Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court disqualifying Stephen Goldman from further participation as the counsel of The Travelers Indemnity Company in a suit filed by the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion.The Board, acting on behalf of the University of Arkansas for Arkansas System, brought this complaint against Travelers for breach of contract, declaratory judgment, and bad faith, alleging that it was entitled to benefits under its all-risk commercial insurance policy for damages it suffered during the coronavirus pandemic. After the circuit court entered its ruling disqualifying Goldman, a nonresident attorney, from further representing Travelers in this case Goldman and Travelers (together, Appellants) appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by revoking Goldman's motion for admission pro hac vice. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court's revocation of Goldman's pro hac vice status without prior notice or a reasonable opportunity to be heard violated due process requirements. View "Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Board of trustees of University of Ark." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court certifying this class action against an auto insurance company brought by Plaintiffs, insureds who incurred medical expenses because of car accidents, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the prerequisites of a class action had been satisfied.Instead of paying Plaintiffs for the full amount of billed medical expenses Defendant instead simply reimbursed them for the actual amount they owed their medical providers after all discounts had been applied. Plaintiffs brought this action that this practice constituted breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The court certified a class action, from which Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it certified this case as a class action. View "Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. v. Baggett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Bainbridge Fund Ltd. is the beneficial owner of bonds issued by the Republic of Argentina. Argentina defaulted on these bonds back in 2001, but Bainbridge didn’t sue to recover them until 2016. The district court dismissed Bainbridge’s claims as untimely under New York’s six-year statute of limitations for contract actions and the Second Circuit’s nonprecedential decisions. Bainbridge appealed, asking the Second Circuit to reconsider those decisions. Specifically, Bainbridge argues that (1) the twenty-year statute of limitations for recovery on certain bonds under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 34 Section 211(a) applies to its claims against Argentina; and (2) even if the six-year limitations period for contract actions applies, it was tolled under N.Y. Gen. Oblig Law Section 17-101 because Argentina “acknowledged” this debt when it publicly listed the bonds in its quarterly financial statements (the “Quarterly Reports”).   The Second Circuit rejected Plaintiff’s arguments. First, the twenty-year statute of limitations does not apply to claims on Argentine bonds because a foreign sovereign is not a “person” under N.Y. C.P.L.R. Section 211(a). Second, tolling under N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law Section 17-101 is inapplicable because the Quarterly Reports did not “acknowledge” the debt at issue in a way that reflected an intention to pay or seek to influence the bondholders’ behavior. To the contrary, Argentina repeatedly stated that the bonds “may remain in default indefinitely.” Bainbridge’s claims are thus time-barred. View "Bainbridge Fund Ltd. v. The Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting a motion to approve a settlement agreement reached in mediation involving siblings Lily Smith and Sam, Dan, and Vernon Lindemulder, holding that Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their claims of error.The agreement at issue resolved claims involving the Alice M. Lindemulder Trust, established by the parties' mother, which held more than 2,000 acres of land in Stillwater County. Sam appealed the district court's decision to approve the settlement agreement, arguing that the agreement was unenforceable because he lacked the capacity to enter it and had been subjected to undue influence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that Sam validly consented to the agreement; and (2) did not err in holding that the agreement was valid and enforceable. View "Smith v. Lindemulder" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of Defendant Thomas Wakefield and dismissing Plaintiff Pleasantdale Condominiums LLC's claims alleging nondisclosure of material information under a Maine statute, holding that Defendant was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.After it purchased an apartment complex Plaintiff sued Defendant, the seller, alleging claims for fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Both counts were based on the alleged violation of Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 33, 173(5). The district court concluded that Defendant was entitled to summary judgment on both counts. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's claim for fraud in the nature of active concealment. View "Pleasantdale Condominiums, LLC v. Wakefield" on Justia Law

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Warren Averett Companies, LLC, sought a writ of mandamus to direct a circuit court to vacate its order denying Warren Averett's motion to strike the jury demand asserted by Gerriann Fagan and to enter an order granting the motion to strike the jury demand. The underlying dispute involved a business proposition Warren Averett made to Fagan to to build a human-resources consulting practice. Fagan would wind down the operations of her company, The Prism Group; Fagan would then become a member of Warren Averett, and Warren Averett would purchase The Prism Group's equipment and furniture, assume responsibility for The Prism Group's leases; and that Warren Averett would assume The Prism Group's membership in Career Partners International, LLC. The "Standard Personal Service Agreement" ("the PSA") entered into by Fagan and Warren Averett drafted by Warren Averett included, in pertinent part, a dispute-resolution clause. Fagan resigned from Warren Averett after a salary dispute, and, on February 28, 2019, Fagan filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"). The AAA determined that, under its rules, Fagan owed $300 and Warren Averett owed $1,900. The AAA also stated that any dispute regarding the filing fees should be raised before the arbitrator for a determination once all the filing requirements, including payment of the fees, had been satisfied. Warren Averett refused to pay its share of the filing fees as requested by the AAA, and the AAA closed the file in the matter. Thereafter, Fagan sued Warren Averett alleging multiple causes of action. Fagan demanded a jury trial. Warren Averett moved to dismiss the claims, and concurrently moved to compel arbitration. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Fagan did not show prejudice by the almost two-year delay between the filing of Fagan's amended complaint and the filing of Warren Averett's motion to strike the jury demand: "The trial court granted Warren Averett's motion to compel arbitration, and Fagan sought review of that decision. We reversed that decision; on remand, the trial court set a scheduling conference, and Warren Averett filed its motion to strike Fagan's jury demand. Although there was a delay between the time that Fagan demanded a jury and the time that Warren Averett sought to strike that demand, Fagan has not shown that she was prejudiced by that passage of time." Warren Averett's petition was granted and the writ issued. View "Ex parte Warren Averett Companies, LLC." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction this breach of contract matter, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.Plaintiff, which was based in Durham, North Carolina, brought this action against Defendant, a California company, after Defendant allegedly refused to pay certain fees as required by the parties' agreement and terminated the agreement without cause. The trial court denied Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that Defendant had the requisite minimum contacts with the forum. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the maintenance of this suit did not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. View "Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, Inc. v. Smart & Final Stores LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the district court concluding that Plaintiff was entitled to "reasonable attorney's fees" on appeal from a decision of the magistrate in Plaintiff's favor, holding that there was no error.The trial court awarded the attorney's fees at issue in this action seeking the recovery of money Defendant owed Plaintiff under a contract to purchase real estate that obligated Defendant, the buyer, to pay Plaintiff, the seller, a due diligence fee and an earnest money deposit. The court of appeals affirmed the attorney's fee award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's allegations of error were unavailing. View "Reynolds-Douglass v. Terhark" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff took out a home equity loan on a house in Texas (“Property”). Deutsche Bank National Trust Company (“Deutsche Bank”) is the trustee of the loan. Deutsche Bank sought a non-judicial foreclosure order on the Property.   Plaintiff sued Deutsche Bank in Texas state court, alleging violations of the Texas Debt Collection Act (“TDCA”), breach of the common-law duty of cooperation, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Despite the stipulation, Deutsche Bank removed the case to federal district court. Plaintiff then moved to remand the case back to Texas state court because, in his view, the amount in controversy could not exceed the stipulated maximum of $74,500. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion to remand.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and concluded that the district court erred in denying Plaintiff’s motion to remand, and it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction when it entered final judgment. The court reasoned that Deutsche Bank failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional floor of $75,000.   The court first noted that the bank points out that Plaintiff’s suit requested relief which might be read to suggest Plaintiff also sought injunctive relief. But the bank makes that argument only to establish that Plaintiff’s initial pleading seeks nonmonetary relief not to establish that the requested nonmonetary relief put the house in controversy. Whatever the merit of that latter contention might otherwise be, the court held that Deutsche Bank forfeited it. Moreover, the mere fact that Plaintiff pleaded a demand for specific damages cannot support bad faith. View "Durbois v. Deutsche Bank Ntl Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff experienced financial difficulties and applied for a loan modification. In response, CitiMortgage mailed Plaintiff an offer to participate in a Trial Period Plan (“TPP”). The TPP provided that “the terms of your  TPP are effective on the day you make your first trial period payment, provided you have paid it on or before the last day of [January 2019].” Plaintiff effectively accepted the terms of the TPP when he made the first trial period payment of $1,293.66. CitiMortgage sent him a letter informing him that he was “ineligible” for the loan modification and then posted Plaintiff’s property for foreclosure.   Plaintiff filed suit against CitiMortgage in state court, asserting claims for breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment to CitiMortgage concluding that Plaintiff failed to comply with the TPP’s payment deadlines.   The Fifth Circuit reversed finding that Plaintiff met his obligations under the TPP by making timely payments. CitiMortgage, by contrast, violated its obligations by refusing to grant the permanent loan modification and proceeding with foreclosure. The court explained that the TPP establishes a grace period. It accepts payment so long as it is made “in the month in which it is due.” Neither the TPP nor the parties use the term “grace period” to describe this language. But that is plainly what the text contemplates. And no one disputes that Plaintiff’s payments comply with the governing grace periods. CitiMortgage has offered no reason why favoring the monthly deadlines and ignoring the grace period would “do the least damage” to the text of the TPP. View "Burbridge v. CitiMortgage" on Justia Law