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Carter, through broker Perkins, opened a commodities trading account to secure the prices his Wyoming ranch would receive for its cattle using financial instruments (hedging). After Perkins changed offices, those accounts were part of a “bulk transfer” to Straits. Carter did not sign new agreements. At Perkins’s request, Carter opened another Straits account to speculate in other categories. After Carter and Perkins split a $300,000 profit, Carter instructed Perkins to close the account. Perkins did not do so but continued speculating on Treasury Bond futures, losing $2 million over three months. Straits liquidated Carter’s livestock commodities holdings to satisfy most of the shortfall and sued for the deficiency. Carter established his right to the seized funds and an award of attorney fees but the court significantly reduced damages, finding that Carter failed to mitigate by not closely reading account statements and trading confirmations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the interpretation of the contract but remanded for recalculation of damages. Finding Carte responsible for losses resulting from Perkins's fraud would apply a guarantee or ratification that was never given. Fraud victims are not responsible for their agent’s fraud before they learn of unauthorized activity. Under Illinois law, the injured party must have actual knowledge before it must act to mitigate its damages. The court affirmed the attorney fee award under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. View "Straits Financial LLC v. Ten Sleep Cattle Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed the underlying action against BNSF after he was injured when the backrest of his locomotive seat broke, and alleged that the seat did not comply with the federal standards in the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA). BNSF settled a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) claim with plaintiff. BNSF then filed suit against Seats to recover the costs of settlement. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred in determining that the LIA preempted BNSF's claims for products liability and breach of contract. Because the district court did not address defendant's other grounds for dismissal of the two claims, the court remanded for further proceedings on those alternative arguments. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Seats, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2015, plaintiff Stonewall of Woodstock Corporation (Stonewall) entered into negotiations to buy commercial property located in Woodstock from defendant Oliver Block, LLC (Oliver Block). A written contract of sale was signed by Stonewall, but not by Oliver Block, which instead sold the land to defendant Stardust 11TS, LLC (Stardust). Stonewall sued, claiming that there was a valid contract and seeking specific performance. The trial court granted summary judgment for Oliver Block, on the basis that any contract with Stonewall was unenforceable under the Statute of Frauds because it had not been signed by Oliver Block. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Stonewall of Woodstock Corp. v. Stardust 11TS, LLC" on Justia Law

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Pronschinske entered into a Mining Leasing Agreement, giving Kaw the right to mine the sand, stone and rock products on the Pronschinske land but providing that it was not obligated to extract any materials or sell any product. Kaw decided not to mine the land and terminated the lease through its provisions. Pronschinske filed suit alleging that Kaw owed $400,000 as payment of a Commencement Royalty credit and a Minimum Production Royalty. The district court granted Kaw summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to production royalties. Pronschinske argued that paragraph 6 reflected a stand‐alone requirement of a minimum annual payment of $75,000 beginning with the first anniversary of the Effective Date, regardless of what actions are taking place on the property, reading “[n]otwithstanding anything to the contrary contained herein” as meaning that its location in paragraph 6 is irrelevant and that it represents a minimum annual payment unconnected to Production Royalties generally. Kaw argued that the “notwithstanding” language references the paragraph in which it is found, and means that notwithstanding the calculation of Production Royalties in this paragraph, a minimum payment of $75,000 is owed once the Production Royalty provision is triggered. The court characterized the contract as unambiguous and concluded that the provision’s placement and the term “Production Royalty,” indicate it is inapplicable before the mining commences. View "Pronschinske Trust v. Kaw Valley Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants Inet Airport Systems, Inc., Inet Airport Systems, LLC, Michael Colaco, and April Barry appealed a judgment entered against them in this action arising from Inet’s sale of its assets to respondents Cavotec SA and Cavotec Inet US, Inc. (collectively Cavotec). Colaco was Inet’s sole shareholder and its chief executive officer and Barry was Inet’s director of administration. After the transaction, Colaco became Cavotec Inet US, Inc.’s president and a member of its board of directors, and Barry became the company’s chief financial officer. Following a lengthy trial, the jury awarded Cavotec $1.313 million against Inet, Colaco, and Barry, jointly and severally, based on the jury’s findings that: (1) Inet breached its asset purchase agreement with Cavotec by failing to forward all postclosing customer payments Inet received on Cavotec’s behalf; (2) Colaco and Barry breached the fiduciary duties they owed as Cavotec officers by causing Inet to withhold customer payments and creating false and backdated invoices to conceal Inet’s failure to pay; (3) Colaco’s conduct breached the employment contract he entered into as Cavotec Inet US Inc.’s president; and (4) Colaco and Barry converted Cavotec’s funds for their personal use. The jury also awarded Cavotec punitive damages against Colaco only. The Court of Appeal agreed the trial court erred in denying Inet’s motion: the jury’s verdict excused Cavotec from its obligation based on Inet’s breach and awarded Cavotec damages for the same breach, which was an impermissible windfall that allowed Cavotec to retain the assets it purchased from Inet without paying the full purchase price. The Court found Colaco and Cavotec Inet US, Inc. agreed California law would govern all their rights and liabilities; Colaco failed to explain how Delaware had a materially greater interest in applying its law on the fiduciary duty claims raised in this case. The Court also rejected Colaco’s contention the asset purchase agreement barred Cavotec’s claims for breach of his employment contract and punitive damages. The Court concluded Cavotec’s $1.313 award against Inet had to be offset against its failure to make a second $2 million payment owed under the APA. The Court did not disturb Cavotec’s $2 million punitive damage award against Colaco. The Court concluded Barry could not establish any error was prejudicial to her. View "Colaco v. Cavotec SA" on Justia Law

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Defendants contracted to purchase a Lafayette home, waived contingencies, discovered undisclosed matters, terminated the contract, and sought to recover their $116,220 deposit, hiring the MMB law firm. Their claims went to arbitration. MMB informed defendants that they owed $431,141.92 in legal fees, providing a draft settlement agreement for a discounted payment of $331,000 with an affirmative representation that the parties each had received independent counsel. Defendant sent MMB revisions, stating that “Clients further contend that Law Firm failed to adhere to the Clients’ direction on one or more occasions and further question the Law Firm’s handling, strategy and representation.” The arbitrator awarded the seller $116,250 on his breach of contract claim, and $75,000 in attorney fees and costs. Defendants executed the Agreement. agreeing to pay MMB $150,000. The Agreement contains mutual general releases. waiving all claims “whether now known or unknown.” MMB’s assignee, SCJLW, sued. Defendants asserted the agreement was unenforceable for lack of consideration because MMB committed legal malpractice; that their signatures were fraudulently induced; and that MMB failed to disclose its malpractice exposure in violation of their ethical duties. They admitted not making payments under the Agreement. The trial court entered judgment for $150,000, plus $81,460.20 in interest. The court of appeal affirmed. Plaintiff set forth a prima facie case for breach of contract; defendants failed to make even a prima facie case for lack of consideration. View "Property Cal. SCJLW One Corp. v. Leamy" on Justia Law

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Reading, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit health system, issued auction rate securities (ARSs) to finance capital projects. J.P. Morgan was the underwriter and broker-dealer. Reading claims that J.P. Morgan and others artificially propped up the ARS market through undisclosed support bidding; when they stopped in 2008, the market collapsed. Reading filed state law claims and demanded arbitration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements state “all actions and proceedings arising out of” the agreements or ARS transactions must be filed in the Southern District of New York. Reading filed a claim under FINRA Rule 12200, which requires a FINRA member (J.P. Morgan) to arbitrate any dispute at the customer’s request. J.P. Morgan refused, arguing that the forum-selection clauses in the 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements constituted a waiver of Reading’s right to arbitrate under Rule 12200. The Third Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which resolved the transfer dispute before the arbitrability dispute, declined to transfer the action, and required J.P. Morgan to submit to arbitration. Reading’s right to arbitrate is not contractual but arises out of a binding, regulatory rule, adopted by FINRA and approved by the SEC. Condoning an implicit waiver of Reading’s regulatory right to arbitrate would erode investors’ ability to use a cost-effective means of resolving allegations of misconduct and undermine FINRA’s ability to oversee and remedy such misconduct. View "Reading Health System v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Kinder filed suit against Manning, alleging that Manning breached a contract to build a pumping station. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Manning, holding that Kinder committed the first material breach of contract by threatening to assess delay-related damages without any justification, interfering with the relationship between Manning and EarthTec, and failing to provide adequate assurances that Manning would be paid for its work. The court also held that the district court correctly found that Kinder wrongfully terminated the contract and that evidence at trial supported the damage award. View "Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc. v. JA Manning Construction Co." on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from the parties' dispute over Lone Star's proposed adjustments to a Revenue Calculation that provided payment to Sunbelt. The arbitrator agreed with Lone Star's upward judgment to the revenue attributable to its former customers, but reformed the contract after concluding that the parties had made a mutual mistake when their agreement listed the revenue target for the former Lone Star clients. The court affirmed and remanded for reconsideration of the mutual mistake claim. The court held that, because the parties did not agree in either the asset purchase agreement or the engagement letter to have the arbitrator decide reformation, the court must decide the issue. View "Hebbronville Lone Star Rentals, LLC v. Sunbelt Rentals Industrial Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Auburn bought Chrysler parts for resale to Cypros, which then sold those parts to customers in the Middle East. The FBI raided Cypros’ warehouse and charged its president, Kilani, with trafficking in counterfeit goods. Unbeknownst to Auburn, Kilani had been obtaining counterfeit parts, mixing them with the legitimate Chrysler parts received from Auburn, and selling the commingled parts to customers. When Chrysler learned of the scheme, it terminated its relationship with Auburn. Auburn brought tortious interference claims and a breach of contract claim against Cypros that the district court dismissed, stating that Cypros did not specifically intend to interfere with Auburn’s relationship with Chrysler and that Cypros and Auburn did not have a written contract. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Michigan tortious interference law requires the specific intent to interfere with a business relationship and that the Michigan statute of frauds applied. View "Auburn Sales, Inc. v. Cypros Trading & Shipping, Inc." on Justia Law