility of litigants and their attorneys to provide the Court with a thorough record and critical review of the claims in order to reach the right result without the time and expense of trial.”