Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Mentis Sciences, Inc. appealed a superior court order dismissing its claims for damages representing the cost of recreating lost data and lost business and negligence against defendant Pittsburgh Networks, LLC. Plaintiff was an engineering firm that, among other things, designed, developed, and tested advanced composite materials for United States Department of Defense customers. Since entering this sector in 1996, plaintiff acquired “a vast amount of valuable data that was utilized in its operations.” In 2010, the defendant began providing the plaintiff with technological support or “IT” services. In August 2014, defendant notified plaintiff that a drive in one of its servers had failed and would need to be replaced; a controller malfunctioned, causing the corruption of some of plaintiff’s data. Defendant attempted to recover the corrupted data; however, the data was permanently lost because defendant had failed to properly back it up. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging breach of contract and negligence. In its complaint, plaintiff alleged that the lost data “represents valuable intellectual property compiled over many years and is of daily critical use in [the plaintiff’s] business.” Further, plaintiff alleged that, as a result of the data loss, it was required to conduct “massively expensive” testing in order to recreate the data and that, without the lost data, it was “unable to bid or participate in various projects worth potentially millions of dollars.” Plaintiff argued on appeal of the dismissal of its suit that the trial court erred by: (1) concluding that the damages representing the cost of recreating lost data and lost business were consequential; (2) concluding that the limitation of liability clause in the parties’ contract is enforceable; and (3) dismissing its claim for negligence. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed because the damages sought by plaintiff were consequential and the limitation of liability clause in the parties' contract precluded plaintiff from recovering consequential damages. The Court also concluded the economic loss doctrine barred plaintiff’s negligence claim. View "Mentis Sciences, Inc. v. Pittsburgh Networks, LLC" on Justia Law

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Jenny Craig, Inc. hired Marilyn Flanzman to work as a weight maintenance counselor in 1991. In May 2011, Flanzman signed a document entitled “Arbitration Agreement” in connection with her employment. In February 2017, when the dispute that led to this appeal arose, Flanzman was eighty-two years old. Flanzman’s managers informed her that her hours would be reduced from thirty-five to nineteen hours per week. In April 2017, Flanzman’s managers further reduced her hours to approximately thirteen hours per week. In June 2017, they reduced her hours to three hours per week, at which point she left her employment. Flanzman brought suit, asserting claims for age discrimination, constructive discharge, discriminatory discharge, and harassment. Relying on the Agreement, defendants moved to dismiss the complaint and to compel arbitration. Defendants contended that California law governed the Agreement and that the Agreement was enforceable. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss and ordered the parties to arbitrate Flanzman’s claims. It held that California law governed the arbitration and that the proper forum was assumed to be California. Finding no reversible error, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Flanzman v. Jenny Craig, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs contracted with Regions Bank for it to manage, as their agent, their mineral interests in a large tract of land, Regions signed a lease extension with a third party, intending to extend the lease for only a small part of the property. However, the lease was unlimited and applied to the entire tract of land. Region's unintentional mistake cost plaintiffs tens of millions of dollars.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' action for breach of contract against Regions, holding that Louisiana's ten year statute of limitations period for contract claims applies to plaintiffs' suit. In this case, plaintiffs alleged that Regions breached their contracts by acting negligently. The court stated that, under Louisiana law, they had the choice to sue Regions for this alleged breach in tort or in contract. Because plaintiffs chose contract, their claim is subject to the ten year statute of limitations. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Franklin v. Regions Bank" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred by concluding that a contractual limitations provision can preclude nonparties to the contract from asserting tort claims that do not arise out of the contractual relationship.In affirming the trial court's summary judgment, the court of appeals relied upon the "closely related party doctrine," which looks to the relationship between a nonparty and parties to the agreement, as well as the relationship between a nonparty and the agreement itself. Specifically, the court of appeals concluded that the nonparty was so "closely related" to the contract or its signatories that enforcement of the contract terms was "foreseeable." However, no Arizona court had previously adopted the closely related party doctrine to impose a contractual limitations provision on a nonparty. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in binding the nonparty to a contractual limitations provision based on the closely related party doctrine. View "JTF Aviation Holdings, Inc. v. CliftonLarsonAllen LLP" on Justia Law

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Two business owners executed a series of transactions to sell a regional airline business. Within two years of the sale, one of the buyer-controlled business entities declared bankruptcy, and the seller commenced litigation to resolve disputes over their agreements. The parties settled before trial. But another buyer-controlled entity later defaulted and declared bankruptcy, and the seller reinitiated litigation. The issue presented to the Alaska Supreme Court was the extent to which the buyers personally guaranteed the obligations of the second bankrupt entity. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the seller and held the buyers personally liable for those obligations. The Supreme Court held that whether the parties intended the buyers to personally guarantee the bankrupt entity’s obligations was a disputed material fact, making the issue inappropriate for summary judgment. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Beardsley v. Jacobsen" on Justia Law

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Protective Life Insurance Company ("Protective") appealed a circuit court judgment entered on a jury verdict against Protective and in favor of Apex Parks Group, LLC ("Apex"), in the amount of $11,495,890.41. Apex, a California-based corporation, owned and operated 16 moderately sized amusement parks, water parks, and family-entertainment centers nationwide. Apex's founder and chief executive officer was Alexander Weber, who had possessed 43 years' experience in the industry and who was critical to Apex's success. Because of Weber's importance, in early 2016 Apex sought a "key-man" insurance policy on Weber. Protective is a Birmingham-based insurance company owned by the Dai-ichi Corporation. At that time, Weber was 64 years old. Answers from Weber's interview with a paramedical examiner were incorporated into the Apex application for insurance. Weber underwent a series of medical examinations, all of which were reported and incorporated into the key-man policy. In November 2016, after the first premium payment was made and the policy went into effect, while on vacation with his wife, Weber died. Shortly after Weber's death, Apex submitted its claim under the policy for the $10-million benefit. Protective then began a contestable-claim investigation, contending Weber's complete medical history was not disclosed, thereby voiding the policy. Protective thereafter refunded the premium Apex paid. Apex sued Protective asserting claims of breach of contract and bad faith in failing to investigate all bases supporting coverage and in making false promises that the claim would be paid. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined Protective was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Apex's claim of breach of contract, and the trial court erred by submitting this claim to the jury for consideration. Accordingly, that portion of the trial court judgment was reversed. "Because Protective demonstrated that Weber made a material misrepresentation and Apex failed to introduce substantial evidence to the contrary, Protective was entitled to rescind the policy, which was a complete defense to Apex's claims of breach of contract. Thus, the trial court erred in denying Protective's motions for a judgment as a matter of law." View "Protective Life Insurance Company v. Apex Parks Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing First State Bank Nebraska's (First State) claims against MP Nexlevel, LLC seeking performance under a contract, holding that the district court erred in granting MP Nexlevel summary judgment and dismissing First State's complaint.MP Nexlevel contracted to pay Husker Underground Utilities & Construction, LLC for construction services. Due to separate loan agreements, First State held a security interest in Husker Underground's accounts. When Husker Underground failed to meet its loan obligations, First State sought direct payment of MP Nexlevel's obligations under the contract. However, MP Nexlevel continued to submit its payments to Husker Underground. First State ultimately brought suit against MP Nexlevel for performance under the contract. The district court concluded that First State lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Neb. Rev. Stat. 9-406(a) imposed a duty on MP Nexlevel to discharge its obligations under its agreement with Husker Underground by paying directly to First State; (2) MP Nexlevel breached its obligations to First State; and (3) First State was authorized by Neb. Rev. Stat. 9-607(a)(3) to step into Husker Underground's place and enforce MP Nexlevel's contractual obligations as adjusted by operation of section 9-406(a). View "First State Bank Nebraska v. MP Nexlevel, LLC" on Justia Law

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Oakland entered into agreements with OBOT for the development of the former Oakland Army Base. The project was to include a bulk commodity shipping terminal for products, including coal. When the subject of coal became public, it activated interest groups, ultimately leading to an ordinance banning coal handling and storage in the city and a resolution applying the ordinance to the terminal. A federal court held that the resolution was a breach of the OBOT agreements, and enjoined Oakland from relying on the resolution. Friction between OBOT and Oakland continued. OBOT sued, alleging breach of contract and tort claims.The city filed a demurrer, then a special motion to strike (SLAPP motion, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16) that sought to strike “in part” the complaint. The SLAPP motion was heard with other matters. The hearing dealt primarily with the demurrer, which the court overruled in most part, and sustained in part with leave to amend. Days later, the court “denied without prejudice” the SLAPP motion, describing it as “premature” in light of the amended complaint to come.The court of appeal determined that the SLAPP motion has no merit because the complaint is not based on protected activity and remanded with instructions to deny the motion on the merits. The essence of the complaint arose from Oaklands’s acts or omissions in breach of its agreements, its refusal to cooperate, and its tortious conduct. View "Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, LLC v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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Porter Scott, P.C. (hereafter, “Porter Scott”) defended The Johnson Group Staffing Company, Inc. (hereafter, “TJG” or “Johnson Group”) through two rounds of litigation with its chief competitor, Aerotek, Inc. (hereafter, “Aerotek”). Aerotek first sued TJG after TJG’s founder, Chris Johnson, left Aerotek to form TJG. In the lawsuit, Aerotek alleged that TJG and Johnson, among other things, misappropriated trade secrets by soliciting Aerotek’s customers. TJG and Johnson settled with Aerotek a little over a year later. The issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review concerned the ownership of fees awarded under Civil Code 3426.4, and whether the prevailing litigant (here, The Johnson Group Staffing Company, Inc.) or the prevailing litigant’s attorney (here, Porter Scott, P.C.) were entitled to the fees awarded to the “prevailing party.” The Court concluded that, absent an enforceable agreement to the contrary, these fees belonged to the attorney to the extent they exceeded the fees the litigant already paid. Furthermore, the Court concluded that, although the parties here entered into a fee agreement, that agreement did not alter the default disposition of fees in favor of the attorney. Because the trial court reached the same conclusion, the Court of Appeal affirmed its judgment. View "Aerotek v. Johnson Group Staffing Co." on Justia Law

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In a dispute concerning a construction company’s liability for contributions to the Benefits Fund, the Fund unilaterally scheduled arbitration. The company sought to enjoin arbitration, alleging fraud in the execution of the agreement it signed. The district court concluded that the court had the primary power to decide whether fraud in the execution vitiated the formation or existence of the contract containing the arbitration provision. The court enjoined arbitration pending resolution of factual issues that bear upon that claim.The Third Circuit affirmed. Under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 4, questions about the “making of the agreement to arbitrate” are for the courts to decide unless the parties have clearly and unmistakably referred those issues to arbitration in a written contract whose formation is not in issue. Here, the formation of the contract containing the relevant arbitration provision is at issue. View "MZM Construction Co. Inc. v. NJ Building Laborers Statewide BenefitsFunds" on Justia Law