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Perez‐Gonzalez pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for his role in a gang‐related killing and agreed to cooperate. His plea agreement stated: Any deviation from that truthful [testimony against a co-defendant] will be grounds for the [state] at [its] sole discretion–to withdraw its agreement to delete reference to a firearm as well as to withdraw its agreement to vacate the 15‐year add‐on. In such event, the defendant would then be required to serve the terms of the initial agreement. It makes no reference to refusal to testify. More than one year later, as the trial of a co‐defendant approached, Perez‐Gonzalez declined to testify. He was convicted of contempt of court, resulting in an additional 10‐year sentence. After exhausting his state court remedies, Perez‐Gonzalez sought habeas corpus relief, asserting the state breached the plea agreement by requesting the contempt sanction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, rejecting an argument that the plea agreement immunized Perez-Gonzalez from contempt proceedings. Although he presented a reasonable interpretation of the agreement, he has not proved that the state appellate court’s alternative interpretation was unreasonable; the agreement contained no express or implied promise that the state would not bring contempt charges. Perez‐Gonzalez must do more than provide an alternative reading of the plea agreement. View "Perez-Gonzalez v. Lashbrook" on Justia Law

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In this case alleging several violations of federal and state discrimination laws the First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to stay the proceedings in district court and compel arbitration, holding that the contract to arbitration in between the parties was unenforceable. Plaintiffs - several individuals and the National Federation of the Blind - filed a complaint alleging that Defendant - the Container Store, Inc. - failed to utilize tactile keypads on its point-of-sale devices in its stores that could independently be used by customers who are blind in violation of federal and state discrimination laws. Defendant moved to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration provision in the terms and conditions of a loyalty program of which the individual plaintiffs were members. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) based upon the lack of evidence that the in-store plaintiffs had any knowledge that arbitration terms applied to their enrollment in the loyalty program, Defendant failed to establish that an agreement to arbitrate was consummated between it and three of the four individual plaintiffs; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that the loyalty program agreement was illusory and therefore void. View "National Federation of the Blind v. Container Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case concerned the interpretation of Alaska’s usury statute and whether it provided for a maximum interest rate on contract or loan commitments in which the principal amount exceeds $25,000. William Cox argued the statute provided for a maximum interest rate of 10.5% on all loans in which the principal exceeds $25,000. The Estate of Steve Cooper and Dorothy Cooper (collectively “the Coopers”) argued that parties could contract for any interest rate if the principal of the contract or loan commitment exceeded $25,000. The superior court initially agreed with Cox that loans over $25,000 had a maximum legal interest rate of 10.5%, but the Coopers moved for reconsideration and provided the court with statutory history. This statutory history convinced the court that the Coopers were correct and that AS 45.45.010 did not limit the interest rate for contract or loan commitments over $25,000. Cox appealed, challenging the superior court’s decision to consider statutory history when ruling on the Coopers’ motion for reconsideration and the superior court’s decision to grant the Coopers reasonable attorney’s fees under Alaska Civil Rule 82. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's ruling in all respects. View "Cox v. Estate of Steve Cooper" on Justia Law

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In this action for indemnification, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. the full amount of settlement payments in a lawsuit brought by employees of ConAgra Foods, Inc. against Jacobs arising from an explosion at a ConAgra plant, holding that the district court’s judgment was not in error. ConAgra contracted with Jacobs, an engineering firm, to provide engineering services. The engineering agreement contained mutual indemnification provisions. After the explosion at the ConAgra plant, dozens of employees sued Jacobs. Jacobs sought contractual indemnification from ConAgra, but ConAgra declined. Jacobs defended against and settled the claims then sued ConAgra for indemnification. The jury awarded Jacobs $108.9 million, and the court entered judgment on the verdict. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in finding that Jacobs had standing as the real party in interest; (2) the court did not err in finding ConAgra’s workers’ compensation immunity inapplicable; (3) Jacobs established that ConAgra’s refusal to indemnify breached the parties’ contract; and (4) the court did not err in declining to reduce the jury’s award of damages. View "Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. v. ConAgra Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the superior court’s allowance of the insurers’ motion for summary judgment, holding that the allegations in the underlying complaint were sufficient to trigger the insurers’ duty to defend the insured in the underlying action. The two insurers in this case had issued several general commercial liability policies to the insured. The insured was sued in federal court for improper advertising. The insurers denied coverage on the ground that a provision in the policies covering improper use of another’s advertising idea did not cover the claims raised in the action but, nevertheless, agreed to fund the insured’s defense under a reservation of rights. The insurers then sought a declaration that they were not obligated to defend the insured in the underlying action. The superior court granted summary judgment for the insurers. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the policies that the insured purchased, which provided coverage in the event the insured was sued for alleged advertising injuries, covered the insured for the claims at issue in the underlying action. View "Holyoke Mutual Insurance Co. in Salem v. Vibram USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Conn Credit filed suit against TF Loan for breach of contract and TF Loan counterclaimed for breach. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in favor of Conn, holding that Conn's representations and warranties in Section 8.5 of the Sale Agreement were false because Conn's failure to refund canceled retail service agreement (RSA) accounts violated Section 1304.159(c) of the Texas Occupations Code. Therefore, Conn did not satisfy the condition precedent in Section 10.2, and its claim for breach of contract failed. The court also held that the district court erred as a matter of Texas law by imposing a prejudice requirement on TF Loan; Conn failed to show that anything in the Sale Agreement imposed a materiality requirement on the Section 10.2 condition; Conn failed to show that TF Loan waived the condition precedent in Section 10.2; and Conn's remaining claims failed. Finally, the court held that TF Loan was entitled to repurchase of accounts in the Bulk Sale and Deliveries One and Two with canceled RSAs. View "Conn Credit I, LP v. TF Loanco III, LLC" on Justia Law

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Belsen Getty, LLC, a registered investment adviser owned by Terry Deru, obtained a claims-made financial-services-liability policy (the Policy) from XL Specialty Insurance Company covering Belsen Getty and its advisers for the period for one year. Under the policy, XL had no duty to defend. During the policy period James, Jenalyn, and Wade Morden brought claims against Belsen Getty and Deru alleging improper and misleading investment advice. XL denied coverage, asserting the Mordens’ claims and claims brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) before the policy period concerned “Interrelated Wrongful Acts,” as defined by the Policy, and that the Policy therefore required treating the two claims as one claim made before the policy period. Belsen Getty and Deru then settled with the Mordens, assigning their rights against XL; and the Mordens sued XL in federal district court, raising the assigned claims that XL breached its covenant of good faith and fair dealing and its fiduciary duties to Belsen Getty and Deru in denying coverage under the Policy. XL counterclaimed that the Policy’s Interrelated Wrongful Acts provision precluded coverage. The Mordens moved for partial summary judgment on the counterclaim and on several of XL's affirmative defenses. XL moved for summary judgment based on the policy and for failure to prove bad faith or breach of fiduciary duty. The district court denied XL's counterclaim, but granted summary judgment on the bad-faith and fiduciary-duty claims. The Mordens appealed summary judgment against them on their bad-faith and fiduciary-duty claims and on the denial of their motion to amend their complaint to add a breach-of-contract claim. XL cross-appealed the summary judgment against it on its counterclaim that the Policy’s Interrelated Wrongful Acts provision barred all the Mordens’ claims. The Tenth Circuit reversed the denial of XL’s motion for summary judgment on its counterclaim: this reversal undermined the Mordens’ challenges to the summary judgment against them and the denial of their motion to amend. The Court therefore affirmed summary judgment against the Mordens on their claims and the denial of their motion to amend. View "Morden v. XL Specialty Insurance" on Justia Law

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Packgen's customer, CRI, required a new type of intermediate bulk container (IBC) for a chemical catalyst used in refining crude oil into other petroleum products. The new IBC's outer surface consisted primarily of polypropylene fabric rather than metal; it could be collapsed for storage. CRI's catalyst is self-heating and can ignite when exposed to oxygen. Packgen engaged Berry to manufacture a laminate of woven polypropylene chemically bonded to aluminum foil, to strengthen the IBC’s exterior and serve as a barrier to oxygen, ultraviolet light, and infrared radiation. By April 2008, Packgen was selling an average of 1,261 IBCs per month to CRI and was making overtures to other petroleum refiners. While CRI personnel were lifting an IBC full of catalyst, the foil layer separated from the polypropylene, exposing the interior lining. Other failures followed, some resulting in fires. Packgen determined that foil laminate obtained from Berry was defective. CRI canceled pending orders and destroyed and refused to pay for IBCs that Packgen had provided. Word reached other potential Packgen customers. Packgen sued Berry. The First Circuit affirmed an award of $7.2 million in damages. Berry unsuccessfully demanded that Illinois National indemnify it for all but the first $1 million, which Berry’s primary liability insurer agreed to cover. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Illinois National. The policy covers damages that Berry is required to pay “because of … Property Damage.” While some portion of the lost profits award might be attributable to property damage, Berry did not attempt to make that showing. View "Berry Plastics Corp. v. Illinois National Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Paramount in an action under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. AFM filed suit alleging breach of Article 3 of the Basic Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement, a collective bargaining agreement, in connection with the motion picture, Same Kind of Different As Me, which was scored in Slovakia. The panel held that the district court misinterpreted Article 3 to apply only if a signatory producer employs the cast and crew shooting the picture; Article 3 functions as a work preservation provision that dictates when a signatory has to hire those musicians; and Article 3 applied when a signatory studio produces a motion picture and has authority over the hiring and employment of scoring musicians. The panel held that there was a disputed question of fact as to whether Paramount produced the movie and had sufficient authority over the hiring of scoring musicians such that Article 3 applied. Finally, the panel rejected Paramount's affirmative defense that Article 3 violated the National Labor Relations Act's "hot cargo" prohibition and reversed two of the district court's evidentiary rulings. View "American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada v. Paramount Pictures Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion by allowing Defendant’s motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens because a Massachusetts choice of law provision in a confidentiality, nonsolicitation, and noncompetition agreement between the parties in this case was unenforceable. Defendant was employed in California by Plaintiff, a company headquartered in Massachusetts. Plaintiff signed an agreement as a condition of employment that declared that the agreement would be governed by Massachusetts law and that all lawsuits arising from the agreement would be brought in a Massachusetts court. When Defendant left to work for a California competitor, Plaintiff filed suit in the Massachusetts Superior Court. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens, and the trial judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) where California substantive law would apply under choice of law principles and where the application of Massachusetts substantive law would violate California public policy favoring open competition and employee mobility, the Massachusetts choice of law provision was not enforceable; and (2) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in deciding that this action should be dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens. View "Oxford Global Resources, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law