Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Meinders offers chiropractic services. United provides or administers insurance plans nationwide. In 2006, Meinders became a “participating provider” with United to expand his customer base; he signed a provider agreement with ACN. which provided administrative and network management services for chiropractors, and had a preexisting master services agreement with United. The agreement allowed ACN, “in its sole discretion,” to “assign its rights, duties or obligations” under the agreement.“ The agreement stated that if a dispute arose, either party “may” submit the issue “to arbitration” and any arbitration decision would be “final and binding.”Meinders submitted claims for United-insured patients directly to United; United paid those claims. Those claims were submitted on United forms and if an explanation of benefits was requested, United provided it. Meinders confirmed a patient’s eligibility either through United’s website or through a United phone number. ACN became a wholly-owned subsidiary of United.In 2013, United sent a fax to Meinders, who believed that United had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and filed suit. After remands, the district court held that “United … assumed the material obligations of ACN …, a wholly-owned subsidiary of United, under the Provider Agreement, which authorizes United to enforce the arbitration clause.” The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Dr. Robert L. Meinders, D.C., Ltd. v. United HealthCare Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants GDB, Stavis, and Kartagener, remanding for further proceedings. This appeal arose from breach of contract and quasi-contract claims brought by plaintiff stemming from defendants' legal representation of plaintiff.The court concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's breach-of-contract claim because, under New York law, plaintiff can maintain a breach-of-contract claim without any showing that the $100,000 belonged to him. Although plaintiff's quasi-contract claims against Defendant Stavis and GDB do require a showing that he owned the money, the court further concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to those defendants on those claims because there is sufficient evidence in the record from which a jury could conclude that the money indeed belonged to defendant. Finally, the court held that summary judgment for Stavis in his individual capacity was also inappropriate. View "Moreno-Godoy v. Kartagener" on Justia Law

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Utica Insurance issued primary and umbrella coverage in 1973 and 1974 and subsequently paid asbestos losses incurred by the manufacturer (Goulds). Utica had ceded parts of its risk to the reinsurers, Munich and Century, in exchange for a share of the premiums, via facultative certificates, i.e., a reinsurance contract particular to that policy. Munich and Century each paid Utica $5 million for their undisputed one-fifth shares of the umbrella policy; but they refused to pay defense costs in addition to limits when Utica billed them an extra $2,760,534 each. Utica sued; in two suits before different judges of the same court, with inconsistent results.On the issue of whether the reinsurers (Munich and Century) were obligated to reimburse Utica for defense costs in addition to policy limits, the Second Circuit held that the 1973 certificates reinsure defense costs within limits, not in addition. A 2007 settlement agreement with Goulds did not independently require Century or Munich to pay defense costs in addition to limits. View "Utica Mutual Insurance Co. v. Munich Reinsurance America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Pepsi previously granted Mahaska exclusive rights to distribute bottles and cans of certain Pepsi products in identified territories. Pepsi also granted Mahaska limited rights to distribute fountain syrup products in identified territories. The claims and counterclaims in this case arose out of these agreements. After a jury trial, the jury returned a split verdict. The jury awarded Mahaska a total of $2,956,540.10 in damages and Pepsi a total of $24,000 in damages. Pepsi filed a motion for a new trial asserting a number of claims, including that Mahaska's closing arguments were improper and prejudicial. The district court denied Pepsi's motion and Pepsi appeals only the closing argument issue.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the comments Pepsi challenges, either alone or together, did not so infect the trial with the type of impropriety that would make a new trial appropriate. In this case, the court grouped Pepsi's claimed improper statements into a five categories: (1) statements regarding Mahaska's survival; (2) statements referencing Pepsi's size; (3) statements allegedly encouraging local bias; (4) statements denigrating Pepsi's defenses and counterclaims and its witnesses' credibility; and (5) statements related to punishment, sending signals, or malice. The court explained that, while portions of Mahaska's closing argument were hyperbolic and other portions perhaps approached the line for permissible argument, Pepsi's failure to object during or after the closing argument is some indication that the multitude of statements deemed improper weeks after the jury returned its verdict were not viewed by Pepsi's counsel as prejudicial or improper when they were made in context before the jury. Furthermore, the statements raised by Pepsi on appeal were based on evidence presented during trial or reasonable inferences that could be drawn from the evidence. View "Mahaska Bottling Co. v. Pepsico, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the motion to file out-of-time motions for panel rehearing and to recall the mandate; denied the motions; and withdrew its prior opinion, substituting the following opinion.After a federal jury found that 3 Star Properties fraudulently sold SED Holdings millions in loans and awarded SED over $14 million in damages, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the liability judgment against 3 Star but concluded that the damages award was excessive, remanding for remittitur of the award.he court concluded that res judicata does not bar SED's claims and the district court did not err by denying the Hyland Defendants' motion for JMOL on that basis. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court correctly denied the Hyland Defendants’ renewed JMOL as to the fraudulent transfer claim; the district court properly denied their new trial motion as to the conspiracy claim; and the district court did not commit reversible error in instructing the jury on the fraudulent transfer claim and did not abuse its discretion by declining to ask the jury whether subsequent transfers out of the escrow account were fraudulent, when those transfers were not at issue.The court remanded for remittitur and instructed the district court to subtract at least the following three identifiable amounts from the jury award: (1) the double-counted $2 million; (2) the $4 million in lost profits; and (3) the $551,578.17 already recovered from the Biltmore II settlement (in total, $6,551,578.17). The court concluded that no evidence supports the jury conclusion that Home Servicing breached the Servicing Agreement with SED Holdings and thus a new trial is warranted. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment as to SED’s breach of contract claim against Home Servicing and remanded for a new trial. In regard to SED's cross appeal against Nations Law firm, the court concluded that the SED has not shown a fact dispute as to Nations' "full knowledge of all material facts" and the district court did not err by granting summary judgment to Nations.The Hyland Defendants urged the court to reverse the judgment against 3 Star and Johnson, who are not parties to this appeal, but the court declined to do so. View "SED Holdings, LLC v. TM Prop Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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After completing MoneyGram's Transfer Send Form, Fisher, a 63-year-old veteran with poor eyesight, initiated Moneygram money transfers at California Walmart stores, one for $2,000 to a Georgia recipient, and another for $1,530 to a Baton Rouge recipient. The funds were delivered to the intended recipients. Fisher never turned over the Send Form to read the Terms and Conditions, which included an arbitration requirement. He would have been unable to read the six-point print without a magnifying glass. Fisher sued MoneyGram, claiming that the transfers were induced by a “scammer,” and that MoneyGram knew its system was used by scammers but failed to warn or protect customers; MoneyGram’s service was used frequently in fraudulent transactions because the money was immediately available at a Walmart store or other MoneyGram outlet. Other services (bank transfers) place a temporary hold on funds to discourage fraudulent transactions. Fisher alleged MoneyGram had been the subject of an FTC injunction, requiring it to maintain a program to protect its consumers.Fisher’s class action complaint cited the unfair competition law. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of MoneyGram’s petition to compel arbitration. The provision was unenforceable as procedurally and substantively unconscionable, and not severable. The small font, placement, and “take it or leave it nature” were “indications” of procedural unconscionability. The one-year limitations period, a requirement that any plaintiff pay arbitration costs and fees, and waiver of attorneys’ fees were substantively unconscionable “in the aggregate.” View "Fisher v. MoneyGram International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the unanimous jury's finding in favor of Underwood Ranches in an action for breach of contract and fraud, as well as the award of $13.3 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Huy Fong, a business that produces Sriracha hot sauce, contracted with Underwood Ranches, a pepper farmer, to purchase peppers, which resulted in a 28 year relationship for the parties. For the first 10 years, the parties executed written agreements specifying the price per pound and volume to be supplied. Thereafter, the parties dealt with each other informally with oral agreements.The court concluded that there is more than ample evidence to support a finding of fraud based on fraudulent concealment and affirmative misrepresentation; the jury's findings are consistent and easily reconciled where, read together, the jury found that the parties had an ongoing contractual relationship that included the 2017 jalapeño growing season; the court rejected Huy Fong's contention that the trial court abdicated its responsibility to sit as a 13th juror in ruling on its motion for a new trial; the court upheld the $10 million punitive damage award; and, because the court affirmed the judgment against Huy Fong, it is unnecessary for it to consider Underwood Ranch's appeal. View "Huy Fong Foods, Inc. v. Underwood Ranches, LP" on Justia Law

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Texas resident Gerald Hamric joined a church group on an outdoor recreation trip to Colorado. The church group hired Wilderness Expeditions, Inc. (“WEI”) to arrange outdoor activities. Before the outdoor adventure commenced, WEI required each participant to complete a “Registration Form” and a “Medical Form.” On the first day, WEI led the church group on a rappelling course. In attempting to complete a section of the course that required participants to rappel down an overhang, Hamric became inverted. Attempts to rescue Hamric proved unsuccessful, and he fell and died. Alicia Hamric sued WEI for negligence. WEI moved for summary judgment, asserting the Registration Form and the Medical Form contained a release of its liability for negligence. A magistrate judge first declined to grant leave to amend the complaint due to Ms. Hamric’s failure to (1) sustain her burden under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) because the deadline for amendments had passed; and (2) make out a prima facie case of willful and wanton conduct as required by Colorado law to plead a claim seeking exemplary damages. Next, the magistrate judge concluded WEI was entitled to summary judgment, holding the liability release was valid under both Colorado law and Texas law. Finally, the magistrate judge denied as moot Ms. Hamric’s motions for additional discovery and to disclose an expert out of time. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the magistrate judge's order. View "Hamric v. Wilderness Expeditions, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a construction dispute between Timber Ridge and Quality Structures. After a bench trial, the district court awarded Timber Ridge $22,500 in damages and Quality Structures an amount in excess of $5 million in damages.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not clearly err in determining that Quality Structures substantially complied with the contractual predicates for payment for the extra excavation work. Furthermore, the district court did not clearly err in finding Quality Structures proved damages related to Timber Ridge's failure to pay for the additional excavation work. The court affirmed the district court's award of other damages to Quality Structures with one exception regarding site lighting. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in awarding defendant attorneys' fees under the Missouri Prompt Payment Act. View "Timber Ridge Escapes, LLC v. Quality Structures of Arkansas, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by EdgePoint Capital Holdings, LLC (EPCH) arising out of the sale of Apothecare Pharmacy, LLC, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in Apothecare's favor, holding that EPCH could not recover because Apothecare's securities law defense was valid.This breach of contract suit was based on a provision of the contract stating that if the agreement was terminated by either party, Apothecare was obligated to pay EPCH a fee. In granting summary judgment in favor of Apothecare, the district court (1) rejected Apothecare's federal securities law defense that the contract was void under section 29(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1984; but (2) concluded that, as a matter of Massachusetts contract interpretation law, EPCH was not entitled to the fee it sought. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Apothecare's federal securities law defense was valid; and (2) because the contract was unenforceable, EPCH could not recover. View "EdgePoint Capital Holdings, LLC v. Apothecare Pharmacy, LLC" on Justia Law