Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries
Janney v. CSAA Insurance Exchange
Peggy Baltar’s home was destroyed by wildfire in 2014. She had a new house built on the same property. Her insurer, CSAA Insurance Exchange (CSAA), paid the full amount charged by her contractor for construction of the new house. Altar sued for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. According to Baltar, CSAA breached the policy by, among other things, failing to provide her with a complete and accurate estimate for replacing the original house, which would have provided her with a budget for the construction of the new house. Without such a budget, she claimed she was forced to build a cheaper house than the one destroyed by the fire. She claimed this, and other asserted breaches of the policy, amounted to bad faith and entitled her to punitive damages. The trial court granted CSAA’s motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of the company. Baltar appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Janney v. CSAA Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law
Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC
Lakeside, a Michigan corporation, fabricates stone countertops in Michigan. Cambria a Minnesota LLC, is a nationwide manufacturer of countertop products. Lakeside buys “solid surface products” from manufacturers like Cambria. In 2011, the two companies executed a Business Partner Agreement (BPA) including a Credit Agreement, a Security Agreement, Order Terms and Conditions, Lifetime Limited Warranty, and a Business Operating Requirements Manual Acknowledgment Form. The BPA’s choice-of-law provision and forum-selection clause, in a single paragraph, state: This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota. Any proceeding involving this Agreement and/or any claims or disputes relating to the agreements and transactions between the parties shall be in the ... State of Minnesota. Pursuant to the BPA, Lakeside opened a fabrication facility in 2017. Discussions about Lakeside becoming Cambria’s sole Michigan fabricator led to Lakeside terminating the relationship.Lakeside filed suit in the Western District of Michigan, alleging breach of contract, violations of the Michigan Franchise Investment Law (MFIL), UCC violations, and promissory estoppel. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, finding the forum-selection clause unenforceable. MFIL’s prohibition on forum-selection clauses is a strong Michigan public policy and enforcing the forum-selection clause here would clearly contravene that policy. The MFIL claim is not Lakeside’s only claim, and the choice-of-law provision may be applied, as appropriate, to claims within its scope. View "Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC" on Justia Law
Masiello Real Estate, Inc. v. Matteo, et al.
Masiello Real Estate, Inc. appealed a superior court’s conclusions of law on its breach-of-contract, quantum-meruit, and negligent-misrepresentation claims following a bench trial. Masiello’s claims stemmed from seller Dow Williams’ refusal to pay it a real estate commission under their right-to-market agreement. Seller owned a 276-acre property in Halifax and Guilford, Vermont. In 2013, he executed a one-year, exclusive right-to-market agreement with Chris Long, a real estate broker who worked for Masiello. Seller and broker agreed on a $435,000 asking price and a fixed $25,000 broker commission. The agreement had a one-year “tail” that compelled seller to pay the commission if, within twelve months of the agreement’s expiration, seller sold the property and Masiello was the procuring cause. The listing agreement would be renewed several times after negotiations with prospective buyers failed. Michelle Matteo and Torre Nelson expressed an interest in the property. Nelson, having obtained seller’s contact information from seller’s neighbor, contacted seller directly and asked if he was still selling. Between August and September 2016, Nelson and seller discussed the fact that seller wanted $400,000 for the property and buyers wanted seller to consider a lower price. No offer was made at that time. The tail of a third right-to-market agreement expired on September 30, 2016. Between September and November of that year, Nelson and Matteo looked at other properties with the other realtor and made an unsuccessful offer on one of those other properties. Returning to seller, Nelson, Matteo and seller negotiated until they eventually agreed to terms. Believing that it was improperly cut out of the sale, Masiello sued seller and buyers. The superior court concluded that because the property was not sold during the tail period, and because Masiello was not the procuring cause, no commission was due under the contract. The court further held that there was no negligent misrepresentation and that Masiello was not entitled to recovery under quantum meruit. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Masiello Real Estate, Inc. v. Matteo, et al." on Justia Law
East Coast Repair & Fabrication, LLC v. United States
EC contracted to repair the Navy ships Thunderbolt, Tempest, and Hurricane. The Navy claimed $474,600 in liquidated damages under the Tempest contract because of late delivery. Having already paid for the Tempest work, it withheld $473,600 under the Hurricane contract. EC claimed the Navy caused the delay and, after the contracting officer denied its claim, sued under the Tempest contract, referring specifically to the $473,600 setoff. While the litigation proceeded, EC sought additional compensation under the Hurricane contract for unexpected work on that ship and appealed to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, seeking payment of the $473,600 “withheld from payments due under [the Hurricane] contract.”The parties settled the Tempest suit: EC released the government “from any and all actions, claims, . . . and liabilities of any type, whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, foreseen or unforeseen, or open or hidden, which have existed, presently exist, or may exist in the future, arising out of or in any way relating to the [Tempest] Contract.” The government released EC from “any and all” claims “arising out of or in any way relating to the issues that were raised ... or could have been raised in the pleadings.”In 2019, EC asserted a right to the same $473,600 in a third request to the contracting officer, then filed suit. The Fourth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The settlement agreement barred EC’s claims. View "East Coast Repair & Fabrication, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law
Hernandez v. Apple Auto Wholesalers of Waterbury, LLC
In this case coming to the Supreme Court on certification from a federal district court, the Court was asked to decide questions regarding Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-572g. The Court answered the questions as follows: (1) "the amount of indebtedness then outstanding in connection with the credit transaction" is the amount of indebtedness outstanding at the time of the buyer's written demand on the seller for purposes of limiting an assignee's liability under section 52-572g; (2) an assignee can avoid liability under the statute only if the promissory note, contract, or other instrument is reassigned back to the seller prior to the buyer making such a demand; and (3) if a retail installment contract includes the Federal Trade Commission "holder rule" language mandated by 16 C.F.R. 433.2, an assignee's liability under that rule is cumulative to its liability under section 52-572g. View "Hernandez v. Apple Auto Wholesalers of Waterbury, LLC" on Justia Law
Pennington v. BHP Billiton Petroleum, LLC
The Supreme Court answered a certified question from federal court about whether Arkansas law prevented Plaintiffs from pursuing their breach of contract claim when the first breach occurred outside of the state of limitations period, holding that a separate statute of limitations period began as each monthly oil-and-gas royalty payment became due.The contract in this case required monthly oil-and-gas payments. Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that Defendants had been underpaying those royalties for several years. In response, Defendant raised the affirmative defense of statute of limitations. The federal district court certified a question of law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that, under Arkansas law, the existence of royalties outside the limitations period did not bar recovery for monthly underpayments within the limitations period. View "Pennington v. BHP Billiton Petroleum, LLC" on Justia Law
Kelly Services, Inc. v. Senior Network, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court awarding postjudgment, offer of compromise interest to Plaintiff under Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-192a and Practice Book 17-18, holding that the trial court's award of postjudgment, offer of compromise interest was improper.Plaintiff, an employment staffing agency that providers workers for temporary assignments, commenced this action against Defendant to recover a debt by filing a complaint for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff and awarded Plaintiff interest. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court's award of postjudgment interest under section 52-192a and Practice Book 17-18 was improper. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment as to the award of postjudgment interest under section 52-192a, holding that the award of post judgment, offer of compromise interest was improper under Gionfriddo v. Avis Rent A Car system, Inc., 472 A.2d 316 (Conn. 1984). View "Kelly Services, Inc. v. Senior Network, Inc." on Justia Law
AMTAX Holdings 227, LLC v. Tenants’ Development II Corp.
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this action for want of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the district court did not err.AMTAX Holdings 227 LLC, joined by Tax Credit Holdings III, LLC, sued Tenants' Development Corporation (TDC) and Tenants' Development II Corporation (TD II) in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts seeking a declaratory judgment concerning the validity of an agreement that embodied a right of first refusal. TDC and TD II moved to dismiss the suit for want of federal subject-matter jurisdiction. The district court dismissed the suit. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the complaint in this case failed to trigger embedded federal question jurisdiction. View "AMTAX Holdings 227, LLC v. Tenants' Development II Corp." on Justia Law
McKeon Products, Inc. v. Howard S. Leight & Associates, Inc.
McKeon has sold “MACK’S” earplugs to retail consumers since the 1960s. In the 1980s, Honeywell's predecessor began marketing and selling MAX-brand earplugs to distributors. The brand names are phonetically identical. In 1995, McKeon sued. The parties entered a settlement agreement that the district court approved by consent decree. To prevent customer confusion, Honeywell agreed not to sell its MAX-brand earplugs into the “Retail Market” but could continue to sell its earplugs in “the Industrial Safety Market and elsewhere." The agreement and the consent decree never contemplated the internet. In 2017, McKeon complained about sales of MAX-brand earplugs on Amazon and other retail websites.The district court ruled in favor of McKeon. The Sixth Circuit affirmed and remanded. Laches is available to Honeywell as an affirmative defense but does not apply to these facts. Parties subject to consent decrees cannot scale their prohibited conduct over time, using minor undetected violations to justify later larger infringements. Honeywell did not establish that McKeon should have discovered the breaching conduct before Honeywell drastically increased online sales. McKeon’s interpretation of the consent decree is the better reading. Concluding that Amazon is a “retail establishment” makes sense given the parties’ intent. View "McKeon Products, Inc. v. Howard S. Leight & Associates, Inc." on Justia Law
AKC, Inc. v. United Specialty Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court held that a provision found in just about every commercial and personal-property insurance policy issued in Ohio that bars coverage for damage caused by "water that backs up or overflows from a sewer" includes damage caused by sewage carried into an insured property by a backup or overflow event.Sewage from the local sewer system backed up into the Bank Nightclub, a bar that was insured at the time by United Specialty Insurance Company. The bar subsequently hired Cleantech to clean up the site and submitted a claim to its insurer. United Specialty denied the claim, citing an exclusion in the bar's policy for damage caused by water that backs up or overflows from a sewer. The bar assigned AKC any claims it might have against United Specialty, and AKC then brought this breach of contract claim. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of United Specialty. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the water-backup exclusion in the policy included damage caused by the sewage. View "AKC, Inc. v. United Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law