Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Gerriann Fagan appealed a circuit court order granting defendant Warren Averett Companies, LLC's motion to compel arbitration. Fagan was the owner of The Prism Group, LLC, a human-resources consulting firm. In February 2015, Warren Averett approached her and asked her to join Warren Averett and to build a human-resources consulting practice for it. In February 2015, she agreed to join Warren Averett, entering into a "Transaction Agreement" which provided that: Fagan would wind down the operations of The Prism Group; Fagan would become a member of Warren Averett; Warren Averett would purchase The Prism Group's equipment and furniture; Warren Averett would assume responsibility for The Prism Group's leases; and that Warren Averett would assume The Prism Group's membership in Career Partners International, LLC. The Transaction Agreement further provided that Fagan would enter into a "Standard Personal Service Agreement" ("the PSA") with Warren Averett; that Fagan's title would be president of Warren Averett Workplace; and that Fagan would be paid in accordance with the compensation schedule outlined in the PSA. Fagan alleged that she subsequently resigned from Warren Averett when she was unable to resolve a claim that Warren Averett had failed to properly compensate her in accordance with the PSA. On or about February 28, 2019, Fagan filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"). The employment-filing team of the AAA sent a letter dated March 4, 2019, to the parties informing them of the conduct of the arbitration proceedings. On April 18, 2019, the employment-filing team notified the parties that Warren Averett had failed to submit the requested filing fee and that it was administratively closing the file in the matter. On April 30, 2019, Fagan sued Warren Averett in circuit court. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Warren Averett's failure to pay the filing fee constituted a default under the arbitration provision of the PSA. Accordingly, the trial court erred when it granted Warren Averett's motion to compel arbitration. View "Fagan v. Warren Averett Companies, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from enforcing its sua sponte order dismissing count three of Respondents' complaint and finding that West Virginia law applied to all of Respondents' bad faith claims but declined to extend the writ to find that Georgia law applies to the entire dispute, holding that a writ of prohibition was not the proper avenue for such relief.After Petitioners denied insurance coverage for certain damages Petitioners filed a declaratory judgment action in the State of Delaware to determine their rights and responsibilities under the relevant insurance policies. Respondents subsequently filed the underlying complaint asserting five separate counts, including breach of contract and bad faith under Georgia law (count three). Petitioners sought to dismiss the West Virginia proceeding. The circuit court denied the motion but, sua sponte, dismissed count three. Petitioners then filed the instant petition. The Supreme Court granted the writ as moulded, holding (1) the circuit court exceeded its lawful authority when it sua sponte dismissed count three of the complaint and held that West Virginia law applied to Respondents' bad faith claims; and (2) this Court declines Petitioners' invitation to find that the Georgia choice-of-law provisions in the policies govern this action. View "State ex rel. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania v. Hummel" on Justia Law

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Ohio law allows nonsignatory agents to compel arbitration under general principles of contract and agency law. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Navient's motion to compel arbitration against plaintiff. The court disagreed with the district court's finding that the relevant arbitration clause does not include Navient as a party and so Navient cannot compel arbitration. Rather, the court held that Ohio law permits plaintiff to compel arbitration as a nonsignatory agent of the holder of the loan. The court also held that Ohio's rule of alternate estoppel prevents plaintiff from disavowing the arbitration clause because his claim arises out of the same contract. Therefore, plaintiff is estopped from avoiding the arbitration clause because his claims are integrally intertwined with the contract containing the agreement to arbitrate. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Neal v. Navient Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court holding Trinity Lutheran Church liable under a theory of unjust enrichment, holding that the district court erred as a matter of law in determining that Trinity Lutheran was unjustly enriched.Montana Digital, LLC contracted with Trinity Lutheran to provide unlimited telephone and internet services to Trinity Lutheran. Trinity Lutheran's system was later hacked and used by a theft to make international telephone calls to Africa at a service cost of $47,977. Montana Digital was invoiced for the cost of the calls, and Montana Digital paid the full amount of the invoice. Montana Digital then initiated this action against Trinity Lutheran, asserting a claim for unjust enrichment. The district court found Trinity Lutheran liable and awarded Montana Digital the same of $47,977. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the circumstances, a claim of unjust enrichment was not established against Trinity Lutheran as a matter of law. View "Montana Digital, LLC v. Trinity Lutheran Church" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming an arbitrator's award, holding that the court properly affirmed the award.Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant seeking rescission of a contract of purchase and sale of dental practice and lease, alleging that fraudulent misrepresentations were made and that he relied upon them to his detriment. Because the contract contained an arbitration provision the district court sustained Defendant's motion to compel arbitration. The arbitrator concluded that Plaintiff ratified the contract through his conduct and waived any cause of action he might have had arising from his purchase of the dental practice. Plaintiff filed an application to vacate the arbitrator's award. The district court denied the motion. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to confirm the award, which the district court granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's challenge to the denial of his application to vacate, but his challenge lacked merit; and (2) the district court did not err in confirming the arbitration award. View "Cinatl v. Prososki" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting class certification in this action alleging breach of contract and violation of Montana's Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA), Mont. Code Ann. 33-18-101 et seq., holding that a sufficient factual basis was established to justify certification of the classes.Plaintiffs filed this action against Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Company (FFM), alleging that FFM breached its insurance contract with Plaintiffs and all other insureds by failing to include general contractor overhead and profit in the cost to repair or replace Plaintiffs' property. The district court granted Plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that common questions of law predominate the litigation and support certification of the class; but (2) certain conclusions reached by the district court were a "bridge too far" at this stage of litigation. View "Kramer v. Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In October 2015, Amy Downing purchased a life insurance policy from Country Life Insurance Company. She purchased both an “executive whole life” policy that would pay a flat amount of $500,000 to her beneficiaries upon her death and a “Paid-Up Additions Rider” (PUAR) that provided an additional death benefit and an investment opportunity. Although Amy's father Tom worked for Country, another employee, Robert Sullivan, met with Amy and Tom to describe the terms of the policy. Amy asked Sullivan why she needed one and a half million dollars in insurance coverage because it was a larger benefit than she expected to need and it required higher yearly premiums. Sullivan explained that although she might not need the large death benefit, the structure of the PUAR provided an investment opportunity because it maximized the policy’s cash value. Sullivan later testified that he never represented to Amy that the death benefit associated with the PUAR was a flat amount. After paying the premiums for a year, Amy informed her parents that she intended to abandon the policy and withdraw its existing cash value. Her mother Kathleen decided to look into the policy as an investment. Kathleen decided to take over payment of the premiums on Amy’s life insurance policy, including the PUAR, as an investment. With Tom’s assistance, Amy assigned her policy to Kathleen. Four months later, on January 27, 2017, Amy died in an accident. Her death occurred in the second year of her policy coverage. Country paid the death benefit of $500,000 on Amy’s whole life policy. Country also paid $108,855 on Amy’s PUAR. Kathleen sued, alleging that she was entitled to $1,095,741 on Amy’s PUAR, minus the $108,855 already paid. Judgment was rendered in favor of Country, and Kathleen appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the superior court did not err in its interpretation of the insurance policy at issue, and affirmed the decision. View "Downing v. Country Life Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendants in this breach of contract and fiduciary duty action, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding that Defendants failed properly to authenticate uncertified copies of a prior jury verdict and judgment - documents upon which the motion for summary judgment relied.Approximately four thousand plaintiffs sued their former attorney and his law firm, alleging breach of contractual and fiduciary duties. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the documents at issue were not properly authenticated and thus were not competent summary judgment evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court properly exercised its discretion by finding the documents authentic and competent as summary judgment evidence. View "Fleming v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment and awarding attorney fees and costs in favor of Zitting Brothers Construction, a subcontractor on a development project, on its breach of contract action against APCO Construction, Inc., the general contractor, holding that the pay-if-paid provision in construction contract here was void under Nev. Rev. Stat. 624.628(3).Provisions in the subcontract in this case conditioned payment on the general contractor receiving payment first and required the subcontractor to forgo its right to prompt payment under Nev. Rev. Stat. 624.624 when payment would otherwise be due. When the project failed, Zitting sued APCO seeking payment for work completed. APCO defended its nonpayment with the pay-if-paid provisions in the contract. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Zitting on its breach of contract and mechanics' liens claims, concluding that the pay-if-paid provisions were void and unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the pay-if-paid provisions in the parties' subcontract were void and unenforceable under section 624.628(3) because they limited Zitting's right to prompt payment under section 624.624(1). View "APCO Construction, Inc. v. Zitting Brothers Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the chancery court dismissing this complaint against a Texas company for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction was constitutionally permissible.The Texas company contracted with a Tennessee civil engineering company for services related to the potential construction of a railcar repair facility in Texas. When the Texas company failed to pay in full, the Tennessee company filed a breach of contract action in Tennessee. The chancery court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the Texas company lacked the minimum contacts necessary for the exercise of personal jurisdiction and that requiring the Texas company to litigate in Tennessee would be unreasonable and unfair. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Tennessee company established a prima facie case for the valid exercise of personal jurisdiction over the Texas company; and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction was fair and reasonable. View "Crouch Railway Consulting, LLC v. LS Energy Fabrication, LLC" on Justia Law