Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Xerox State & Local Solutions, Inc.
In this tort and breach-of-contract lawsuit, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's take-nothing summary judgment entered on the claim brought by several affiliated retailers (the Retailers), holding that the trial court erred in part.The Retailers in this case sought to recoup millions of dollars in disallowed reimbursements for purchases their customers made under the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) after a lengthy outage in a third-party contractor's Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system. The Retailers had permitted their SNAP customers to make purchases during the system outage, as authorized by a federal regulation, but held the EBT transactions in abeyance until they could be submitted and the Retailers reimbursed. The EBT contractor, however, later declined reimbursement for nearly 90,000 transactions. The trial court rendered a final take-nothing judgment against the Retailers, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment on the Retailers' breach of contract claim but reversed the judgment as to losses from certain transactions and the Retailers' tort claims, holding that the court relied on an erroneous construction of 7 C.F.R. 274.8(e)(1). View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Xerox State & Local Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Contracts, Supreme Court of Texas
Weinberg v. Waystar, Inc.
Plaintiff-appellant Tracey Weinberg (“Weinberg”) was the former Chief Marketing Officer of defendant-appellee Waystar, Inc.(“Waystar”). During her employment, the company granted her options to purchase stock in its co-defendant Derby TopCo, Inc.,(“Derby Inc.”), pursuant to a Derby TopCo 2019 Stock Incentive Plan (the “Plan”). Weinberg was awarded three option grants under the Plan pursuant to three option agreements executed between October 2019 and August 2020. By the time Weinberg was terminated in 2021, 107,318.96 of her options had vested. She timely exercised all of them in November 2021, and the options immediately converted to economically equivalent partnership units in co-defendant Derby TopCo Partnership LP, a Delaware limited partnership (“Derby LP”) (the “Converted Units”). Each Option Agreement contained an identical call right provision providing Appellees the right to repurchase Weinberg’s Converted Units (the “Call Right”), “during the six (6) month period following (x) the (i) [t]ermination of [Weinberg’s] employment with the Service Recipient for any reason . . . and (y) a Restrictive Covenant Breach.” This appeal turned on the meaning of the word “and” in the three option agreements. Specifically, the question presented for the Delaware Supreme Court was whether two separate events (separated by the word “and”) had to both occur in order for the company to exercise a call right, or whether the call right could be exercised if only one event has occurred. Although Weinberg had been terminated within the time frame specified by the Call Right Provision, a Restrictive Covenant Breach had not occurred. The parties disputed whether the Call Right was available in the absence of a Restrictive Covenant Breach. The Court of Chancery decided that it was, and the Delaware Supreme Court concurred, affirming the Court of Chancery. View "Weinberg v. Waystar, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Delaware Supreme Court, Securities Law
Casanova v. Polsky
In this dispute between the residents of a senior-living facility in a receivership over the proceeds generated by the sale of the facility the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the conclusion of the circuit court that Bondholders' mortgage lien was superior to Residents' entrance fee claims, holding that Bondholders' mortgage lien was superior to Residents' contract claims.After Atrium, the subject senior-living facility, defaulted on debt service payments to Bondholders, it filed a petition for receivership. The receiver sold the assets for more than $4 million in proceeds. Atrium owed Bondholders more than $6 million secured by a valid mortgage lien on the facility's estate, but many of the facility's Residents claimed they were owed reimbursement of the entrance fees they paid to Atrium. The circuit court entered judgment for Bondholders, and the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Bondholders were entitled to first payment from the proceeds of the sale of Atrium's assets. View "Casanova v. Polsky" on Justia Law
JTH Tax d/b/a Liberty Tax Service v. Agnant
Plaintiff, a franchisor of tax preparation services, appeals from the district court’s denying its motion for preliminary injunctive relief to enforce, among other things, covenants not to compete or solicit former clients against Defendants, its former franchisees. On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the district court erroneously applied a heightened standard for obtaining preliminary injunctive relief, failed to credit an undisputed fact that Plaintiff had grounds to terminate the franchise agreements because Defendants were violating federal tax laws, and was compelled as a matter of law to find that it would suffer irreparable harm to its goodwill and client relationships in the absence of an injunction. The Second Circuit affirmed the order denying preliminary relief. The court concluded that the district court applied the appropriate standard, permissibly credited Defendants’ denials that they violated federal tax laws, and acted well within its discretion in concluding that Plaintiff would not suffer irreparable harm. The court reasoned that nothing in the court’s precedents compels a district court to find irreparable harm to goodwill and client relationships in covenant-not-to-compete or -solicit cases simply because irreparable harm is often found in such cases. Instead, a plaintiff must present the district court with actual evidence. On that record, the court wrote it cannot conclude that the district court’s finding that Plaintiff had failed to make a strong showing of irreparable injury represented a clear error or exceeded the court’s discretion. View "JTH Tax d/b/a Liberty Tax Service v. Agnant" on Justia Law
Kainz, et al. v. Jacam Chemical Co. 2013
Plaintiffs William Kainz and GeoChemicals, LLC appealed a district court’s order granting Jacam Chemical Co. 2013, LLC’s motion to abate and an order and judgment awarding attorney’s fees to Jacam. Plaintiffs argued the district court erred by abating the action and by awarding attorney’s fees. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court misapplied the law in granting the motion to abate and abused its discretion by awarding attorney’s fees. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Kainz, et al. v. Jacam Chemical Co. 2013" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Contracts, North Dakota Supreme Court
Miller, et al. v. Nodak Ins. Co.
Nodak Insurance Company (“Nodak”) appealed, and John D. Miller, Jr. d/b/a John Miller Farms, Inc. and JD Miller, Inc. (collectively, “Miller”) cross-appealed a judgment determining Miller’s insurance policy with Nodak provided coverage and awarding Miller damages. The dispute arose from Miller’s sale of seed potatoes to Johnson Farming Association, Inc. (“Johnson”). Miller operated a farm in Minto, North Dakota. During the 2015 planting season, Miller planted seed potatoes. Miller claimed a North Dakota State Seed Department representative inspected the field where the seed was being grown on July 13, July 26, and September 3, 2015, which indicated no problems with the seed crop. On or about September 3, 2015, Miller “killed the vines” in anticipation of and as required to harvest the seed crop. Miller harvested the seed crop between September 18 and September 25, 2015, and the harvested seed crop was immediately taken from the field to Miller’s storage facility south of Minto. n December 31, 2015, Miller and Johnson entered into a contract for the sale of seed potatoes. The contract for sale disclaimed any express or implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose and contained a limitation of consequential damages and remedies. In June or July 2016, Johnson informed Miller of problems with some of the seed potatoes he had purchased. Johnson stated an analysis definitively showed very high levels of the herbicide glyphosate, which caused the problems with the seed potatoes. The seed potatoes did not grow properly, and Johnson alleged damages as a result. It was undisputed the seed potatoes were damaged because an employee of Miller inadvertently contaminated the seed potatoes with glyphosate while they were growing on Miller’s Farm. In July 2016, Miller sought coverage for the loss from Nodak. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded a policy exclusion applied and precluded coverage, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the district court's judgment. View "Miller, et al. v. Nodak Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Agriculture Law, Business Law, Contracts, Insurance Law, North Dakota Supreme Court
Cornell v. Desert Financial Credit Union
The Supreme Court held that on-going, at-will, consumer-business relationships consist of the day-to-day offer and acceptance of unilateral contracts, and thus, businesses may effectively modify the non-negotiated, standardized terms governing those relationships if the business can demonstrate certain elements.The United States District Court for the District of Arizona certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether an effective modification of a consumer contract can occur when the offeror sends notice of the proposed modification to the offeree through a communication channel to which the offeree previously consented even if the offeree fails to respond. In considering the requirements for modifying the terms of at-will, on-going, business-consumer relationships, the Supreme Court held that its jurisprudence did not provide definitive guidance and that Restatement of Consumer Contracts 3 is hereby adopted to fill that void. View "Cornell v. Desert Financial Credit Union" on Justia Law
Posted in: Arizona Supreme Court, Business Law, Consumer Law, Contracts
Ross v. First Financial Corporate Services, Inc.
Ross worked as a sales representative for First Financial until 2018. Ross sued First Financial and two of its senior executives for sales commissions he claimed he was owed. Under the terms of his employment contract, Ross could earn a commission both when a customer first leased an item from First Financial and then at the end of a lease term, if the customer either extended the lease or purchased the equipment outright. In early 2017, First Financial acted to reduce future commission rates. Ross argued that First Financial breached his contract by applying the new, lower commission rates to end-of-lease transactions that occurred after the change took effect if the leases originally began before the change.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The company’s commission payments to Ross were correct because commissions on end-of-lease transactions are not earned until the customer actually agrees to and pays for the new transactions. Although Ross was reluctant to accept the new plan, he still accepted it by continuing to work for First Financial under its terms. View "Ross v. First Financial Corporate Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Stryker Employment Co., LLC v. Abbas
Stryker develops, manufactures, and sells spinal implants and products, and employed Abbas from 2013-2022. Abbas purports to have worked exclusively within Stryker’s finance department. Stryker claims that Abbas worked in various roles, including in sales. Abbas regularly used significant amounts of Stryker’s confidential information and trade secrets and supported Stryker’s litigation efforts. Abbas entered into confidentiality, noncompetition, and nonsolicitation agreements with Stryker when he commenced his employment, and again in 2022.Alphatec competes with Stryker. Stryker alleges that Alphatec "systematically misappropriate[s] Stryker[’s] confidential information, trade secrets, customer goodwill, and talent” and is litigating against Alphatec and former Stryker employees in several cases. Abbas resigned from Stryker to take a newly-developed position with Alphatec, a sales role, “crafted to protect Stryker’s confidential information.” Stryker sued for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the issuance of a preliminary injunction on behalf of Stryker. The district court crafted the injunction to preserve the status quo, reserving the possibility that other prospective jobs might be consistent with Abbas's employment agreement. It is not an impermissible industry-wide ban. Stryker is likely to succeed on the merits, based on findings that Abbas worked for Stryker in both sales and finance; Abbas had unfettered access to Stryker’s most sensitive sales and financial information, Stryker’s sales representatives, and key customer decision-makers; the Alphatec position involved work similar to the work Abbas performed for Stryker; and Abbas supported Stryker on litigation matters. View "Stryker Employment Co., LLC v. Abbas" on Justia Law
G Companies Management, LLC v. LREP Arizona LLC
G Companies Management, LLC, a California limited liability company, appealed an order staying its cross-complaint against LREP Arizona, LLC, based on the forum selection clause in a loan agreement between the parties. The cross-complaint alleged multiple causes of action, all based on the assertion that the interest rates charged in the loan agreement were usurious under California law, and G Companies contended the trial court erred because a forum selection clause was not enforceable if doing so would deprive a California resident of the protections of the state's fundamental public policy. The trial court held enforcement of the selection clause was appropriate because: (1) the loan transaction was substantially related to the chosen forum (Arizona); and (2) California had a complicated relationship with usury and allowed unlimited interest rates to be charged in numerous circumstances. LREP contended the court’s decision was correct because the “many exceptions” to California’s interest rate limits demonstrate that the prohibition of usury “is not a fundamental policy” in California. To this, the Court of Appeal disagreed and therefore reversed. "By virtue of its inclusion in article XV, section 1, of our Constitution, and because it cannot be waived, we find that California’s usury law does reflect a significant public policy. It prohibits money lending at rates higher than specified, even while recognizing numerous exceptions to those rate limitations. The complexity of the law does not imply a lack of commitment to the policy. To the contrary, such a fine-tuned approach suggests that significant effort has gone into determining the circumstances under which interest rate limitations are necessary for the protection of Californians." View "G Companies Management, LLC v. LREP Arizona LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, California Courts of Appeal, Constitutional Law, Contracts