Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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CommScope Credit Union (Plaintiff), a state-chartered credit union, hired Butler & Burke, LLP (Defendant), a certified public accounting firm, to conduct annual independent audits of its financial statements. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and professional malpractice. Defendant pleaded seven affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence and in pari delicto. The trial court subsequently granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the specific allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint were sufficient to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, and (2) Defendant’s affirmative defenses would not entitle Defendant to dismissal at this stage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s allegations did not establish that Defendant owed it a fiduciary duty in fact, and therefore, the trial court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim; and (2) the members of the Court are equally divided on whether the facts alleged in the complaint established the defenses of contributory negligence and in pari delicto, and therefore, the court of appeals’ decision on this issue is left undisturbed. View "CommScope Credit Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP" on Justia Law

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In 1985, South Alabama Sewer Service, Inc. ("SASS"), and Lake View Developers, Ltd. ("Lake View"), entered into an agreement where SASS would construct a sewer line from its waste-treatment facility to a new planned subdivision and golf course ("Lake View Estates). In 1989, Lake View filed for bankruptcy. The development and golf course, excluding lots that had already been sold, were placed in receivership. 1991, SASS and Lakeview Realty entered into a new sewer agreement. In July 2003, Baldwin County Sewer Service, LLC ("BCSS"), purchased from SASS the sewer lines and sewer facilities servicing Lake View Estates. In 2004, BCSS purchased all the stock of SASS. Subsequent to BCSS's purchase of SASS and its facilities in Baldwin County, all monthly sewer fees related to Lake View Estates had been billed by and paid to BCSS. Sometime following its acquisition of SASS's sewer system, BCSS enacted a rate increase affecting customers in Lake View Estates. In 2014, multiple homeowner associations whose members were property owners in Lake View Estates, sued BCSS, generally asserting that BCSS had violated the sewer-service-rate provision of the 1991 agreement. The associations lost at trial on grounds that they lacked standing to sue to enforce the 1991 agreement. The Supreme Court disagreed, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "The Gardens at Glenlakes Property Owners Association, Inc., et al. v. Baldwin County Sewer Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the U.S. Soccer Team Players Association disapproved the US Soccer Federation’s proposed tequila poster advertisement, which contained player images. The Federation issued a notice, declaring that the collective bargaining agreement/uniform player agreement (CBA/UPA) did not require Players Association approval for use of player likenesses for six or more players in print creative advertisements by sponsors. The Players Association filed a grievance and demanded arbitration, arguing that the CBA/UPA did require approval, based on the past practice of the parties. The arbitrator issued an award in favor of the Players Association. The district court confirmed the award. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The contractual provisions are clear and unambiguous, establishing that the parties contemplated and anticipated the use of player likenesses for six players or more and agreed only to “request, but not require” a sponsor contribution to the applicable player pool for advertisements of the type at issue. No other terms that contradict this “request, but not require” condition. View "United States Soccer Fed'n Inc. v. United States Nat'l Soccer Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Eileen Dalton purchased two used cars under separate finance contracts which contained provisions that retained self-help remedies for both parties, and that allowed either party to compel arbitration of any claim or dispute arising out of the contracts that exceeded the jurisdiction of a small claims court (which in New Mexico was $10,000). One of the cars was repossessed without judicial action. Dalton sued, alleging fraud, violations of the New Mexico Uniform Commercial Code, unfair trade practices, conversion, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of warranty of title. Santander Consumer USA moved to compel arbitration based on the clause contained in the finance contracts. Dalton argued that the arbitration clause was substantively unconscionable on its face, and therefore unenforceable because the self-help and small claims carve-outs were unreasonably one-sided. After review of the provisions at issue here, the Supreme Court held that the arbitration provision in this case was not substantively unconscionable because: (1) lawful self-help remedies were extrajudicial remedies; and (2) the small claims carve-out was facially neutral because either party had to sue in small claims court if its claim was less than $10,000, or arbitrate if its claim exceeds $10,000, thereby neither grossly unfair nor unreasonably one-sided on its face. View "Dalton v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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American Family Mutual Insurance Company (AFM) sought review of a Court of Appeals decision upholding the trial court's judgment in a garnishment proceeding requiring AFM to pay a judgment that plaintiffs FountainCourt Homeowners’ Association and FountainCourt Condominium Owners’ Association (FountainCourt) had obtained against AFM’s insured, Sideco, Inc. (Sideco). The underlying dispute centered on a housing development that was constructed between 2002 and 2004 in Beaverton. FountainCourt sued the developers and contractors seeking damages for defects in the construction of the buildings in the development. Sideco, a subcontractor, was brought in as a third-party defendant, and a jury eventually determined that Sideco’s negligence caused property damage to FountainCourt’s buildings. Based on that jury verdict, the trial court entered judgment against Sideco in the amount of $485,877.84. FountainCourt then served a writ of garnishment on AFM in the amount owed by Sideco, and, in response, AFM denied that the loss was covered by its policies. The trial court ultimately entered judgment against AFM, after deducting the amounts that had been paid by other garnishees. After review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the court of Appeals' judgment and affirmed the courts below. View "FountainCourt Homeowners v. FountainCourt Develop." on Justia Law

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The 2009 Video Gaming Act (230 ILCS 40/1)) legalized the use of video gaming terminals in licensed establishments, including bars, veterans’ organizations, and truck stops, and authorizes the Illinois Gaming Board to supervise all video gaming operations governed by the Act. A video gaming terminal may be placed in a licensed establishment only if the establishment has entered into a written use agreement with the licensed terminal operator. A use agreement may be assigned only from one licensed terminal operator to another. Action, an unlicensed terminal operator, executed “Exclusive Location and Video Gaming Terminal Agreements” with each of 10 establishments, stating that Action and the establishments would obtain licenses. In 2012 the parties amended their agreements by adding clauses, purportedly “necessary in order for the Agreement to comply with the [Act] and the rules and regulations," including clauses providing that Action could assign its rights and acknowledging that the agreement and the amendment “are subject to and contingent upon the [Gaming Board’s] review.” In 2012, the Board denied Action’s license application based on findings that Acton employees were associated with individuals who had been convicted of illegal gambling. Action assigned its rights under the agreements to J&J, a licensed operator. The establishments were not yet licensed. Subsequently, each of the establishments signed separate location agreements with Accel, a licensed operator. J&J and Action sued; the circuit courts ruled that the location agreements were not use agreements, but were valid contracts, and enjoined Accel from operating terminals at the establishments. The appellate court and the Illinois Supreme court held that the circuit courts lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the Board has exclusive authority over contracts for the placement of video gaming terminals. The comprehensive statutory scheme vests jurisdiction over video gaming operations with the Board; the agreements purport to control placement and operation of video gaming terminals. View "J&J Ventures Gaming, LLC v. Wild, Inc." on Justia Law

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When Hampton Court Nursing Father admitted Father to its nursing home facility, Son and Hampton Court signed a a nursing home contract that included an arbitration clause. Father did not sign the contract. Son later filed suit on Father’s behalf, alleging negligence and statutory violations. The circuit court granted Hampton Court’s motion to compel arbitration and stay the judicial proceedings. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that Father was the intended third-party beneficiary of the nursing home contract, and therefore, Hampton Court could bind him to its contract, which Father never signed. The Supreme Court quashed the Third District’s decision, holding that the third-party beneficiary doctrine did not bind Father to the arbitration agreement in the nursing home admission agreement. View "Mendez v. Hampton Court Nursing Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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Jani-King, the world’s largest commercial cleaning franchisor, classifies its franchisees as independent contractors. Its cleaning contracts are between Jani-King and the customer; the franchisee is not a party, but may elect to provide or not provide services under a contract. Jani-King exercises a significant amount of control over how franchisees operate and controls billing and accounting. Two Jani-King franchisees assert that they are misclassified and should be treated as employees. On behalf of a class of Jani-King franchisees in the Philadelphia area (approximately 300 franchisees), they sought unpaid wages under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), 43 Pa. Stat. 260.1–260.12. The Third Circuit affirmed certification of the class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). The misclassification claim can be made on a class-wide basis through common evidence, primarily the franchise agreement and manuals. Under Pennsylvania law, no special treatment is accorded to the franchise relationship. A franchisee may be an employee or an independent contractor depending on the nature of the franchise system controls. View "Williams v. Jani-King of Philadelphia Inc" on Justia Law

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Defendant insurance company denied uninsured motorist coverage to a third party beneficiary injured in an automobile accident because it had cancelled the policy before the accident occurred. The third party sued, and the insurer sought summary judgment. The third party opposed, contending the cancellation was invalid because a written notice seeking information sent by the insurer to the insureds prior to cancellation was unreasonable as a matter of law, and disputed facts existed as to whether the insurer had mailed the notice of cancellation and actually cancelled the policy. The trial court granted summary judgment, and finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Mills v. AAA Northern CA, NV and Utah Ins. Exch." on Justia Law

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David and Alana Folsom filed a complaint against Eagle’s Rest, LLC and the City of Livingston claiming breach of contract, negligence, unjust enrichment, and quantum meruit. After a jury trial, the district court entered judgment specifying that plaintiffs recovered nothing from Eagle’s Rest but awarding damages as to Livingston. The court also awarded attorney fees to the Folsoms as the prevailing party. The Folsoms appealed, and Livingston cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the district court (1) did not err by excluding expert testimony of a professional appraiser; (2) did not err in excluding David Folsom’s expert testimony at trial; (3) properly instructed the jury regarding unjust enrichment; (4) erred by awarding negligence damages to the Folsoms; and (5) abused its discretion by awarding essentially all of the attorney fees incurred by the Folsoms. View "Folsom v. Livingston" on Justia Law