Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Grubhub, an online and mobile food-ordering and delivery marketplace, considers its delivery drivers to be independent contractors rather than employees. The plaintiffs alleged, in separate suits, that Grubhub violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay them overtime but each plaintiff had signed a “Delivery Service Provider Agreement” that required them to submit to arbitration for “any and all claims” arising out of their relationship with Grubhub. Grubhub moved to compel arbitration. The plaintiffs responded that their Grubhub contracts were exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Section 1 of the FAA provides that “nothing herein contained shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce,” 9 U.S.C. 1. Both district courts compelled arbitration. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The FAA carves out a narrow exception to the obligation of federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements. To show that they fall within this exception, the plaintiffs had to demonstrate that the interstate movement of goods was a central part of the job description of the class of workers to which they belong. They did not even try to do that. View "Wallace v. Grubhub Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants-tenants John and Rosa Castro (the tenants) leased a residential property from plaintiff-landlord Fred Graylee. The landlord brought an unlawful detainer action against the tenants, alleging they owed him $27,100 in unpaid rent. The day of trial, the parties entered into a stipulated judgment in which the tenants agreed to vacate the property by a certain date and time. If they failed to do so, the landlord would be entitled to enter a $28,970 judgment against them. The tenants missed their move-out deadline by a few hours and the landlord filed a motion seeking entry of judgment. The trial court granted the motion and entered a $28,970 judgment against the tenants under the terms of the stipulation. The tenants appealed, arguing the judgment constituted an unenforceable penalty because it bore no reasonable relationship to the range of actual damages the parties could have anticipated would flow from a breach of the stipulation. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Graylee v. Castro" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Aaron Jensen sued defendant-appellees West Jordan City and Robert Shober for Title VII retaliation, First Amendment retaliation, malicious prosecution, and breach of contract. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Jensen on all his claims and awarded $2.77 million in damages. The trial court discovered the jury did not properly fill out the verdict form, so the court instructed the jury to correct its error. When the jury returned the corrected verdict, it had apportioned most of the damages to Jensen’s Title VII claim. Because the district court concluded that Title VII’s statutory damages cap applied, the court reduced the total amount of the award to $344,000. Both parties appealed. They raised nine issues on appeal, but the Tenth Circuit concluded none of them warranted reversal and affirmed. View "Jensen v. West Jordan City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Tucker Cianchette and CBF Associates, LLC (collectively, Tucker) and against Peggy Cianchette, Eric Cianchette, PET, LLC and Cianchette Family, LLC (collectively, Peggy and Eric) on Tucker's claims against Peggy and Eric and on Peggy and Eric's counterclaim against Tucker, holding that the superior court did not err in clarifying that post-judgment interest began to run on March 15, 2018. In this second appeal before the Supreme Court, the parties sought resolution of two legal issues regarding post-judgment interest: (1) whether the trial court had jurisdiction to issue an order on post-judgment interest, and (2) on what date prejudgment interest ceased and post-judgment interest began to accrue. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the trial court had authority to act and did not abuse its discretion in clarifying its judgments to resolve the parties' uncertainty surrounding post-judgment interest; and (2) post-judgment interest did not begin to run until the court entered the final judgment on March 15, 2018. View "Cianchette v. Cianchette" on Justia Law

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In the summer of 2014, Mark and Jennifer Porcello sought to purchase property In Hayden Lake, Idaho. After making various pre-payments, the amount the couple was still short on a downpayment. Mark and Jennifer could not qualify for a conventional loan themselves. They hoped another property in Woodinville, Washington, owned by Mark’s parents, in which Mark and Jennifer claimed an interest, could be sold to assist in the purchase of the Hayden Lake property. In an effort to help Mark and Jennifer purchase the property, Mark’s parents, Annie and Tony Porcello, obtained financing through a non-conventional lender. "In the end, the transaction became quite complicated." Annie and Tony’s lawyer drafted a promissory note for Mark and Jennifer to sign which equaled the amount Annie and Tony borrowed. In turn, Mark signed a promissory note and deed of trust for the Hayden Lake house, in the same amount and with the same repayment terms as the loan undertaken by his parents. In mid-2016, Annie and Tony sought non-judicial foreclosure on the Hayden Lake property, claiming that the entire balance of the note was due and owing. By this time Mark and Jennifer had divorced; Jennifer still occupied the Hayden Lake home. In response to the foreclosure proceeding, Jennifer filed suit against her former in-laws seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction, arguing that any obligation under the note had been satisfied in full when the Woodinville property sold, notwithstanding the language of the note encumbering the Hayden Lake property. Annie and Tony filed a counter-claim against Jennifer and a third-party complaint against Mark. A district court granted Jennifer’s request for a declaratory judgment. However, by this time, Annie and Tony had died and their respective estates were substituted as parties. The district court denied the estates’ request for judicial foreclosure, and dismissed their third-party claims against Mark. The district court held that the Note and Deed of Trust were latently ambiguous because the amount of the Note was more than twice the amount Mark and Jennifer needed in order to purchase the Hayden Lake property. Because the district court concluded the note and deed of trust were ambiguous, it considered parol evidence to interpret them. Ultimately, the district court found the Note and Deed of Trust conveyed the Hayden Lake property to Jennifer and Mark “free and clear” upon the sale of the Woodinville property. Annie’s and Tony’s estates timely appealed. Finding that the district court erred in finding a latent ambiguity in the Note and Deed of Trust, and that the district court's interpretation of the Note and Deed of Trust was not supported by substantial and competent evidence, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Porcello v. Estates of Porcello" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that tortious interference with at-will contracts requires independent wrongfulness and that a rule of reason applies to determine the validity of a settlement provision requiring Forward Pharma to terminate its agreement with Ixchel Pharma, LLC under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 16600. Ixchel, a biotechnology company, entered into an agreement with Forward jointly to develop a drug for the treatment of Friedreich's ataxia. Forward later withdrew from the agreement, which was allowed by the agreement's terms. Pursuant to a settlement with Biogen, Inc., another biotechnology company, Forward agreed to terminate its contract with Ixchel. Ixchel sued Biogen in federal court for tortiously interfering with Ixchel's contractual and prospective economic relationship with Forward in violation of section 16600. On appeal, the federal appeals court certified two questions to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held (1) tortious interference with at-will contracts requires independent wrongfulness, and therefore, Ixchel must allege that Biogen interfered with its at-will contract through wrongful means; and (2) the validity of the settlement provision at issue must be evaluated based on a rule of reason. View "Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc." on Justia Law

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RYZE, an Indiana business, employs remote workers across the U.S., including Billings, who signed an employment agreement with a forum‐selection clause providing for litigation in an Indiana state court or in the Southern District of Indiana. Billings filed suit in California state court. alleging state law claims and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, on behalf of himself and other current and former RYZE employees nationwide. RYZE removed the action to the Eastern District of California, which concluded that Billings had failed to show why the forum‐selection clause should not control and transferred venue under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to the Southern District of Indiana. That court granted RYZE summary judgment on Billings’s federal claims. The district court then, sua sponte, returned the case to the Eastern District of California, explaining that its docket was congested and that the California court was familiar with California labor law. When the case was docketed again in the Eastern District of California, RYZE petitioned the Seventh Circuit for a writ of mandamus directing the Southern District of Indiana to request that the Eastern District of California return the action to the Southern District of Indiana. The Seventh Circuit granted that petition, noting that forum‐selection clauses should be given “‘controlling weight in all but the most exceptional cases.’” No exceptional circumstances exist here. View "Ryze Claims Solutions, LLC v. Magnus-Stinson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery granted in part and denied in part the motion for partial summary judgment filed by Applied Energetics, Inc. (the Company) on its claims against George Farley, the Company's former director and principal executive officer, and AnneMarieCo, LLC, holding that Farley lacked authority to issue himself twenty-five million shares and grant himself an annual salary of $150,000 per year but that the Company was not entitled to summary judgment on Farley's counterclaims. The Company asserted several claims based on Farley's actions. Farley filed counterclaims against the Company for breach of contract, for unjust enrichment, and to validate his actions under section 205 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. The Company moved for partial summary judgment. The Court of Chancery granted the motion in part and denied it in part, holding (1) because Farley was the Company's sole remaining director when he issued himself stock and granted himself compensation, Farley's actions were invalid; (2) because the Company had the corporate power to issue shares and compensate its officers and directors Farley's acts could be validated under section 205; (3) the Court had the power to validate Farley's decision to grant himself a salary; and (4) evidence could support Farley's claim for compensation under a theory of quantum merit. View "Applied Energetics, Inc. v. Farley" on Justia Law

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Takeda sued Mylan for patent infringement based on Mylan’s Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for a generic version of Takeda’s Colcrys® version of the drug colchicine. The parties settled, entering into a License Agreement that allows Mylan to sell a generic colchicine product on a specified date or under circumstances defined in Section 1.2, which refers the date of a final court decision holding that all unexpired claims of the licensed patents that were asserted and adjudicated against a third party are not infringed, invalid, or unenforceable. The parties stipulated that Mylar's breach of Section 1.2 “would cause Takeda irreparable harm.” Takeda also sued Hikma based on Hikma’s FDA-approved colchicine product Mitigare®. The district court granted summary judgment of non-infringement. After Mylan launched its product, Takeda sued, alleging breach of contract and patent infringement. The Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. Takeda failed to show it is likely to succeed on the merits or that it will suffer irreparable harm. Section 1.2(d) was triggered by the third-party litigation; all unexpired claims of the three patents that were “asserted and adjudicated” were held to be not infringed. An objective, reasonable third party would not read Section 1.2(d) to be limited to generic equivalents of Colcrys® excluding section 505(b)(2) products like Mitigare®. Because Takeda had not established that Mylan breached the Agreement, the irreparable harm stipulation did not apply. Money damages would remedy any harm Takeda would suffer as a result of Mylan launching its generic product. View "Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law

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Robert Stratton, Sr. owned an antique truck and, in 2006, delivered it to John Shivers’s vehicle repair and restoration business in Liberty, Mississippi. Stratton and Shivers contemplated that Shivers would restore the truck at some point in the future, but they made no firm plans for the restoration, and they never agreed that Shivers would charge a storage fee. Stratton’s truck remained at Shivers’s shop until Jerry McKey bought the business from Shivers in May 2009. Shivers told McKey that Stratton owned the truck, but neither Shivers nor McKey notified Stratton of the change in the business’ ownership. When Stratton learned that the business had changed hands, he contacted McKey and requested possession of the truck. But McKey refused to let Stratton have his truck unless he paid storage fees. Stratton sued McKey for replevin, and the circuit court ruled that Stratton was entitled to possession of the truck conditioned upon his paying McKey $880 for storage fees within thirty days. Stratton appealed; the Court of Appeals affirmed. But the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed both the trial and appellate courts, rendering judgment for Stratton. When McKey failed to relinquish possession of the truck, Stratton filed another complaint against him, and McKey filed a counterclaim for fees for storing the truck. McKey conceded that because he had sold the truck during the pendency of Stratton’s appeal, he owed Stratton the truck’s value. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court of awarded Stratton $350, which represented the value of the truck after the deduction of $1,000 in storage fees owed to McKey. Stratton appealed, challenging the amount of damages and challenging the circuit court’s award of storage fees to McKey. McKey did not file an appellee’s brief. In this case's second trip before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court found McKey's counterclaim for storage fees was untimely, and the circuit court erred in awarding storage fees. View "Stratton v. McKey" on Justia Law