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Oliveira is a driver for a trucking company, under an agreement that calls him an independent contractor and contains a mandatory arbitration provision. Oliveira filed a class action alleging that the company denies its drivers lawful wages. The company invoked the Federal Arbitration Act, arguing that questions regarding arbitrability should be resolved by the arbitrator. The First Circuit and Supreme Court agreed that a court should determine whether the Act's section 1 exclusion applies before ordering arbitration. A court’s authority to compel arbitration under the Act does not extend to all private contracts. Section 2 provides that the Act applies only when the agreement is “a written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce.” Section 1 provides that “nothing” in the Act “shall apply” to “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” The sequencing is significant. A “delegation clause,” giving the arbitrator authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability is merely a specialized type of arbitration agreement and is enforceable under sections 3 and 4 only if it appears in a contract consistent with section 2 that does not trigger section 1’s exception. Because “contract of employment” refers to any agreement to perform work, Oliveira’s contract falls within that exception. At the time of the Act’s 1925 adoption, the phrase “contract of employment” was not a term of art; dictionaries treated “employment” as generally synonymous with “work," not requiring a formal employer-employee relationship. Congress used the term “contracts of employment” broadly. View "New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira" on Justia Law

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A Reinsurance Participation Agreement (RPA) executed by AUCRA and Minnieland was an insurance contract under Virginia law. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not violate the court's prior mandate by looking at the EquityComp program as a whole; the RPA and insurance policies constituted an integrated transaction and must be read as one contract; and the integrated contract was a contract of insurance under Virginia Code 38.2–312. Finally, the court noted that it was not the first to determine that the program marketed by Applied Underwriters was insurance. View "Minnieland Private Day School v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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Dennis Woolman, former president of The Clemens Coal Company, challenged a district court’s determination that Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company didn’t breach a duty to him by failing to procure for Clemens Coal an insurance policy with a black-lung disease endorsement. Clemens Coal operated a surface coal mine until it filed for bankruptcy in 1997. Woolman served as Clemens Coal’s last president before it went bankrupt. Federal law required Clemens Coal to maintain worker’s compensation insurance with a special endorsement covering miners’ black-lung disease benefits. Woolman didn’t personally procure insurance for Clemens Coal but instead delegated that responsibility to an outside consultant. The policy the consultant ultimately purchased for the company did not contain a black-lung-claim endorsement, and it expressly excluded coverage for federal occupational disease claims, such as those arising under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act). In 2012, a former Clemens Coal employee, Clayton Spencer, filed a claim with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) against Clemens Coal for benefits under the Act. After some investigation, the DOL advised Woolman that Clemens Coal was uninsured for black-lung-benefits claims as of July 25, 1997 (the last date of Spencer’s employment) and that, without such coverage, Woolman, as Clemens Coal’s president, could be held personally liable. Woolman promptly tendered the claim to Liberty Mutual for a legal defense. Liberty Mutual responded with a reservation-of-rights letter, stating that it hadn’t yet determined coverage for Spencer’s claim but that it would provide a defense during its investigation. Then in a follow-up letter, Liberty Mutual clarified that it would defend Clemens Coal as a company (not Woolman personally) and advised Woolman to retain his own counsel. Liberty Mutual eventually concluded that the insurance policy didn’t cover the black-lung claim, and sued Clemens Coal and Woolman for a declaration to that effect. In his suit, Woolman also challenged the district court’s rejection of his argument that Liberty Mutual should have been estopped from denying black-lung-disease coverage, insisting that he relied on Liberty Mutual to provide such coverage. Having considered the totality of the circumstances, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court didn’t err in declining Woolman’s extraordinary request to expand the coverages in the Liberty Mutual policy. “Liberty Mutual never represented it would procure the coverage that Woolman now seeks, and the policy itself clearly excludes such coverage. No other compelling consideration justifies rewriting the agreement— twenty years later—to Woolman’s liking.” View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance v. Woolman" on Justia Law

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The District filed suit alleging that an UV System installed at one of its treatment facilities had consistently failed to function in any working capacity. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing the District's claims. The court held that the breach of warranty claim was properly dismissed because the District failed to present expert testimony to establish that the UV System's ongoing operational issues were caused by equipment defects. Furthermore, the express warranty provided that the District's exclusive remedy was replacement of the defective parts, but the District did not allow Evoqua, the UV System vendor, to repair or replace the warranty items. Finally, the district court did not err by dismissing the District's claim against Travelers, the project's contractor, under its Performance and Maintenance Bond. View "Iowa Great Lakes Sanitary District v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co." on Justia Law

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Tenant filed suit against landlord and others after landlord rejected tenant's offer to purchase the building tenant rented for his audio recording business. Landlord ultimately sold the building to a third party because the offer was for considerably more money. The Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of the action and held that a right of first refusal is not an essential term that carries forward into a holdover tenancy unless the parties so indicate. In this case, there was no such indication and tenant's alternative theories for enforcing the right to first refusal lacked merit. View "Smyth v. Berman" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss this complaint alleging that Defendant breached an earnest agreement for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the complaint did not seek equitable relief and that an adequate remedy existed at law. This complaint focused on Defendant’s purported breaches of the earnest agreement that the parties entered into on the same day they entered into a stock purchase agreement. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Chancery granted the motion, holding that Defendant’s failure to perform its obligations under the earnest agreement could be remedied with money damages, and because Plaintiff had an adequate remedy at law, the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this matter. View "Quarum v. Mitchell International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Employers in an action brought by Employers, seeking a declaratory judgment to clarify whether Hartford had a duty to pay half of the expenses related to an underlying workers' compensation claim. The court held that Hartford's purported cancellation of an insurance policy, after a workers' compensation claim had arisen, was void under Missouri law. Furthermore, assuming that Hartford properly pleaded the affirmative defense of mutual mistake, the court held that the company failed to identify any mutual mistake during the formation of the contract. View "Employers Preferred Insurance Co. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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Graco sought to set a jury verdict aside that found in favor of Rydex in its breach of contract claim against Graco. Graco renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law and moved for a new trial. After the district court denied these motions, the district court further awarded $204,221.50 in attorneys' fees to Rydex. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the jury's determinations, rather than the district court's findings as a matter of law, resolved the materiality issue. The court explained that these factual determinations were uniquely in the jury's purview and the court declined to upset it on appeal. The court also held that the jury instructions fairly and adequately presented the applicable law and there was no error in reducing the amount of attorneys' fees requested by plaintiff. View "Ryan Data Exchange, Ltd. v. Graco, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of SquareTrade's motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action seeking to hold SquareTrade accountable for alleged violations of consumer protection laws. The court agreed with the district court and held that the arbitration provision did not become part of the contract because plaintiff did not have reasonable notice of and manifest his assent to it. In this case, the consumer was presented with several documents including the Pre-Sale T&C, the body of the subsequent email, and the Post-Sale T&C, none of them specifically identified as the "Service Contract" governing the purchase, and all containing different sets of terms. Furthermore, the prior course of dealing between the parties did not convince the court that plaintiff was on inquiry notice of the arbitration provision. View "Starke v. SquareTrade, Inc." on Justia Law

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BankDirect and Capital make loans to finance insurance premiums. In 2010, Capital, having exhausted the line of credit, approached BankDirect, which was willing to purchase Capital's loans and pay Capital to service those loans. BankDirect had a right to purchase Capital’s business after five years. If BankDirect did not purchase Capital, either party could extend the term by notice before January 4, 2016; otherwise, the agreement would terminate on January 31, 2016. Any extension could not go beyond June 1, 2018. BankDirect exercised the option in November 2015, but Capital refused to honor it. BankDirect sued. Capital sought an injunction to require BankDirect to continue purchasing loans and paying it to service them. BankDirect continued the arrangement through May 1, 2017, when it seized several Capital accounts and stated that it would no longer buy Capital's loans. BankDirect withdrew its request for specific performance. The district court concluded that Capital was entitled to a preliminary injunction so that the purchase‐and‐service arrangement would continue pending a judgment but did not address the 2018 terminal date or other disputes; failed to enter an injunction as a separate document under Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d)(1)(C); and did not require Capital to post a bond (Rule 65(c)). The Seventh Circuit declined to address the merits or Rules 65(c) and (d), stating that the “injunction” should have contained a terminal date: June 1, 2018, and remanded for a determination of whether damages are available. View "Bankdirect Capital Finance, Inc. v. Texas Capital Bank National LLC" on Justia Law