Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Miller
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Ford Motor Credit Company, LLC failed to meet its evidentiary burden to show the existence of an arbitration agreement in this case surrounding a dispute over the unpaid balance on an automobile loan, holding that the circuit court erred.Ford Credit sued Ronald Miller for the alleged balance due on a loan. Miller asserted a class action counterclaim for unlawful debt collection practices, in response to which Ford Credit filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that Ford Credit failed to provide evidence that an arbitration agreement existed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the existence of an arbitration agreement between the parties had been established. View "Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Miller" on Justia Law
Angell v. GEICO Advantage Ins
Plaintiffs sued Defendants GEICO Advantage Insurance Company and its related entities. Each Plaintiff possessed a vehicle that was subject to a private passenger auto insurance policy with a different Defendant (collectively, the “Policies”). Each Plaintiff’s vehicle was involved in an auto collision while insured under one of the Policies. Plaintiffs sought to represent a class of insureds claiming that GEICO failed to fully compensate them for the total loss of their vehicles under their respective insurance policies. The district court held that Plaintiffs had standing to sue on behalf of the proposed class and subsequently granted class certification. GEICO appealed both holdings. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court wrote it is clear that each Plaintiff individually satisfies the less stringent class certification approach. Indeed, there is no dispute that each Plaintiff alleges that he or she has suffered some injury; the disagreement between the parties concerns how those injuries relate to those of the class. Further, the court wrote it disagreed with the contention that Plaintiffs have alleged three separate injuries. GEICO’s failure to remit any of the three Purchasing Fees amounts to the same harm—a breach of the Policies. The court also concluded that the strategic value of these claims’ waiver is considerably greater than their inherent worth. It was accordingly within the district court’s discretion to rule that Plaintiffs are adequate class representatives. Moreover, the court wrote that GEICO’s arguments against class certification for this claim largely track its arguments opposing certification of Plaintiffs’ other claims. The district court’s analysis meets the requisite rigor when read in the broader context of its decision. View "Angell v. GEICO Advantage Ins" on Justia Law
Benda v. Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court refusing to certify Appellant's case as a class action, holding that, based on the facts and circumstances of this case, the district court did not abuse its broad discretion.Appellant, a horse breeder and owner, brought this putative class action claiming that Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Inc. breached contracts governing the distribution of winnings among owners and breeders of successful horses. The district court ultimately denied certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's determination that Appellant was not an appropriate class representative and that certification was inappropriate. View "Benda v. Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Class Action, Contracts, Iowa Supreme Court
Eddlemon v. Bradley Universityx
In March 2020, Bradley University closed its campus and canceled in-person activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It canceled one week of classes as it migrated to remote learning. Bradley resumed classes virtually and offered remote activities and resources. The campus remained closed for the rest of the semester. Bradley never rescheduled the week of canceled classes; the Spring 2020 Semester was 14 weeks instead of the planned 15 weeks of classes listed in Bradley’s Catalog, which stated: “This catalog serves as a contract between a student and Bradley.” Full-time, on-campus students had paid $17,100 in tuition and an $85 activity fee. The University provided pro-rata refunds for room and board to students who were forced to leave on-campus housing but did not refund tuition or activity fees.Eddlemon filed a purported class action, alleging that Bradley breached an implied contract to provide 15 weeks of classes and on-campus activities, and, alternatively that the University’s retention of tuition and activity fees constituted unjust enrichment. The district court certified a “Tuition Class” and an “Activity Fee Class.” The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court did not conduct the rigorous analysis required by Rule 23 for class certification but repeatedly referred to Eddlemon’s allegations without addressing his proffered evidence or examining how he would prove his allegations with common evidence. View "Eddlemon v. Bradley Universityx" on Justia Law
Lowell Lundstrom, Jr. v. Watts Guerra LLP
Plaintiff filed suit against Homolka, Homolka P.A., Watts Guerra, and Watts, alleging he is owed (1) $10,000 per month as leasing payments from October 2015, the first month he stopped receiving payments, until the September 2017 settlement; (2) a promised $50,000 truck reimbursement; and (3) a $3.4 million bonus. The jury returned a unanimous verdict for Plaintiff, finding that Homolka breached the oral contract, acting as an agent of Homolka P.A. and Watts Guerra. The jury awarded $175,000 in compensatory damages with no prejudgment interest. The district court denied Watts Guerra’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. Watts Guerra and Plaintiff cross-appealed these rulings. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that it agreed with the district court that the jury reasonably found Watts Guerra liable on an ostensible agency theory for Homolka’s breaches of the contract underlying the jury’s award of $175,000 in compensatory damages. The court reasoned that in considering these issues, “we start with the assumption jurors fulfilled their obligation to decide the case correctly,” and “we defer second to the trial court, which has a far better sense of what the jury likely was thinking and also whether there is any injustice in allowing the verdict to stand.” Applying these deferential standards, the court wrote that it has no difficulty concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. The jury verdict awarding $175,000 compensatory damages was neither inadequate nor the product of an inappropriate compromise. View "Lowell Lundstrom, Jr. v. Watts Guerra LLP" on Justia Law
Christina Rynasko v. New York University
Plaintiff appealed the district court’s decision dismissing her claims against New York University (NYU) and declining to allow her to amend her complaint to add another plaintiff. Plaintiff s a parent of an adult student who attended New York University (NYU) (Defendant-Appellee) during the Spring 2020 semester—a semester during which NYU suspended its in-person operations and transitioned to remote instruction. Alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and other claims, Plaintiff brought a putative class action suit against NYU to partially recover the tuition and fees she paid for her daughter’s Spring 2020 semester. The district court granted NYU’s motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiff lacked standing and denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint to add a current NYU student as an additional plaintiff because it concluded that amendment would be futile. The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the district court correctly determined that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring her breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims because she has not alleged an injury-in-fact to herself, rather than to her daughter. The court held that Plaintiff fails to plausibly allege a claim for conversion. The court wrote that for these reasons, the district court properly dismissed her claims. However, the court concluded that amending the complaint to add a current student as plaintiff would not be futile. The student plaintiff plausibly alleged claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and money had and received that would survive a motion to dismiss. View "Christina Rynasko v. New York University" on Justia Law
Decker v. Star Financial Group Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting a motion to compel arbitration brought by Defendant Star Financial Group, Inc. in this class-action complaint alleging that Defendant collected improper overdraft fees, holding that Plaintiffs' account agreement did not allow Defendant to add an addendum to the terms and conditions of the account agreement.When Plaintiffs opened their checking account they assented to an account agreement detailing the terms and conditions of their relationship with Defendant. Before Plaintiffs brought this suit Defendant added an arbitration and no-class-action addendum to the terms and conditions of Plaintiffs' account agreement. When Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit Defendants cited the addendum and filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court granted the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs were not bound by the arbitration addendum to their account agreement because the account agreement's change-of-terms provision did not allow Plaintiff to add the addendum. View "Decker v. Star Financial Group Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Banking, Class Action, Contracts, Supreme Court of Indiana
McCutcheon v. Colgate-Palmolive Co.
Plaintiffs brought a class action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), arguing that Defendant Colgate-Palmolive Co. miscalculated residual annuities based on an erroneous interpretation of its retirement income plan and improperly used a pre-retirement mortality discount to calculate residual annuities, thereby working an impermissible forfeiture of benefits under ERISA. The district court granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs on these claims. Colgate appealed that order and the final judgment of the district court. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the text of the RAA is unambiguous and requires Colgate to calculate a member's residual annuity by subtracting the AE of LS from that member's winning annuity under Appendix C Section 2(b). Further, the court wrote that Colgate's "same-benefit" argument does not disturb our conclusion that the RAA's language is unambiguous. Because "unambiguous language in an ERISA plan must be interpreted and enforced in accordance with its plain meaning," the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the class Plaintiffs as to Error 1. View "McCutcheon v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law
Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co.
Lindenwood Female College (Lindenwood) asserted class action claims against its casualty insurer, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), alleging a wrongful denial of coverage for COVID-19 business interruption at its Missouri and Illinois properties. The district court granted Zurich’s motion to dismiss, finding no plausible allegation of coverage. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Lindenwood’s argument fails to identify an ambiguity. The court explained that in its view, no lay person—no reasonable insured—could look at the policy as a whole and fail to appreciate that the state-specific endorsements are intended to apply in the respective states. The references to Louisiana and other states are not mere titles; they serve to establish the structure of the policy as a whole. And it would simply make no sense to define a contamination exclusion with express reference to viral contamination in the main body of the policy only to wholly eliminate that same exclusion nationwide in a later endorsement that references an individual state. View "Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Mark Rossi v. Arch Insurance Company
Plaintiffs are three skiers who purchased an Ikon Pass for the 2019–20 ski season. Each pass provided purchasers with unlimited ski access at participating Ikon resorts in North America. Along with their Ikon Pass, Plaintiffs purchased an optional Ski Pass Preserver insurance policy from Arch. After Plaintiffs purchased their passes, state and local governments issued orders, colloquially called “stay-at-home orders,” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In response to these orders, ski resorts throughout North America closed with approximately one-third of the ski season remaining. Plaintiffs sought reimbursement for the loss of their ski pass benefits under the policy based on the Season Pass Interruption coverage. Arch denied their claims. The company took the position that the stay-at-home orders were not quarantines under the policy, later posting a “blanket denial” for such claims on its website. Plaintiffs filed one master consolidated class action complaint on behalf of themselves and a nationwide putative class of individuals who purchased the Ski Pass Preserver policy for the 2019–20 ski season. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege a covered loss because the term “quarantined,” as used in the policy, did not encompass stay-at-home orders that merely limited travel and activities. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the ordinary person at the time the Ski Pass Preserver policy was purchased would have understood “quarantined” to mean the compulsory isolation of the insured. Reading the policy as a whole, this is the only reasonable construction, and the court agreed with the district court that the policy language is unambiguous. View "Mark Rossi v. Arch Insurance Company" on Justia Law