Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Siemens shipped two electrical transformers from Germany to Kentucky. K+N arranged the shipping, retaining Blue Anchor Line. Blue Anchor issued a bill of lading, in which Siemens agreed not to sue downstream Blue Anchor subcontractors for any problems arising out of the transport from Germany to Kentucky. K+N subcontracted with K-Line to complete the ocean leg of the transportation. Siemens contracted with another K+N entity, K+N Inc., to complete the land leg of the trip from Baltimore to Ghent. K+N Inc. contacted Progressive, a rail logistics coordinator, to identify a rail carrier. They settled on CSX. During the rail leg from Maryland to Kentucky, one transformer was damaged, allegedly costing Siemens $1,500,000 to fix.Progressive sued CSX, seeking to limit its liability for these costs. Siemens sued CSX, seeking recovery for the damage to the transformer. The actions were consolidated in the Kentucky federal district court, which granted CSX summary judgment because the rail carrier qualified as a subcontractor under the Blue Anchor bill and could invoke its liability-shielding provisions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A maritime contract, like the Blue Anchor bill of lading, may set the liability rules for an entire trip, including any land-leg part of the trip, and it may exempt downstream subcontractors, regardless of the method of payment. The Blue Anchor contract states that it covers “Multimodal Transport.” It makes no difference that the downstream carrier was not in privity of contract with Siemens. View "Progressive Rail Inc. v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute between Landlord and Tenant that arose under their lease to a shopping center premises the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Tenant on one claim and to Landlord on another claim, holding that any purported errors were harmless.When Tenant sought mortgage loan from Bank and offered its leasehold interest in the premises as collateral, Bank requested that Landlord execute a "section 3(n) agreement" pursuant to article 6, section 3(n) of the lease. Landlord did not sign the agreement. Bank then terminated the proposed mortgage loan. Tenant sued Landlord for breach of contract. Landlord countersued, claiming that Tenant had violated the lease through its subtenant's use of a pylon sign on the premises. The district court granted summary judgment to Tenant on Landlord's counterclaim. After a trial, the court found that Landlord had no obligation to execute the section 3(n) agreement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not clearly err in finding that Landlord did not breach the lease by not signing the section 3(n) agreements proposed by Bank; and (2) the district court did not err in ruling on summary judgment that Tenant's subtenant's use of the pylon sign did not breach the lease. View "58 Swansea Mall Drive LLC v. Gator Swansea Property LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the president of the International Congress for Joint Reconstruction, Inc. (ICJR) retained Mark Sacaris, part owner of the Center for Healthcare Education and Research, Inc. (CHE), to assist ICJR in producing medical education conferences on the subject of joint-reconstruction surgery. Their agreement was unwritten, and there was no discussion of the rates ICJR would be charged. Sacaris was given full control over ICJR’s money accounts as part of the arrangement. Sacaris used ICJR’s money accounts to pay CHE’s invoices without notifying ICJR’s board members of the amounts ICJR was being charged. Over time, and also without informing the board of ICJR, he increased the scope of CHE’s services, thereby creating additional sources of profit for CHE, and indirectly for himself, but he did not disclose his interest in these arrangements to ICJR. Eventually the ICJR board was informed by Sacaris that ICJR had amassed a $2 million to CHE. ICJR terminated its relationship with Sacaris and CHE. CHE filed suit to recover amounts it claimed it was owed by ICJR under the agreement. ICJR cross-sued Sacaris and CHE, asserting Sacaris secretly profited from his relationship with ICJR. After a bench trial, the court found ICJR liable to CHE for breach of contract. Although the court also found that CHE and Sacaris breached their fiduciary duties to ICJR in earning all four categories of the profits ICJR sought to disgorge, the court awarded ICJR recovery only as to categories two and four. On appeal, ICJR contended the trial court erred in determining that ICJR could not recover disgorgement of CHE and Sacaris’s profits from their undisclosed charges for management services without proof their breach of fiduciary duties caused ICJR to suffer monetary damages. The Court of Appeal agreed ICJR was not required to show it suffered monetary harm to establish a right to disgorgement of CHE and Sacaris' profits from undisclosed charges for event management services. The Court of Appeal reversed that portion of the judgment affected by the error and remanded for the trial court to determine the appropriate amount of the award of disgorgement. However, the Court rejected ICJR’s claim that the court erred in determining that running symposia for pharmaceutical companies was not a corporate opportunity of ICJR. View "Center Healthcare Ed. & Res. v. Internat. Cong. Joint Reconst." on Justia Law

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BRC and Continental signed a five-year contract. Continental agreed to supply BRC with “approximately 1.8 million pounds of prime furnace black annually” taken in “approximately equal monthly quantities.” The price of carbon black consists of a baseline price and “feedstock” adjustments. The contract listed baseline prices with instructions for calculating feedstock adjustments. In 2010, BRC bought 2.6 million pounds of carbon black. In early 2011, BRC bought about 1.3 million pounds. In April 2011, supplies were tight. Continental tried to increase baseline prices. BRC replied that the price increase would violate the contract. BRC placed new orders relying on the contract’s prices. Continental did not respond to BRC's protests. On May 11, Continental missed a shipment to BRC. Continental would not confirm future shipment dates or tell BRC when to expect a response. On May 16, BRC formally invoked U.C.C. 2-609, asking for adequate assurance that Continental would continue to supply carbon black under the existing contract, requesting a response by May 18. Continental gave contradictory responses and continued to demand that BRC accept the price increase. On June 2, BRC notified Continental that it was terminating the contract and had filed suit. BRC proceeded to “cover” by buying from another supplier at higher prices.The Seventh Circuit affirmed an order that Continental pay damages. The district court properly applied U.C.C. 2-609 to find that Continental gave BRC reasonable grounds for doubting that it would perform and that Continental repudiated by failing to provide adequate assurance that it would continue to perform. The court properly applied U.C.C. 2-712 to find that cover was commercially reasonable and awarded prejudgment interest. View "BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc. v. Continental Carbon Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Fresno Unified and the Contractor, alleging that they violated California's competitive bidding requirements, the statutory and common law rules governing conflicts of interest, and Education Code sections 17406 and 17417. Based on the Court of Appeal's review of the four corners of the construction agreements and resolution of Fresno Unified’s board, the court concluded that plaintiff properly alleged three grounds for why Education Code section 17406's exception to competitive bidding did not apply to the purported lease-leaseback contracts. The court also concluded that California's statutory and common law rules governing conflicts of interest extended to corporate consultants and plaintiff alleged facts showing Contractor participated in creating the terms and specifications of the purported lease-leaseback contracts and then became a party to those contracts. After remand, the further proceedings included defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, which argued the lawsuit had become moot because the construction was finished and the contracts terminated. The trial court agreed.The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that defendants and the trial court erroneously interpreted plaintiff's lawsuit as exclusively an in rem reverse validation action. Rather, plaintiff is pursuing both a validation action and a taxpayer action. In this case, plaintiff asserts violations of California's competitive bidding laws and Education Code sections 17406 and 17417 along with conflicts of interest prohibited by Government Code section 1090 and common law principles. The remedy of disgorgement is available under these counts asserted in plaintiff's taxpayer's action even though the Construction Contracts are fully performed. Therefore, the counts in plaintiff's taxpayer's action seeking disgorgement are not moot. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Davis v. Fresno Unified School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Supreme Court's grant of summary judgment, holding that a liquidated damages provision in a Surrender Agreement between Columbia University and D'Agostino Supermarkets was an unenforceable penalty in contravention of public policy.D'Agostino and Columbia University entered into a commercial lease for D'Agostino's rental of certain floors of a building owned by Columbia. The parties later entered a Surrender Agreement that terminated the lease in exchange for D'Agostino's surrender of the premises and a staggered payment of $261,752. Columbia later commenced the underlying action to enforce the damages provision in the Surrender Agreement. Supreme Court granted D'Agostino's cross-motion for summary judgment for the requested amount and interest. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the damages sought were grossly disproportionate to the amount due upon full performance of the Surrender Agreement, and therefore, there was no error in rejecting Columbia's liquidated damages provision. View "Trustees of Columbia University in City of New York v. D'Agostino Supermarkets, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent Sarah Coughenour worked for defendant-appellant Del Taco, LLC, starting when she was 16 years old. When she was first employed by Del Taco, she signed a “Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate” (Agreement). After Coughenour reached the age of 18, she continued working for Del Taco for four months. Coughenour quit and filed a lawsuit against Del Taco for sexual harassment committed by one of their employees, wage and hour claims brought pursuant to the Labor Code, and other claims under the Fair Housing and Employment Housing Act. Del Taco moved to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the Motion, finding that Coughenour’s filing of the lawsuit was a disaffirmance of the Agreement within the meaning of Family Code section 6710, which allowed a person upon reaching majority age to disaffirm a contract entered into while a minor. Del Taco appealed the denial of its motion, arguing that by working for Del Taco for four months after she reached the age of majority, Coughenour ratified the Agreement, which estopped her power to disaffirm the Agreement. In the alternative, Del Taco argued that Coughenour did not disaffirm the Agreement within a “reasonable time” after reaching the age of 18 as required by Family Code section 6710. The Court of Appeal affirmed denial of Del Taco's motion: [t]he filing of the lawsuit was notice that [Coughenour] disaffirmed the Agreement." The trial court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that Coughenour disaffirmed the Agreement within a reasonable time. View "Coughenour v. Del Taco" on Justia Law

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In this original jurisdiction proceeding, the Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition sought by Petitioners, out-of-state Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans, to prevent the enforcement of the circuit court's order concluding that it had jurisdiction over Petitioners in this action, holding that jurisdiction over Petitioners was clearly not appropriate in this case.Respondent alleged that the circuit court had jurisdiction over Petitioners for several reasons. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, asserting that they had no relevant jurisdictional contacts with West Virginia. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that Petitioners purposefully availed themselves of the privilege of conducting business in West Virginia. Petitioners then filed the instant writ, arguing that any attempt to exercise specific jurisdiction over them violated due process because there was no allegation or evidence showing that they developed or maintained a substantial relationship with West Virginia or purposefully engaged in forum-related conduct that gave rise to Respondent's claims. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that Petitioners were entitled to the writ of prohibition. View "State ex rel. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas, Inc. v. Honorable Shawn D. Nines" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion to dismiss Respondent's civil lawsuit or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration, holding that the arbitration provision was clear and unambiguous and was therefore an enforceable agreement to arbitrate.Respondent purchased real estate improved with several structures. After Petitioner inspected the structures Respondent signed the contract. After Respondent allegedly discovered issues with his property he filed a complaint against Petitioner alleging breach of contract, negligence and fraud. Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss, or alternatively, a motion to stay further proceedings and compel arbitration on the grounds that the parties' contract contained an enforceable arbitration provision. The circuit court concluded that the arbitration provision was ambiguous. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the arbitration provision was clear and unambiguous. View "Home Inspections of VA & WV, LLC v. Hardin" on Justia Law

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Alleshouse and Yeh are named as the inventors on the 685 and 189 patents, which claim water-park attractions that individuals may ride as if surfing, and on the 433 patent, which claims nozzle configurations for regulating water flow in such attractions. Pacific, the company Alleshouse and Yeh formed to develop and market such attractions, is the assignee of the patents. Whitewater is the successor of Wave, which employed Alleshouse until just before he went into business with Yeh and the patented inventions were conceived. Whitewater sued Alleshouse, Yeh, and Pacific, claiming that Alleshouse had to assign each of the patents to Whitewater, as Wave’s successor, under the terms of Alleshouse’s employment contract with Wave. Whitewater also claimed that Yeh, who had not been employed by Whitewater or its predecessors and therefore was not under any alleged assignment duty, was improperly listed as an inventor on each of the patents.The district court held that Alleshouse breached the employment agreement, so Whitewater was entitled to an assignment of the patent interests, and Yeh was improperly joined as an inventor. The Federal Circuit reversed, The contract’s assignment provision is void under California law, (Labor Code 2870, 2872; Business and Professions Code 16600), so Whitewater lacks standing to contest inventorship. View "Whitewater West Industries Ltd. v. Alleshouse" on Justia Law