Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries
Endeavor Operating Co., LLC v. HDI Global Ins. Co.
Endeavor Operating Company, LLC (Endeavor) is a “holding company” that owns “various subsidiaries in the entertainment, sports, and fashion business sectors.” Endeavor sued the insurers for (1) declaratory relief and (2) breach of contract related to COVID-19 closures. The insurers demurred to the complaint. The trial court issued a ruling (1) sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend and (2) denying Endeavor’s motion for a new trial. The court modified its initial ruling to find that the “actual” or “threatened presence” of COVID-19 or the SARS-CoV-2 virus “does not constitute a physical loss or damage required to trigger coverage for property insurance coverage” but reaffirmed its initial ruling that the contamination/pollution exclusion applied, which in the court’s view obviated its need to address the argument Endeavor raised for the first time in its new trial motion. Endeavor appealed. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court concluded that the insurance policy unambiguously requires “direct physical loss or damage to property” before Endeavor may recover under the business interruption clauses. The court held that Endeavor failed as a matter of law to plead “direct physical loss or damage to property.” The court explained that California courts are in accord that the phrase “direct physical loss or damage to property” means a “‘distinct, demonstrable, physical alteration’” of the insured property. This is the default definition to be applied where a policy does not provide a different definition of “direct physical loss or damage.” The policy here provides no different definition. View "Endeavor Operating Co., LLC v. HDI Global Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Smith Masonry v. WIPI Group, USA
The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded in part the judgment of the circuit court determining that Tom Smith Masonry had a valid mechanic's lien for the unpaid balance due under a construction contract with WIPI Group USA, Inc., holding that the circuit court erred in denying Smith Masonry a judgment of foreclosure on the mechanic's lien for the full amount of the recorded lien.Smith Masonry instituted a mechanic's lien foreclosure action against WIPI seeking to recover unpaid balance due under the parties' construction contract and an award of attorney fees. WIPI counterclaimed for breach of contract. The circuit court ultimately denied both parties relief, determining that Smith Masonry had a valid mechanic's lien for the unpaid contract balance but that WIPI was entitled to an offset because the work did not meet the reasonable standard for construction. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded or the court to enter a judgment of foreclosure in favor of Smith Masonry on its mechanics lien, holding that the circuit court erred in determining that WIPI was entitled to a wholesale offset of the amount due under the contract. View "Smith Masonry v. WIPI Group, USA" on Justia Law
Genevieve J. Parmely Revocable Trust v. Magness
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of The Genevieve J. Parmely Revocable Trust asking the court to determine that an option agreement made with Brad Magness was invalid because of the absence of consideration, holding that the circuit court erred.In denying summary judgment for Magness and in granting the Trust's second motion for summary judgment the circuit court determined that the written option agreements at issue were not supported by independent consideration and were null and void. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Trust failed to rebut the presumption of consideration established by S.D. Codified Laws 53-6-3. View "Genevieve J. Parmely Revocable Trust v. Magness" on Justia Law
Russell v. Zimmer, Inc.
Russell is an orthopedic trauma surgeon who invented numerous products such as bone substitutes and surgical devices. He, along with other inventors were shareholders in CelgenTek, a medical device firm. According to the Inventors, Russell’s creations were game-changers in the field of orthopedics. In 2015, the Inventors entered into an agreement with Zimmer as the exclusive distributor of certain CelgenTek products. CelgenTek was experiencing dire financial problems. Zimmer acquired a 10% ownership of CelgenTek for $2 million and purchased the remaining 90% in 2016. The Inventors retained the right to a small percent of the net yield on the products it developed (earnout products). Zimmer agreed that it would use “Commercially Reasonable Efforts,” as defined in the Agreement, to sell the earnout products. From the date the agreement through 2019, Zimmer paid the Inventors approximately $130,000 in earnout payments. The Inventors sued, alleging that Zimmer failed to use Commercially Reasonable Efforts.The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the Inventors failed to state a claim. Many of Zimmer's 21 complained-of actions and inactions reflect how the Inventors hoped Zimmer would have marketed and sold the earnout products or what the Inventors would have done had they not put Zimmer in charge of sales. Others allege broken promises that Zimmer purportedly made before the signing of the agreement that are not actionable due to the agreement’s integration clause. View "Russell v. Zimmer, Inc." on Justia Law
Clanton v. Oakbrook Healthcare Centre, Ltd.
Jansen was a resident at a skilled nursing facility. Kotalik, with Jansen’s power of attorney for healthcare, signed a “Contract Between Resident and Facility” that provides all civil claims shall be resolved exclusively through mandatory mediation, and, if such mediation does not resolve the dispute, through binding arbitration. The contract waived claims for punitive damages and included a “termination upon death” provision. Jansen suffered several falls, resulting in injuries that contributed to or caused Jansen’s death. Her estate sued, arguing that the defendants had waived their right to mediate and/or arbitrate by participating in litigation for nearly a year, that the arbitration clause was procedurally and substantively unconscionable, and that Kotalik, as Jansen’s POA for healthcare, lacked the authority to execute an arbitration clause on Jansen’s behalf.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion. By the express terms of the contract, once the resident died, the contract ceased to exist, including the forum provision. The court did not address the other arguments. View "Clanton v. Oakbrook Healthcare Centre, Ltd." on Justia Law
Sayler v. Yan Sun
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments of the district court adjudicating a parental interest and accompanying parenting plan regarding Father's minor child in favor of his non-parent ex-wife (Surrogate), holding that the district court erroneously made a child custody parenting plan determination involving a non-parent without the predicate parental interest implied as a condition precedent to imposition of a best interests-based parenting plan.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) correctly concluded that the preclusive terms of a gestational carrier agreement did not preclude Surrogate from later acquiring or establishing a parental interest and right to the extent independently authorized under Montana law; (2) did not err in finding and concluding that Father voluntarily signed the premarital agreement and that it ws thus a validly formed and enforceable contract; (3) did not erroneously reject Father’s assertion that the parent-child relationship provision was unenforceable as equitably unconscionable; and (4) erroneously adjudicated a non parent "parental interest" in favor of Surrogate without the required predicated finding of fact specified by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-228(2)(a). View "Sayler v. Yan Sun" on Justia Law
Elijah Wells v. Creighton Preparatory School
Creighton Preparatory School expelled Plaintiff after he made lewd remarks about a teacher. Plaintiff sued Creighton under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 on the theory that the school had discriminated against him by failing to perform an “adequate and impartial investigation.” The district court granted Creighton’s motion to dismiss. It first dismissed the Title IX claim because Plaintiff had failed to “allege [that] his sex played any part in the disciplinary process at all.” Then, with the federal question gone, it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff does not allege that Creighton faced external pressure to punish male students, much less gave in by expelling him. The court reasoned that without an allegation of that kind, the complaint fails to plausibly allege the sort of “causal connection between the flawed outcome and gender bias” required to make an erroneous outcome theory work.Further, the court wrote that treating men and women differently can support an inference of sex discrimination, but it requires identifying a similarly situated member of the opposite sex who has been “treated more favorably.” For Plaintiff, he had to find “a female accused of sexual harassment” who received better treatment. There are no female students at Creighton, an all-boys school, let alone any who have faced sexual-misconduct allegations. The court explained that to the extent that Plaintiff argues that believing them over him raises an inference of discrimination, there is nothing alleged that the school did so because of his sex. View "Elijah Wells v. Creighton Preparatory School" on Justia Law
Davis Boat Manufacturing-Nordic, Inc. v. Smith
Plaintiff Davis Boat Manufacturing-Nordic, Inc. (Davis Boat), which prevailed in a breach-of-contract action against Defendant applied for an order to sell Defendant’s home. The Stanislaus County Superior Court denied the application on the basis of Code of Civil Procedure section 699.730, a recently added statute that prohibits the forced sale of a judgment debtor’s principal place of residence to satisfy a “consumer debt” except under certain circumstances. The Fifth Appellate affirmed. The court rejected Davis Boat’s assertions on appeal and held that the definition of “consumer debt” in section 669.730 is not latently ambiguous, and that section 669.730 neither violates the contract nor the equal protection clauses of the federal and state Constitutions. The court explained that section 699.730, subdivision (a) defines “consumer debt” as “debt incurred by an individual primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.” Thus, a debt incurred for business or commercial reasons would not be a debt incurred for “personal, family, or household purposes.” The court wrote that notwithstanding the plain meaning of the statute, Davis Boat suggests “consumer debt” is latently ambiguous. The court reasoned that it does not believe that the purpose of Assembly Bill No. 2463 is frustrated simply because the language approved by the Legislature means debt incurred by an individual primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.” Moreover, the court wrote that it cannot deem a statutory exemption that allows financial institutions to force the sale of a judgment debtor’s principal place of residence to satisfy a high-priced debt “so devoid of even minimal rationality that it is unconstitutional as a matter of equal protection. View "Davis Boat Manufacturing-Nordic, Inc. v. Smith" on Justia Law
Long Beach Memorial Medical Center v. Allstate Ins. Co.
The insurer, in this case, had notice of the hospital’s lien for treatment provided to the patient and, pursuant to a settlement agreement with the patient, gave him a check for the lien amount made payable to both him and the hospital. The hospital, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, claims this action did not comply with the Hospital Lien Act (HLA) and sued the insurer who wrote the check, Allstate Insurance Company, for violating the HLA. The trial court granted Allstate’s motion for summary judgment, ruling Allstate’s two-payee check, which was never cashed, satisfied its obligation under the HLA. The Second Appellate District reversed. The court concluded that merely delivering to the patient (or, in this case, his attorney) a check for the lien amount, made payable to both the patient and the hospital, is not a payment in satisfaction of the hospital’s lien under the HLA. The court explained Allstate maintains that it made this payment to the Medical Center concurrent with payment to the patient and that, therefore, the Medical Center cannot establish Allstate made a settlement payment to the patient without paying the Medical Center the amount of its lien. The court explained that Allstate declined to specify which check made payable to the Medical Center as copayee—the February 2020 check or the March 2021 check— Allstate claims satisfied its payment obligation to the Medical Center. However, neither check was a payment to the Medical Center. Moreover, Allstate does not invoke the exception to the general rule here. View "Long Beach Memorial Medical Center v. Allstate Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Sullivan v. BitterSweet Ranch, LLC
Between 2015 and 2019, BitterSweet Ranch and its managers (“BitterSweet”) leased three parcels of farmland from Frank Sullivan and two of his business entities, The Green Desert, LLC, and The Sullivan Limited Partnership (collectively, “Sullivan”). The parties signed three identical five-year leases (“the Leases”) involving three separate parcels of real property, each owned by one of the three Sullivan parties. The Leases specified that Sullivan was to be responsible for payment of the property taxes, but that those parties were to be reimbursed by BitterSweet, and that BitterSweet was to be responsible for bi-annual rent payments, utilities, and water assessments. For a variety of reasons, the parties purportedly orally agreed to modify the Leases to offset amounts owed to each other throughout the terms of the Leases. Shortly before the Leases were set to expire at the end of their five-year terms, Sullivan claimed that BitterSweet was in breach of the Leases for its alleged failure to make timely rent payments, to pay all property taxes, and to pay the water assessments pursuant to the terms of the Leases. Sullivan then filed three lawsuits (one for each of the Leases and in the names of each of the three parties) in district court. The district court ordered the cases consolidated and then granted summary judgment in favor of BitterSweet, concluding that a genuine issue of material fact had not been created as to whether BitterSweet had breached the Leases. Sullivan appealed the adverse order. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Sullivan v. BitterSweet Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law