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Leone’s employer used a degasser, a large vat lined with brick, to extract gas impurities from molten steel. The degasser’s components include an alloy chute near the top of the vat. The employer hired BMI to “tearout” the degasser’s deteriorated face brick. Although the contract did not include any work on the alloy chute, a BMI employee testified that his team would dislodge loose material from the chute to ensure that nothing could fall. He did not notice any loose slag on the chute. After BMI finished, his employer assigned Leone to reline the degasser. Leone and his crew frequently climbed ladders near the alloy chute. They never spotted any loose slag on the chute but, 21 days after BMI completed its one-day job, a 40-pound piece of slag fell and struck Leone. Leone sued, claiming that the slag detached from the alloy chute. Because no molten metal could have created new slag, the court concluded that the slag must have existed when BMI finished but that BMI owed Leone no duty of care under Michigan law. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court interpreted Michigan law too narrowly. Although a contractor’s creation of a new hazard can trigger a duty to third parties, that is not the only way that such a duty might arise. A contractor can be liable to a third party if “any legal duty independent of the contract existed,” including by voluntary assumption of a duty. View "Leone v. BMI Refractory Services., Inc." on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiffs’ claims in whole and denying Defendants’ request for attorneys’ fees. When Defendants fenced the confines of an easement that was created by a settlement agreement and consent order entered by the superior court, Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that Defendants’ actions frustrated what they contended was the intended purpose of the consent order. The trial justice denied relief as to all of Plaintiffs’ claims. At a subsequent hearing, the trial justice denied Defendants an award of attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the trial justice’s rulings. View "Arnold v. Arnold" on Justia Law

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Consolidated Pipe filed the underlying action against The Ohio Casualty Insurance Company ("Ohio Casualty"), Bolt Construction & Excavating, LLC ("Bolt Construction"), and Michael Bolt (collectively, defendants). The West Morgan East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority ("the Water Authority") contracted with Bolt Construction to perform a public work known as "the Vaughn Bridge Road Water Line Relocation Project No. 14018.00" ("the project"). In the course of performing its contract with the Water Authority, Bolt Construction entered into a contract with Consolidated Pipe pursuant to which Consolidated Pipe was to supply materials for use in the project. Bolt executed a guaranty in conjunction with the contract with Consolidated Pipe in which he agreed to unconditionally and personally guarantee full and prompt payment of all sums owed to Consolidated Pipe by Bolt Construction in the event Bolt Construction failed to pay the contracted-for amount. In its complaint, Consolidated Pipe alleged Bolt Construction failed to pay Consolidated Pipe for the materials it furnished to Bolt Construction for the project. At issue in this case was venue: the Alabama Supreme Court determined that based on a forum-selection clause, the only proper venue for this action was Morgan County. Therefore, the circuit court erred by granting the motion to transfer. Accordingly, the Court granted Consolidated Pipe's petition for mandamus relief, and directed the Morgan Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring this case to Jackson County. View "Ex parte Consolidated Pipe & Supply Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The common law rule against perpetuities does not invalidate a grantee’s future interest in the grantor’s reserved non-participating royalty interest (NPRI). Lorene Koopmann and her two children sought declaratory judgment against Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Company, L.P. and Lois Strieber to construe a warranty deed by which Strieber conveyed fee simple title to a tract of land to Lorene and her late husband. Under the deed, Strieber reserved a fifteen-year, one-half NPRI. The Koopmans claimed that they were the sole owners of an NPRI as of December 27, 2011. They also asserted claims against Burlington, which leased the tract from the Koopmanns, for breach of contract and other claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Koopmans as to the declaratory action and granted summary judgment for Burlington on the negligence and negligence per se claims. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court held (1) the rule against perpetuities does not invalidate the Koopmann’s future interest in the NPRI; (2) Tex. Nat. Res. Code 91.402 does not preclude a lessor’s common law claim for breach of contract; and (3) the court of appeals properly entered judgment as to attorney’s fees pursuant to Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a. View "ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals holding that a cause of action for acknowledgment of a debt must be “specifically and clearly” pleaded “in plain and emphatic terms” because this holding conflicts with Tex. R. Civ. P. 47(a), which provides that a pleading is “sufficient” if it gives “fair noice of the claim involved.” A Trust sued Defendants seeking payment on a debt. Defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that the Trust’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations because the Trust had not properly pleaded acknowledgment. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that while the Trust had raised acknowledgment in response to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, it had failed to plead acknowledgement as a cause of action because it had not done so “specifically and clearly” and in “plain and emphatic terms.” The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the Trust provided fair notice to Defendants of its claim on their acknowledgment and thus satisfied Rule 47, and the court of appeals erred in requiring a higher standard. View "DeRoeck v. DHM Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals in this defamation, breach of contract, and fraudulent inducement case. After Defendant, Plaintiff’s employer, offered him an oral deal to “buy in” the business in exchange for managing two automobile dealerships, Plaintiff was falsely accused of taking illegal kickbacks on used-car acquisitions and lost his job. The jury found that Defendant defrauded and defamed Plaintiff but did not find that the parties agreed to a buy-in deal that included interests in the dealerships and their underlying real estate. The jury awarded Plaintiff $2.2 million in defamation damages and $383,150 in fraud damages. The trial court rendered judgment on the jury’s verdict. The court of appeals reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment. The Supreme Court held (1) the jury’s failure to find that the parties agreed to the specific contract terms submitted in the contract question did not preclude Plaintiff from recovering the value of the disputed dealership interests as benefit-of-the-bargain damages under a fraud theory that required proof of an enforceable contract; and (2) legally sufficient evidence supported the damages awarded for loss of reputation and mental anguish in the past, but no evidence supported the existence of future damages or a finding that the kickback allegations caused any lost-income damages. View "Anderson v. Durant" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from a default judgment, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision denying Appellant’s motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, to set aside the default judgment on the basis of several defenses. Appellee filed a breach of contract action against Appellant. When Appellant did not file a responsive pleading, the district court granted Appellee’s motion for default judgment. Appellant filed a motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, to set aside the default judgment. In support of the motion to set aside, Appellant alleged several defenses, including lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. The district court overruled Appellant’s motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant made a showing sufficient to warrant setting aside the default judgment because Appellant made prompt application to set aside the default and demonstrated at least one meritorious defense in support of its motion. View "Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co., Inc. v. Oceanside Laundry, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying the motion brought by Plaintiff, SMS Financial XXV, LLC, for summary judgment and granting the cross-motion for summary judgment brought by Defendants, David Corsetti and 385 South Main Street, LLC, on Plaintiff’s suit alleging that Defendants breached the terms of a promissory note. In the cross-motion for summary judgment, Defendants asserted that Plaintiff was unable to enforce or collect upon the note because the note had been lost. The hearing justice granted Defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the plain language of R.I. Gen. Laws 6A-3-309(a) Plaintiff was not entitled to enforce the note because the note was in the possession of the original holder of the note when it was lost, not Plaintiff, to whom the original holder assigned its interest; and (2) pursuant to the statute, Plaintiff was not entitled to enforce the note’s provision mandating that Defendants issue a replacement note. View "SMS Financial XXV, LLC v. Corsetti" on Justia Law

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Fiorentini is the owner and president of a small technology company. When cancer treatment left him unable to perform his job, he received total disability benefits under a Paul Revere policy. Five years later, after Fiorentini was back at work and exercising full control of the company, Paul Revere notified him that he no longer qualified for the benefits. Fiorentini argued that he still satisfied the policy’s requirements for total disability because, although he could perform most of his job duties, he was unable to do what it takes to generate new business. Paul Revere rejected that argument, encouraging him to apply for “residual disability benefits,” which would have required Fiorentini to show that he was either unable to perform “one or more of the important duties” of his occupation or could only perform his important job duties for “80% of the time normally required to perform them” and that he earned at least 20% less than he did predisability. Fiorentini instead sued for breach of contract. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Paul Revere. The total disability provision does not cover the insured who has a diminished ability to perform his occupation, but rather the insured who is unable to continue it. View "Fiorentini v. Paul Revere Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from a circuit court order granting Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that no statutory authority existed to entertain the appeal as a matter of right. Plaintiffs sued Defendant seeking a declaratory judgment and rescission of a contract for the sale of land and an incorporated lease. The circuit court issued a temporary restraining order against Defendant and a show cause order setting a hearing for preliminary injunction. Thereafter, Defendant filed a demand for arbitration. The circuit court entered an order compelling arbitration on all claims alleged in Plaintiffs’ complaint. Plaintiffs appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the order compelling Plaintiffs to engage in arbitration was not an order appealable as a matter of right under either S.D. Codified Laws 15-26A-3(2) or S.D. Codified Laws 21-25A-35. View "Stoebner v. Konrad" on Justia Law