Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court held that public policy prohibits an agreement between a builder-vendor and a homebuyer to disclaim and waive the warranty of workmanship and habitability implied in every contract entered into between the buyer-vendor and homebuyer and to replace it with an express warranty.Plaintiff entered into a preprinted purchase agreement with M & RC II, LLC to buy a home that M & RC II's affiliate, Scott Homes Development Company, would build. Plaintiff later sued M & RC II and Scott Homes (together, Defendants) for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff had waived the implied warranty per the purchase agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy underlying the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability clearly outweighed enforcement of the waiver of that warranty in the purchase agreement. View "Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC" on Justia Law

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Cal-Am, a developer and operator of RV and mobile-home parks leased the Yuma Sundance RV Resort from its owner, intending to construct a new banquet and concert hall on the property. The property owner provided the funding for the construction. Cal-Am managed the project. Cal-Am hired a contractor, Nickle, to design and construct the hall, who then hired Edais Engineering to survey the property and place construction stakes to mark the Hall’s permitted location. No contract existed between Edais and Cal-Am. Edais acknowledges that its placement of the stakes was defective. Cal-Am was forced to adjust its site plan, eliminating eight RV parking spaces. Cal-Am sued Edais for claims including negligence. The trial court granted Edais summary judgment on the negligence claim finding that Cal-Am could not recover its purely economic damages. The court of appeals affirmed.The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed, repudiating its 1984 Donnelly Construction holding that a design professional’s duty to use ordinary skill, care, and diligence in rendering professional services extends both to persons in privity with the professional and to persons foreseeably affected by a breach of that duty. Under Arizona’s current framework, which repudiated foreseeability as a basis for duty, design professionals lacking privity of contract with project owners do not owe a duty to those owners to reimburse purely economic damages. View "Cal-Am Properties, Inc. v. Edais Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the tax court dismissing Counts I through III of the Attorney General's complaint and granting summary judgment on Count IV, holding that the tax court erred in part.At issue was the scope of three statutes the Attorney General (AG) invoked to challenge an agreement between the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) and a private company for the company to construct and operate a hotel and conference center on property owned by ABOR. The Supreme Court held (1) to initiate an action under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 42-1004(E) there must be an applicable tax law to enforce; (2) the AG may bring a quo warranto action pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2041 to challenge the unlawful usurpation or exercise of a public franchise; and (3) the AG's public-monies claim was subject to the five-year statute of limitations set forth in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 35-212(E). View "State v. Arizona Board of Regents" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a defendant seeking an award of attorney fees and costs in a lawsuit filed by a married plaintiff does not need to join the plaintiff's spouse to later execute a judgment for fees and costs against the plaintiff's community assets.The trial court entered judgment judgment for Shamrock Materials, LLC and an LLC member and her husband (collectively, Shamrock) in this action brought by Kristi Lattin, "a married woman dealing with her own separate property." The court further awarded Shamrock attorney fees and costs as the prevailing party. Shamrock sought to garnish a bank account jointly owned by Lattin and her husband, Robert DeRuiter, a non-party. The trial court quashed Shamrock's garnishment on Wells Fargo Bank to pay funds held in the joint bank account because the judgment was not entered against DeRuiter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-215(D) did not require Shamrock to join DeRuiter in the case to execute its judgment for attorney fees and costs against community assets. View "Lattin v. Shamrock Materials LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted certified questions from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in this arbitration dispute, holding that direct benefits estoppel cannot be invoked in a garnishment action to bind the judgment creditor to the terms of the contract because applying the doctrine in this context would contravene Arizona's statutory garnishment scheme.Specifically, the Court answered that in a garnishment action by a judgment creditor against the judgment debtor's insurer claiming that coverage is owed under an insurance policy where the judgment creditor is not proceeding on an assignment of rights, the insurer cannot invoke the doctrine of direct benefits estoppel to bind the judgment creditor to the terms of the insurance contract. View "Benson v. Casa De Capri Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied relief to Banner University Medical Center Tucson Campus, LLC and other Banner entities (collectively, Banner) which challenged the denial of its motion for summary judgment in this vicarious liability case, holding that the vicarious liability claim against Banner was not precluded.Doctors jointly employed by Banner provided treatment to Plaintiffs' fourteen-month-old son, who died. Plaintiffs brought medical malpractice claims against the doctors, a vicarious liability claim against Banner based on the doctors' conduct, and direct claims of breach of contract and fraud against Banner. The trial court granted summary judgment for the doctors because Plaintiffs failed to serve each of them with a notice of claim. Banner then filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the trial court's dismissal of the doctors with prejudice served as an adjudication on the merits precluding any claim of vicarious liability against Banner. The court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because there was no final judgment on the merits, Plaintiffs' vicarious liability claim against Banner was not precluded. View "Banner University Medical Center Tucson Campus, LLC v. Honorable Richard Gordon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court denying a motion to compel arbitration, holding that a fee agreement between a client and her attorney, especially where the attorney agrees to advance the costs of arbitration, is relevant to determining a plaintiff's ability to arbitrate her claims.Plaintiff signed two contracts with Defendants when arranging for her mother, Concetta Rizzio, to live at a nursing care facility. Each contract included an arbitration clause with a cost-shifting provision (the agreement) stating that Rizzio would be responsible for all costs of arbitration if she made a claim against the nursing home. When a fellow resident attacked Rizzio, Plaintiff brought this action alleging negligence and abuse of a vulnerable adult. The trial court denied Defendants' motion to compel arbitration, finding that the agreement was unduly oppressive, unenforceable, and unconscionable. The court of appeals reversed as to the issue of procedural unconscionability but agreed that the cost-shifting provision was substantively unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the agreement was not substantively unconscionable and that it was enforceable. View "Rizzio v. Surpass Senior Living LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Specialty Companies Group, LLC's claims under an alter ego theory against Meritage Homes of Arizona were time-barred under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-548(A)(1)'s six-year limitation period for claims founded on or evidenced by a written contract.Maricopa Lakes, LLC hired G&K South Forty Development to serve as project manager on a real estate development project. G&K hired Specialty to assist with the project. Specialty later sued G&K to collect unpaid invoices. G&K filed a third-party complaint against Maricopa Lakes, was awarded a default judgment, and assigned to Specialty its claims against Maricopa Lakes. Specialty subsequently sued Meritage, which formed Maricopa Lakes, under an alter ego theory. The trial court granted summary judgment to Meritage, ruling that Specialty's claims were time-barred. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the alter ego claim was an action on a judgment governed by a five-year statute of limitations that began to run when the judgment was final. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the statute of limitations for alter ego actions is determined by reference to the cause of action from which the alter ego claim derives; and (2) Specialty was bound by the six-year statute of limitations for breach of contract. View "Specialty Companies Group, LLC v. Meritage Homes of Arizona, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by holding that, under a policy without a contractual duty to defend, the objective reasonableness of an insurer's decision to withhold consent is assessed from the perspective of the insurer, not the insured.National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA, which insured Apollo Education Group, Inc.'s directors and officers for liability up to $15 million under a policy that included no duty to defend the insured if sued. A class action suit against Apollo resulted in an agreement to settle. Apollo refused to consent to the settlement but entered into the agreement. Apollo then sued National Union to recover the settlement amount, alleging breach of contract and bad faith. The district court granted summary judgment to National Union. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit certified the question to this Court. The Supreme Court held that an insurer must, in deciding whether to consent to a settlement, give the matter full and fair consideration, but need not approve a settlement simply because the insured believes it is reasonable. View "Apollo Education Group, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co." 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