Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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In a dispute over the applicability of a forum selection clause contained in a franchise agreement, the Fifth Circuit held that non-signatories to a franchise agreement may be bound to the contract’s choice of forum provision under the equitable doctrine that binds non-signatories who are “closely related” to the contract. View "Franlink v. BACE Services" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jeffrey Mayhew and Plaintiffs David Starr and Thomas Hunt formed a limited liability company to operate a shopping center. They agreed Mayhew would manage the company and Starr and Hunt would provide startup capital. In exchange, Mayhew was entitled to 50 percent of the company’s profits and Starr and Hunt were entitled to the remaining 50 percent. After the shopping center’s business declined in 2008, Mayhew asked Starr and Hunt for additional capital. They agreed to do so only if Mayhew also contributed capital. Mayhew reported a $100,000 contribution, which caused Starr and Hunt to contribute roughly the same amount. The shopping center was later sold for a substantial profit. Mayhew claimed he was entitled to about 56.3 percent ownership interest in the company based on his additional capital contribution. Starr and Hunt disagreed and submitted the dispute to arbitration along with several other claims for damages. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Starr and Hunt, finding Mayhew only held a 50 percent interest in the company. A superior court later confirmed the award over Mayhew’s petition to vacate and entered judgment against him. On appeal, Mayhew claimed the trial court erred by failing to vacate the award, contending the arbitrator lacked authority to clarify the award, that the award was procured by undue means, and that the arbitrator’s award exceeded her powers. After its review, the Court of Appeal disagreed. Since Mayhew failed to identify any basis for vacating the award, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Starr v. Mayhew" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that public policy prohibits an agreement between a builder-vendor and a homebuyer to disclaim and waive the warranty of workmanship and habitability implied in every contract entered into between the buyer-vendor and homebuyer and to replace it with an express warranty.Plaintiff entered into a preprinted purchase agreement with M & RC II, LLC to buy a home that M & RC II's affiliate, Scott Homes Development Company, would build. Plaintiff later sued M & RC II and Scott Homes (together, Defendants) for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff had waived the implied warranty per the purchase agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy underlying the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability clearly outweighed enforcement of the waiver of that warranty in the purchase agreement. View "Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC" on Justia Law

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Brandon and Brandi Kelly married on April 20, 2015, and had a child on June 9, 2015. Brandon filed for divorce on May 30, 2017. This appeal primarily concerned their disputes regarding the division of property and attorney fees. Prior to marriage, Brandon and Brandi entered into a prenuptial agreement (“the PNA”) seeking to establish their rights to various items of property. Brandi and Brandon were represented by separate counsel during the negotiation and execution of the PNA. Before signing the PNA, Brandi reviewed Brandon’s 2014 tax return. Brandi’s attorney requested changes to the PNA’s definitions of separate and community property, which were made. Brandi expressly waived her right to review other financial documentation concerning Brandon’s assets and signed the PNA. During the pendency of the divorce action, and relevant to this appeal, Brandon filed four motions for partial summary judgment and Brandi filed two motions for partial summary judgment, each of which required interpretation of various provisions of the PNA. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part, certain district court decisions with respect to the parties' PNA. The Supreme Court found the district court erred (1) in affirming the magistrate court’s decision that the PNA barred Brandi from requesting attorney fees for child custody, visitation and support matters; (2) in affirming the magistrate court’s summary judgment decision concluding that Brandon’s payments from EIRMC were his separate property; and (3) when it failed to vacate the award of attorney fees to Brandon for his contempt motions, but did not err when it affirmed the magistrate court’s other deductions from Brandi’s separate property award. View "Kelly v. Kelly" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Southern District Court  concluded that Lincoln Life & Annuity Company of New York was not obligated under New York Insurance Law Section 3203(a)(2) to refund a payment that Plaintiff had deposited into a policy account associated with her life insurance policy five months before she died. Because no New York court has  analyzed this provision of New York insurance law, and because insurance policy implicates significant New York State interests, the Second Circuit deferred a decision on this appeal in order to certify the following question to the New York Court of Appeals: Whether a planned payment into an interest-bearing policy account, as part of a universal life insurance policy, constitutes a “premium actually paid for View "Nitkewicz v. Lincoln Life & Annuity Co. of N.Y." on Justia Law

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Insured Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. and insurer Huntington Ingalls Industries Risk Management LLC seek a declaratory judgment stating there is coverage under a property insurance policy for certain losses incurred by Huntington Ingalls Industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial court concluded that the complaint did not allege facts that would trigger coverage under the policy and granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of reinsurers. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court disagreed, reversed the trial court. and remanded for further proceedings. View "Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. et al. v. Ace American Insurance Company et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief in this mandamus proceeding concerning a premarital agreement to resolve disputes by binding arbitration under religious law, holding that the trial court erred by ordering arbitration before determining whether the agreement was valid and enforceable, as required by Tex. Fam. Code 6.6015 and 153.00715.In 2008 the parties married. In connection with their marriage, they signed a document entitled "Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement" providing that conflicts arising between the parties would be resolved according to Islamic law in a Muslim court or a three-person panel. After Wife sued for divorce, Husband moved to enforce the agreement. The trial court stayed proceedings pending arbitration, and the court of appeals denied Wife's request for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding that the trial court erred in ordering arbitration without first determining the validity and enforceability of the agreement. View "In re Ayad" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court finding that Plaintiff did not waive its right to arbitration by its litigation-related conduct, holding that reversal was required in light of Morgan v. Sundance, Inc., __ U.S. __ (2022).Plaintiff sued Defendant for breach of contract. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, arguing that Plaintiff waived its breach of contract claim under the parties' agreement by filing suit on the claim rather than commencing it in arbitration. Plaintiff subsequently filed a demand for arbitration and a motion to stay the case for arbitration. The district court granted Plaintiff's motion to stay the case, concluding that Defendant suffered no prejudice because of Plaintiff's litigation-related conduct. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that prejudice is not required to prove a party waived its right to stay a court case pending arbitration under section 3 of the Federal Arbitration Act following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Morgan. View "Kingery Construction Co. v. 6135 O Street Car Wash, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this opinion, the Court of Appeals suggested reconsidering the holding of CompoSecure, LLC v. CardUX, LLC (CompoSecure II), 206 A.3d 807 (Del. 2018), and permitting a court of equity to consider equitable defenses to a breach of contract claim even when the parties have used the word "void" to describe the consequence of contractual noncompliance.Defendant, a co-founder and member of XRI Investment Holdings LLC (XRI), formed GH Blue Holdings, LLC as a single-member LLC and then transferred all of his Class B units in XRI to Blue (the Blue Transfer). Defendant sought to comply with a provision in the LLC agreement that governed XRI's internal affairs that generally prohibited members from transferring their member interests by evoking an exception for a transfer to a "Permitted Transferee." XRI alleged that the Blue Transfer was void ab initio and never became effective, and Defendant responded that XRI's claim was barred by the equitable defense of acquiescence. The Court of Chancery held (1) there was no impediment to a defendant raising a defense of acquiescence in response to a legal claim; and (2) this decision sets out the rationale for a court to reconsider the holding in CompoSecure II so that the Delaware Supreme Court may consider it in connection with any appeal. View "XRI Investment Holdings LLC v. Holifield" on Justia Law

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During the covid-19 pandemic, state and local authorities in Louisiana ordered nonessential businesses to close for a time. This required Plaintiff to temporarily shut his jewelry stores and event spaces in New Orleans. To recoup income lost during the closure, Plaintiff claimed reimbursement under his insurance policy’s coverage for “direct physical loss of or damage to” his property. Plaintiff’s insurer, Axis, denied the claim.   Plaintiff sued Axis along with his insurance agent and broker. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims, concluding that Plaintiff suffered no covered loss or damages and that his agent and broker violated no duty to advise Plaintiff about pandemic-related coverage.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that what denied Plaintiff use of his property was the government’s closure orders. Such losses do not involve a “tangible alteration to, injury to, or deprivation of property.” The district court therefore correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Axis. Further, contrary to Plaintiff’s arguments, what creates a Louisiana insurance agent’s duty to procure particular coverage is not a “close relationship” with the insured but an insured’s “specific” request for “the type of insurance coverage . . . needed.” Here, Plaintiff did not allege he specifically requested pandemic-related coverage from either the wholesale broker or insurance agent, therefore Plaintiff’s claims against those Defendants were properly dismissed. View "Adler & Sons v. Axis Surplus Ins Co" on Justia Law