Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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In a case of first impression, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to determine whether the Commonwealth Court properly calculated the “cost” of steel products under the Steel Products Procurement Act (“Steel Act” or “the Act”), which required that “75% of the cost of the articles, materials and supplies [of a steel product] have been mined, produced or manufactured” in the United States. G. M. McCrossin, Inc. (“McCrossin”), a contracting and construction management firm, served as the general contractor for the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority (“Authority”) on a project known as the Montoursville Regional Sewer System Waste Water Treatment Plan, Phase I Upgrade (“Project”). In July 2011, McCrossin entered into an agreement with the Authority to supply eight air blower assemblies, which move air from one area to another inside the waste treatment facility. United Blower, Inc. (“UBI”), became a subcontractor on the Project. UBI was to supply the eight blowers required by the original specifications and was to replace the three digestive blowers as required by a change order. UBI prepared a submittal for the blowers which McCrossin in turn submitted to the Authority’s Project engineer, Brinjac Engineering (“Brinjac”). As part of the submittal, McCrossin provided Brinjac and the Authority with a form, which verified that 75% of the cost of the blowers was attributable to articles, materials, and supplies (“AMSs”) that were mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States. The total amount McCrossin paid UBI for the blower assemblies and digestive blowers was $239,800. The amount paid by the Authority to McCrossin for these items was $243,505. Authority employees began to question whether McCrossin and UBI provided products that complied with the Steel Act. The Supreme Court held the Commonwealth Court improperly calculated the cost of the steel products at issue, thereby reversing and remanding for further proceedings. View "United Blower, et al. v Lycoming Water & Sewer" on Justia Law

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Stergiadis, Dimas, and Theo formed 1600 South LLC, executed an operating agreement, purchased land on which to build a fruit market, and began construction. The 2008 recession stopped construction and eventually led to the LLC’s 2009 dissolution. The partners disagreed about whether they impliedly agreed to equalize their capital contributions. The operating agreement provided that the three each held a one-third membership interest in the LLC; each member agreed to make an initial capital contribution on the date of execution but the amount was left blank. In 2008 Stergiadis sued Dimas in state court seeking to equalize the capital contributions. Dimas filed for bankruptcy, triggering the automatic stay. Dimas ultimately filed seven such petitions and received a discharge in 2016. The U.S. Trustee moved to reopen the bankruptcy to recover the value of an undisclosed property. The bankruptcy court agreed. Stergiadis filed a proof of claim in Dimas’s reopened bankruptcy seeking the same amount he was seeking in state court. The partners disputed the amounts of their respective contributions.The bankruptcy court allowed Stergiadis’s claim, awarding $618,974, finding that the members had an implied equalization agreement. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the LLC’s operating agreement precluded an implied equalization contract. The bankruptcy court properly relied on extrinsic evidence in finding such a contract. View "Dimas v. Stergiadis" on Justia Law

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Milan and Dmitry Piterman were married in 1990. In 2013, Milan filed a petition for legal separation. Korchemny, a close friend of Dmitry’s, sued Dmitry, Milan, and Milan’s Trust based on two promissory notes. Dmitry filed a cross-complaint against Milan and the trust. After years of extensive litigation, Milan and the trust obtained summary judgment against Korchemny based on their affirmative defense of usury. They were later awarded $318,000 in attorney fees. Korchemny appealed both the judgment and the attorney fee order. On Dmitry’s cross-complaint, Milan and the trust obtained judgment on the pleadings against Dmitry.The court of appeal affirmed. When the payments made under the promissory notes are applied to reduce principal in accordance with California usury law, the result is that a 2000 note was fully paid off by May 2011 and the 2001 note fully paid off by January 2017. The attorneys’ fees award was fully supported. There was nothing for which Dmitry could be indemnified or get contribution; if Dmitry had acted like a defendant typically does, and fought against plaintiff Korchemny, Dmitry too, would have proven usury, and would thus not be liable to Korchemny. He would have been the prevailing party, entitled to his costs. View "Korchemny v. Piterman" on Justia Law

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Consolidated cases presented a certified question from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. The Oregon Supreme Court was asked to determine whether Oregon law precluded an insurer from limiting its liability for uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) benefits on the basis that another policy also covered the insured’s losses. Each plaintiff suffered injuries caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, and each plaintiff incurred resulting damages that qualify as covered losses under multiple motor vehicle insurance policies issued by defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm). Each plaintiff alleged a loss that exceeded the declared liability limits of any single applicable policy and sought to recover the excess under additional applicable policies, up to the combined total of the limits of liability. In each case, however, State Farm refused to cover the excess loss, citing a term in the policies that allowed State Farm to limit its liability to the amount that it agreed to pay under the single policy with the highest applicable limit of liability. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that that term made State Farm’s uninsured motorist coverage less favorable to its insureds than the model coverage that the legislature has required and, thus, was unenforceable. View "Batten v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Paradigm Investment Group, LLC, and HR IV, LLC ("the tenants"), entered into a written lease agreement, which was ultimately assigned to Dewey Brazelton ("the landlord"). The lease obligated the tenants to make rental payments to the landlord from the operation of a fast-food franchise on the leased premises. When the tenants failed to remit rental payments, the landlord sued the tenants for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the landlord, finding that the tenants had breached the lease agreement and were obligated to pay the landlord $113,869.44. The tenants appealed, arguing the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the landlord because they abandoned the leased premises; the lease agreement does not address abandonment; and, therefore, as a matter of law, common-law principles of abandonment, rather than the terms of lease, govern the landlord's available remedies. The tenants assert that, had the trial court correctly applied common-law principles of abandonment, it would not have awarded contract damages under the lease. Finding summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the landlord, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Paradigm Investment Group, LLC and HR IV, LLC v. Brazelton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Plaintiffs on all counts in this commercial dispute, holding that the trial court failed properly to instruct the jury regarding the legal effects of the parties' contract in this case and the proper means of calculating damages.Plaintiffs brought this action alleging promissory estoppel, negligent misrepresentation, tortious interference with business expectancies, and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Con. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq., and seeking damages, injunctive relief, and attorney fees and costs. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs on all counts. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find Defendants liable; but (2) the trial court abused its discretion in issuing the injunction at issue, and the injunction was unenforceable. View "Kent Literary Club of Wesleyan University v. Wesleyan University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming an arbitration award in a commercial contract matter, holding that there was no error.The parties in this case were two newspapers with a lengthy contractual relationship. The parties' contract contained a provision submitting disputes arising out of the contract to binding private arbitration. A dispute arose over amounts owed under the parties' contract, and the matter was submitted to arbitration. After the arbitrator rendered an award, both parties sought to vacate portions of the award by arguing that the arbitrator's award was so egregiously wrong that the arbitrator had clearly failed to apply the contract at all. The district court confirmed the award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly found that there was no clear and convincing evidence that the arbitrator had exceeded his powers, acted arbitrarily and capriciously, or manifestly disregarded the law. View "News+Media Capital Group LLC v. Las Vegas Sun, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that because Nevada's wrongful termination claims do not significantly conflict with any concrete federal interest expressed by the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), the LMRDA did not preempt those claims.This case concerned the termination of the employment of two plaintiffs with the Nevada Service Employees Union. Plaintiffs filed this complaint against Nevada Service Employees Union, Local 1107 and the Service Employees International Union, alleging, inter alia, breach of contract and wrongful termination. The district court granted summary judgment for the Unions, concluding that the LMRDA preempted all of Plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the LMRDA does not preempt state law wrongful termination claims; (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of one of the unions; and (3) the court did not abuse its discretion in denying a union's motion for attorney fees. View "Clark v. Service Employees International Union" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted a question certified to it by the United States District Court for the District of Nevada asking to decide whether Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.031(1) constitutes a waiver of Nevada's sovereign immunity from damages liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), holding that Nevada has waived the defense of sovereign immunity to liability under the FLSA.Appellant and several other employees of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) filed a putative class and collective action complaint alleging that the State and NDOC violated the FLSA and the state Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA) and breached their contract under state law. The State removed the action to federal district court, where at issue was whether the State possessed sovereign immunity. The district court concluded that the State waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity by removing the case to federal court. The Ninth Circuit affirmed and left open the question of whether the State retained its sovereign immunity from liability. The court then certified the question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that, by enacting Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.031(1), Nevada consented to damages liability for a State agency's violation of the minimum wage or overtime provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. View "Echeverria v. State" on Justia Law

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Williams International Company LLC designed, manufactured, and serviced small jet engines. Dodson International Parts, Inc., sold new and used aircraft and aircraft parts. After purchasing two used jet engines that had been manufactured by Williams, Dodson contracted with Williams to inspect the engines and prepare an estimate of repair costs, intending to resell the repaired engines. Williams determined that the engines were so badly damaged that they could not be rendered fit for flying, but it refused to return one of the engines because Dodson had not paid its bill in full. Dodson sued Williams in federal court alleging federal antitrust and state-law tort claims. Williams moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), relying on an arbitration clause on the original invoices. The district court granted the motion, and the arbitrator resolved all of Dodson’s claims in favor of Williams. Dodson then moved to reconsider the order compelling arbitration and to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The court denied both motions and, construing Williams’s opposition to the motion for vacatur as a request to confirm the award, confirmed the award. Dodson appealed, challenging the district court’s order compelling arbitration and its order confirming the award and denying the motions for reconsideration and vacatur. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding: (1) the claims in Dodson’s federal-court complaint were encompassed by the arbitration clause; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dodson’s untimely motion to reconsider; and (3) that Dodson failed to establish any grounds for vacatur of the arbitrator’s award or for denial of confirmation of the award. View "Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company" on Justia Law