Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that this case could not be adjudicated and dismissing the suit, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff, a foreign counterterrorism corporation, brought this lawsuit seeking an order freezing some of its Massachusetts assets based on allegations that a former government official misappropriated billions of dollars from the corporation. Defendants argued that the funds were lawfully received in connection with clandestine operations that were sometimes undertaken alongside the United States government. The United States government then asserted the state secrets privilege and successfully got state secrets and other information excluded from the case. The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that it could not examine the claims and defenses or award the preliminary equitable relief sought without weighing the privileged information and risking disclosure of state secrets. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that it was entitled to any of the relief it requested. View "Sakab Saudi Holding Co. v. Aljabri" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute regarding the excavation of lots located in the The Grove Subdivision between plaintiff Hidden Grove LLC (“Hidden Grove”), the developer of The Grove, and homeowner defendants Richard and Lisa Brauns (the Braunses). In 2011, the Braunses purchased a home located on Lot 14 of The Grove from a third party not involved in this litigation. The next day, the Braunses purchased Lot 15 from Hidden Grove for $100,000. They also acquired a right of first refusal to purchase Lots 16 and 17. The surface elevations of Lots 16 and 17 were eight feet higher than that of Lot 15. Because the Braunses intended to add on to their home and build a swimming pool on Lot 15, they sought to lower the elevation of Lots 16 and 17 to match the elevation of the lots previously purchased. Hidden Grove agreed the Braunses could lower the elevation of Lots 16 and 17, at their own expense. Before the parties executed a written agreement setting forth the engineering specifications for the excavation, work began in January 2013 on oral permission of Hidden Grove. In June 2013, after the excavation was near completion, disputes arose between the parties, specifically as to whether the Braunses were required to extend the retaining wall onto Lots 16 and 17. When Richard Brauns told Hidden Grove that the wall would terminate at the boundary of Lot 15 and 16, Hidden Grove ordered the Braunses to stop work and “get off the property.” Hidden Grove filed suit against the Braunses alleging breach of contract and requesting specific performance of concluding the excavation and construction of a retaining wall through the backs of Lots 16 and 17. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this matter to review the court of appeal’s determination that Hidden Grove could not assert a claim for enrichment without cause under Civil Code article 2298 for failure to establish the “no other remedy at law” element of the claim. The Court concluded the court of appeal erred and remanded the matter to the court of appeal for consideration of pretermitted issues. View "Hidden Grove, LLC v. Brauns" on Justia Law

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A building owner operates a building in Los Angeles with retail space on the ground floor and office space, storage units, and parking on the roof. In 2012, the owner contracted with Western Waterproofing Company, Inc. to remove the roof parking surface and recoat it. The owner filed the first suit on theories of breach of an express warranty against product failure and breaches of implied warranties. The owner alleged the entire coating was beginning to fail and demanded the company remove and replace it all rather than merely undertake a leak-by-leak repair. After a jury found the company that coated the roof was not at fault, the building owner sued a second time when more leaks appeared. The trial court rightly found claim preclusion barred the new lawsuit and granted summary judgment for the company.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court held that the owner should have brought all claims about the company’s installation in its first suit. The owner neither alleged nor presented evidence of a new or latent way the company’s work could have harmed the owner. The court explained that the second suit simply tried to relitigate a resolution the owner disliked and would prefer to escape. Claim preclusion bars this repetitive attack on finality. View "5th AND LA v. Western Waterproofing Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Ed Davis sued the City of Montevallo ("the City") claiming that the City was in breach of contract because, in terminating his employment with the City, it failed to follow certain discharge procedures set out in an employee handbook it had issued to him. The City responded by arguing it was not required to follow the handbook's procedures because Davis was an at-will employee. After entertaining motions for summary judgment from both sides, the trial court ruled in favor of the City. Davis appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the City. "The Handbook was an offer for a unilateral contract, which Davis accepted by continuing his employment with the City. Because the Handbook constitutes a unilateral contract, we reverse the trial court's denial of Davis's motion for partial summary judgment and direct the trial court on remand to determine whether, in fact, the City violated the Handbook's terms." View "Davis v. Montevallo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing certain defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the defendants' contacts were too attenuated for them to have purposefully established minimum contacts within Nebraska.The out-of-state defendants at issue on appeal facilitated the sale of allegedly defective software installed by a local mechanic in four of Plaintiff's trucks. Plaintiff asserted against them claims for strict liability, negligence, and breach of implied warranties. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiff failed to make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the quality and nature of the defendants' activities related to this action did not support personal jurisdiction. View "Wheelbarger v. Detroit Diesel ECM, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff enrolled in a Doctor of Education degree program at Grand Canyon University. Plaintiff claims that he did not complete his degree because, despite representing that students can finish the program in 60 credit hours, Grand Canyon makes that goal impossible with the aim of requiring students to take and pay for additional courses. Plaintiff also claims that he was not provided with the faculty support promised by Grand Canyon. According to Plaintiff Grand Canyon’s failure to provide dissertation support is designed to require students to take and pay for additional courses that would allow them to complete the dissertation. Plaintiff filed claims alleging breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment. He also asserted claims under the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The district court dismissed the complaint in its entirety with prejudice under Rule 12(b)(6).   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for violations of the ACFA, intentional misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment. The court reversed in part the dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court explained that though Grand Canyon did not contractually promise Plaintiff that he would earn a doctoral degree within 60 credit hours, he has plausibly alleged that it did agree to provide him with the faculty resources and guidance he needed to complete his dissertation. Insofar as he asserts that Grand Canyon promised and failed to meaningfully provide him with the faculty support necessary to complete his dissertation, he has sufficiently alleged breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Donrich Young v. Grand Canyon University, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Fourteen women (“Plaintiffs”) from seven states brought the present putative class action against Ashley Black and her companies (“Defendants”), alleging false and deceptive marketing practices. They take issue with various representations in Defendants’ ads about a product called the FasciaBlaster, a two-foot stick with hard prongs that is registered with the Food and Drug Administration as a massager. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety.  Plaintiffs appealed the order striking the class allegations and the dismissal of individual claims.   The Fifth Circuit found that the district court correctly struck Plaintiffs’ class allegations and properly dismissed all but two of their claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the district court. The court explained that it agreed with the district court that Plaintiffs’ allegations suffer from a combination of defects, including a failure to plead adequately what representations were actually made when those representations were made, who made the representations, and where those representations occurred.   However, the court reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ breach of express warranty under, respectively, California Consumer Code Sections 2313 & 10210, and Florida Statutes Sections 672.313 & 680.21. The court wrote that the district court did not apply the law of a specific jurisdiction when conducting its analysis. Plaintiffs on appeal cite various Fifth Circuit cases in addition to Texas and California state law precedents. Defendants proffer Fifth Circuit, California, and Florida precedents. Neither party, however, briefed what law should be applied to each claim. View "Elson v. Black" on Justia Law

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Defendants Eagle Crest Apartments, LLC, et al. appealed a judgment awarding UMB Bank N.A. more than $21 million in an action for breach of contract, foreclosure, fraudulent transfers, and deceit. The Defendants raised a number of issues on appeal. The North Dakota limited review to the issues raised in defendants' motion for a new trial, and concluded the district court did not err when it entered a deficiency judgment and pierced the Defendants’ corporate veils. View "UMB Bank N.A. v. Eagle Crest Apartments, et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal arises out of an insurance dispute involving a yacht, the Serendipity, that was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, that slammed into Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Serendipity at Sea, LLC (“Serendipity, LLC”), a holding company created by M.S. and J.E. (“the Managers”) to manage the Serendipity, sued Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London Subscribing to Policy Number 187581 (“Lloyd’s”) for breach of contract after Lloyd’s denied the the Managers insurance claim for the damage Hurricane Dorian caused to the Serendipity. In denying that it had breached the contract, Lloyd’s argued that it was not liable because Serendipity, LLC did not employ a full-time licensed captain in violation of the policy’s Captain Warranty, and that the breach increased the hazard to the yacht because a licensed captain would have operated the vessel back to Florida when Hurricane Dorian formed and was forecast to hit the Bahamas.   The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Lloyd’s. It found that the Captain Warranty was unambiguous; that Serendipity, LLC breached the agreement by failing to hire a full-time licensed captain; and that the breach increased the hazard posed to the Serendipity based on the purportedly undisputed testimony of an expert hired by Lloyd’s. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Lloyd’s and remanded. The court explained that while it agreed with the district court’s conclusion that Serendipity, LLC breached the Captain Warranty, a disputed question of material fact remains about whether the breach increased the hazard posed to the vessel. View "Serendipity at Sea, LLC v. Underwriters at Lloyd's of London Subscribing to Policy Number 187581" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging contract claims against Defendant, holding that Plaintiff insufficiently pled that her claims met the amount in controversy required by 28 U.S.C. 1332(a).Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island asserting diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff asserted claims for breach of contract, breach of implied warranty, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, alleging that her claims exceeded the statutory amount-in-controversy requirement. The district court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff did not meet her burden of establishing the amount in controversy required for diversity jurisdiction. View "Andersen v. Vagaro, Inc." on Justia Law