Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries
Episcopal Church in South Carolina v. Church Insurance Company of Vermont
In 2012, Bishop Lawrence sought to disaffiliate his South Carolina-based diocese from the Episcopal “Mother Church”. Some parishes followed suit. The Mother Church purported to remove Lawrence and selected a new bishop. The Disassociated Diocese and Parishes sued the Mother Church to clarify their property rights in diocesan. The Mother Church filed counterclaims and separately filed trademark and false-advertising claims. Both cases are ongoing.The Church Insurance Company, wholly owned by the Church Pension Fund, is a freestanding nonprofit affiliated with the Mother Church. Captive insurance companies may only cover the risks of their parent companies and related entities. Before the schism, the Company issued a Diocesan Program Master Policy, listing as “named insured” the Episcopal diocese and listing 56 participant parishes, including the now-Disassociated Parishes, in its declarations. Each parish has a separate, individualized insurance policy and paid premiums directly to the Company. The policies provide liability coverage for injuries arising out of “infringement of copyright, title, slogan, trademark, or trade name” and include a broad duty to defend. The Company has reimbursed the Disassociated Parishes’ defense costs in connection with both lawsuits.The Associated Diocese sued the Company, alleging breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of that suit for lack of standing. The Company has not strayed beyond its limitations as a captive insurer or breached its obligations under the policies, so there is no injury traceable to such conduct. View "Episcopal Church in South Carolina v. Church Insurance Company of Vermont" on Justia Law
McCaulley v. C L Enterprises, Inc.
In this construction defect case brought by homeowners against several contractors, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court that the limitations period against each contractor began to run upon the substantial completion of each contractor's project.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the contractors in this case, generally agreeing that the limitations period for the homeowners' claims against the contractors began to run on the dates that each contractor substantially completed its work. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Homeowners' claims against the contractors were time barred as matter of law under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-223 and by denying their oral motion seeking leave to amend their complaint to add a new claim. View "McCaulley v. C L Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
Huggins v. Aquilar
In September 2016, defendant Trend Motors, Ltd. (Trend), provided defendant Mary Aquilar with a loaner vehicle for her personal use while her vehicle was being serviced. Aquilar’s negligent operation of the loaner vehicle caused it to strike plaintiff Tyrone Huggins’s car. Huggins sustained serious injuries as a result. GEICO insured Aquilar through an automobile policy. Trend held a garage policy with Federal Insurance Company (Federal) that insured Trend’s vehicles for up to $1,000,000 in liability coverage. The definition of an “insured” in the Federal policy purported to extend liability coverage to Trend’s customers using Trend’s vehicles only if the customer lacked the minimum insurance required by law. Huggins filed a complaint seeking compensation for the injuries and loss of income he suffered as a result of the accident. Federal disclaimed liability, arguing that Aquilar did not fit the policy’s definition of an insured because she held $15,000 in bodily injury coverage through GEICO. The trial court held that the Federal policy’s definition of an insured constituted an illegal escape clause and held Federal to the full policy limit of $1,000,000 in liability coverage. The Appellate Division declined to review the trial court’s ruling. The New Jersey Supreme Court concurred with the trial court’s ruling that the provision in the garage policy at issue constituted an illegal escape clause which could not be used to evade the minimum liability requirements for dealership vehicles set by the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). The Court ordered the reformation of Federal’s policy to the $100,000/$250,000 dealer-licensure minimum liability coverage required by N.J.A.C. 13:21-15.2(l). View "Huggins v. Aquilar" on Justia Law
Monteglongo v. Abrea
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals denying Defendants' motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 27.001-.011, as untimely, holding that because Plaintiff's amended petition in this case asserted new legal claims, Defendants' motion to dismiss those claims was timely.In his original petition, Plaintiff asserted claims for deceptive trade practice, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended petition reasserting the same claims, adding new claims for fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraudulent concealment, and breach of contract, and alleging the same essential facts alleged in the original petition and requesting the same relief. The trial court denied Defendants' TCPA dismissal motion, concluding that the motion was untimely. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that Defendant's motion to dismiss the new claims was untimely because the amended petition asserted new legal actions and thus triggered new sixty-day period for Defendants to file a motion to dismiss those new claims. View "Monteglongo v. Abrea" on Justia Law
HouseCanary, Inc. v. Title Source, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting a motion to reconsider the court's denial of a motion to seal brought under Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a, holding that the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 134A.006a, does not provide an independent, self-contained pathway for sealing court records.Plaintiff sued Defendant for breach of contract, and Defendant asserted counterclaims, including misappropriation of trade secrets. The jury found in favor of Defendant. Defendant subsequently filed a Rule 76a motion to seal thirty trial exhibits. The trial court denied the motion to seal but then granted Defendant's motion to reconsider that relied exclusively on section 134A.006a of TUTSA. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the trial court to exercise its discretion under the applicable provisions of both TUTSA and Rule 76a, holding that the trial court erred by failing to apply the non-displaced provisions of Rule 76a in ruling on the motion to reconsider. View "HouseCanary, Inc. v. Title Source, Inc." on Justia Law
Nissan Motor Acceptance Cases
Plaintiff, cross-defendant and appellant Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (NMAC) was a subsidiary of nonparty Nissan Motors of North America. NMAC was a specialty lender that loaned money to Nissan automobile dealers. Defendants, cross-complainants and appellants, Michael A. Kahn (Kahn) and his wife Tami L. Kahn, plus a group of now defunct limited liability company auto dealerships they owned, were NMAC borrowers (collectively, “Superior”). This appeal and cross-appeal stemmed from the retrial of Superior’s cross-claims against NMAC. The jury awarded Superior $256.45 million in compensatory and punitive damages based on two promissory fraud theories: negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment. The trial court granted NMAC’s motion for new trial based on juror misconduct, but denied NMAC’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). Superior contended NMAC forfeited its right to complain about juror misconduct. It also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court’s discretionary decision to grant NMAC’s new trial motion. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded NMAC did not forfeit the basis for its new trial motion and substantial evidence supported the court’s juror misconduct findings. And contrary to Superior’s claim, the Court found nothing arbitrary or capricious in its prejudice ruling. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the new trial order. View "Nissan Motor Acceptance Cases" on Justia Law
Terra Firma Builders, LLC v. King, et al..
Appellants William "Billy" King, and Melanie (Frantz) King ("the Kings"), hired appellee Terra Firma Builders, LLC ("TF") to perform construction work in the backyard of their home. In December 2012, TF was removed from the project before completion due to a dispute about the work performed up to that point. In 2013, TF filed two lawsuits for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, a mechanics’ lien claim for alleged unpaid labor and materials. TF effectuated service of the mechanics’ lien on the Kings by sheriff, however a month later, TF withdrew the lien and filed a new one for the same amount of the discontinued lien; this lien was assigned a new docket number. TF did not file the required affidavit of service for this lien claim. The Kings answered the suit with their own counterclaim alleging breach of contract; they did not challenge TF’s failure to file an affidavit of service at this time. In 2015, TF sought to enforce and obtain judgment on its lien. The Kings did not file preliminary objections or otherwise raise TF’s failure to file an affidavit of service at this time. In 2017, the trial court consolidated TF’s mechanics’ lien and breach of contract actions and proceeded to a bench trial. The parties agreed that TF failed to complete the project but disputed the amount of work remaining unfinished and the quality of the work completed. The court ultimately found in favor of the Kings on all claims, including the Kings’ counterclaim, and awarded the Kings monetary damages. TF moved for a new trial, which was ultimately granted. At the conclusion of the second trial, the court again found in favor of the Kings on the merits, but did not award damages. In 2018, while the post-trial motions were pending, the Kings moved to strike the mechanics’ lien because TF’ failed to file an affidavit of service to perfect the lien. TF argued the Kings had waived their right to object to the lien when they accepted service of the complaint to enforce, never filed preliminary objections, and appeared in court to defend the action. The trial court granted the petition to strike. On appeal, a divided three-judge panel of the Superior Court reversed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed, finding the lien remained unperfected and invalid, "and the applicable statutes quite logically do not specify a time limit for objection to such a thing." View "Terra Firma Builders, LLC v. King, et al.." on Justia Law
Ryan v. Streck, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court dismissing this breach of contract claim filed against Streck, Inc., by one of its former shareholders, Stacy Ryan, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the trial court, the claim was timely filed.On appeal, Ryan argued that the statute of limitations on her breach of contract claim was tolled either by 28 U.S.C. 1367(d) or by Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-201.01, and therefore, the trial court erred in dismissing the case on statute of limitations grounds. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the trial court's judgment, holding that, under the facts of this case, Ryan's claim was timely. View "Ryan v. Streck, Inc." on Justia Law
Pgh. Logistics Systems, Inc. v. Beemac Trucking, et al.
Pittsburgh Logistics Systems, Inc. (“PLS”) was a third-party logistics provider that arranged the shipping of its customers’ freight with selected trucking companies. Beemac Trucking (“Beemac”) was a shipping company that conducted non-exclusive business with PLS. In 2010, PLS and Beemac entered into a one-year Motor Carriage Services Contract (“the Contract”), which automatically renewed on a year to year basis until either party terminated it. The Contract contained both a non-solicitation provision and the no-hire provision. In this appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether no-hire, or “no poach,” provisions that were ancillary to a services contract between business entities, were enforceable under the laws of the Commonwealth. While the Contract was in force, Beemac hired four PLS employees. PLS sued Beemac, alleging breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, and a violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Trade Secrets Act. PLS also sued the four former employees, alleging they had breached the non-competition and non-solicitation provisions of their employment contracts. The trial court held the worldwide non-compete clauses in the employees' contracts were “unduly oppressive and cannot be subject to equitable modification.” With respect to the contract between the companies, the trial court held the pertinent no-poach clause was void against public policy. “If additional restrictions to the agreement between employer and employee are rendered unenforceable by a lack of additional consideration, PLS should not be entitled to circumvent that outcome through an agreement with a third party.” Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgments, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pgh. Logistics Systems, Inc. v. Beemac Trucking, et al." on Justia Law
Coral Farms, L.P. v. Mahony
This appeal involved two lawsuits, three parties, and one contract. In the first lawsuit, three neighboring property owners incurred varying damages due to a mudslide. The three parties sued and countersued each other for negligence and other claims related to water drainage. The parties eventually settled. The owners agreed to perform mitigation and repair work on their own properties according to their own separate plans. The agreement was memorialized in a contract (the Settlement Agreement). In the second lawsuit, two owners sued the third owner (a married couple). Plaintiffs alleged defendants breached the Settlement Agreement because their work was not in substantial compliance with their plan. But in a bench trial, the court found defendants complied with the contract by providing a copy of an engineer’s report stating their work was “‘substantially completed in accordance with the approved plans.’” The court also found no evidence of bad faith, fraud, or gross negligence. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the trial court misinterpreted the Settlement Agreement. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's interpretation of the Settlement Agreement, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Coral Farms, L.P. v. Mahony" on Justia Law