Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Constitutional Law
American Precision v. Mineral Wells
This case involves a dispute between American Precision Ammunition, L.L.C. (APA) and the City of Mineral Wells in Texas. APA and the City entered into a Tax Abatement Agreement ("Agreement") where the City promised to gift APA $150,000 and provide APA ten years of tax abatements. However, the City terminated the Agreement, claiming that the $150,000 gift was illegal under the Texas Constitution. APA sued the City for breach of contract, violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA), and denial of federal due process and due course of law under the Texas Constitution. The district court dismissed all claims, and APA appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. It held that the Agreement was illegal and unenforceable under Texas law because the City's contractual obligation to "gift" APA $150,000 constitutes a gratuitous payment of public money. The court also dismissed APA's TOMA claim as moot because there was no "agreement" to reinstate given that the Agreement was unenforceable. Furthermore, the court found that APA's due process claims failed because the promise for the $150,000 gift was void and did not constitute a contract, and therefore, APA had no protected property interest in the gift. Even assuming that APA had a property interest in the tax abatements, the court held that APA's due process and due course of law claims still fail because Texas law affords APA sufficient opportunity to pursue that claim in state court. View "American Precision v. Mineral Wells" on Justia Law
Khan v. Yale Univ.
Plaintiff appealed from a partial final judgment of the district court dismissing his Connecticut state law claims for defamation and tortious interference with contract against Defendant, who accused Plaintiff of sexual assault in 2015 while the two were students at Yale University. Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in finding (1) Defendant to enjoy absolute quasi-judicial immunity for statements made at the 2018 Yale disciplinary hearing that resulted in Plaintiff’s expulsion from the university and (2) Plaintiff’s tortious interference claims based on Defendant’s original 2015 accusations to be untimely. On preliminary review, the Second Circuit was unable to determine whether Connecticut would recognize the Yale disciplinary hearing at issue as a quasi-judicial proceeding supporting absolute immunity in this case. Accordingly, the court certified questions pertinent to that determination to the Connecticut Supreme Court. That court responded that absolute immunity does not apply in this case because Yale’s disciplinary hearing was not a quasi-judicial proceeding in that it lacked procedural safeguards associated with judicial proceedings. In response, The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The court explained that while the Connecticut Supreme Court recognized the possibility for participants in such a hearing to be shielded by qualified immunity, the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that Defendant is not presently entitled to dismissal on that ground because Plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently pleads the malice necessary to defeat such immunity. With this guidance as to Connecticut law, the court concluded on this appeal that Plaintiff’s complaint should not have been dismissed against Defendant except as to his tortious interference claim based on 2015 statements, which is untimely. View "Khan v. Yale Univ." on Justia Law
BioCorRx, Inc. v. VDM Biochemicals, Inc.
BioCorRx, Inc. (BioCorRx) was a publicly traded company primarily engaged in the business of providing addiction treatment services and related medication. It issued several press releases that allegedly made misrepresentations and improperly disclosed confidential information about a treatment it was developing for opioid overdose. VDM Biochemicals, Inc. (VDM) specializes in the synthesis and distribution of chemicals, reagents, and other specialty products for life science research. It owned a patent (the patent) for VDM-001, a compound with potential use as a treatment for opioid overdose. In September 2018, VDM and BioCorRx entered into a Mutual Nondisclosure & Confidentiality Agreement (the NDA), which restricted each party’s disclosure of confidential information as they discussed forming a business relationship. A month later, VDM and BioCorRx signed a Letter of Intent to Enter Definitive Agreement to Acquire Stake in Intellectual Property (the letter of intent). The letter of intent memorialized the parties’ shared desire whereby BioCorRx would partner with VDM to develop and commercialize VDM-001. BioCorRx and VDM never signed a formal contract concerning VDM-001. Their relationship eventually soured. BioCorRx filed a complaint (the complaint) against VDM; VDM cross-complained. In response, BioCorRx filed the anti-SLAPP motion at issue here, seeking to strike all the allegations from the cross-complaint concerning the press releases. The Court of Appeal found these statements fell within the commercial speech exemption of California's Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute) because they were representations about BioCorRx’s business operations that were made to investors to promote its goods and services through the sale of its securities. Since these statements were not protected by the anti-SLAPP statute, the Court reversed the part of the trial court’s order granting the anti-SLAPP motion as to the press releases. The Court affirmed the unchallenged portion of the order striking unrelated allegations. View "BioCorRx, Inc. v. VDM Biochemicals, Inc." on Justia Law
Elijah Wells v. Creighton Preparatory School
Creighton Preparatory School expelled Plaintiff after he made lewd remarks about a teacher. Plaintiff sued Creighton under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 on the theory that the school had discriminated against him by failing to perform an “adequate and impartial investigation.” The district court granted Creighton’s motion to dismiss. It first dismissed the Title IX claim because Plaintiff had failed to “allege [that] his sex played any part in the disciplinary process at all.” Then, with the federal question gone, it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff does not allege that Creighton faced external pressure to punish male students, much less gave in by expelling him. The court reasoned that without an allegation of that kind, the complaint fails to plausibly allege the sort of “causal connection between the flawed outcome and gender bias” required to make an erroneous outcome theory work.Further, the court wrote that treating men and women differently can support an inference of sex discrimination, but it requires identifying a similarly situated member of the opposite sex who has been “treated more favorably.” For Plaintiff, he had to find “a female accused of sexual harassment” who received better treatment. There are no female students at Creighton, an all-boys school, let alone any who have faced sexual-misconduct allegations. The court explained that to the extent that Plaintiff argues that believing them over him raises an inference of discrimination, there is nothing alleged that the school did so because of his sex. View "Elijah Wells v. Creighton Preparatory School" on Justia Law
Davis Boat Manufacturing-Nordic, Inc. v. Smith
Plaintiff Davis Boat Manufacturing-Nordic, Inc. (Davis Boat), which prevailed in a breach-of-contract action against Defendant applied for an order to sell Defendant’s home. The Stanislaus County Superior Court denied the application on the basis of Code of Civil Procedure section 699.730, a recently added statute that prohibits the forced sale of a judgment debtor’s principal place of residence to satisfy a “consumer debt” except under certain circumstances. The Fifth Appellate affirmed. The court rejected Davis Boat’s assertions on appeal and held that the definition of “consumer debt” in section 669.730 is not latently ambiguous, and that section 669.730 neither violates the contract nor the equal protection clauses of the federal and state Constitutions. The court explained that section 699.730, subdivision (a) defines “consumer debt” as “debt incurred by an individual primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.” Thus, a debt incurred for business or commercial reasons would not be a debt incurred for “personal, family, or household purposes.” The court wrote that notwithstanding the plain meaning of the statute, Davis Boat suggests “consumer debt” is latently ambiguous. The court reasoned that it does not believe that the purpose of Assembly Bill No. 2463 is frustrated simply because the language approved by the Legislature means debt incurred by an individual primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.” Moreover, the court wrote that it cannot deem a statutory exemption that allows financial institutions to force the sale of a judgment debtor’s principal place of residence to satisfy a high-priced debt “so devoid of even minimal rationality that it is unconstitutional as a matter of equal protection. View "Davis Boat Manufacturing-Nordic, Inc. v. Smith" on Justia Law
Langston Austin, et al. v. Glynn County, Georgia, et al.
Plaintiffs worked as detention officers for Glynn County under Sheriff Jump’s supervision. Although it is unclear from the record whether the Officers are formally deputy sheriffs, it is undisputed that they are, at minimum, direct employees of Sheriff Jump, in his official capacity, akin to deputies. The Officers brought a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action alleging that the County “illegally calculated their and other detention officers’ overtime wages.” The County moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. In response, the Officers amended their complaint to include Sheriff Jump in his individual capacity. The County and Sheriff Jump then moved to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, arguing that neither defendant was the Officers’ employer under the FLSA. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed both the district court’s denial of the Officers’ motion for leave to amend and its ultimate dismissal of the amended complaint. The court held that the district court correctly dismissed the Officers’ complaint against Sheriff Jump in his individual capacity because he is not an “employer” under the FLSA. Further, the court agreed with the district court that Sheriff Jump would be entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity when making compensation decisions for his employees. Further, the court held that Georgia “retained its Eleventh Amendment immunity” from suits in federal court for breach-of-contract claims because no statute or constitutional provision “expressly consents to suits in federal court. View "Langston Austin, et al. v. Glynn County, Georgia, et al." on Justia Law
Li v. Jenkins
Plaintiff sued defendants Jeff Jenkins, Jeff Jenkins Productions, LLC, and Bongo, LLC, for breach of contract and eight other causes of action. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged she conceived the idea for and worked to develop and coproduce a popular television program that came to be known as Bling Empire on Netflix. In the spring of 2018, Plaintiff presented the idea for the program to Defendant Jenkins during a series of discussions, and she gave Jenkins written development material concerning the program. Plaintiff alleged causes of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement, and other claims. Defendants responded with an anti-SLAPP motion. The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s order denying Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion to strike Plaintiff’s complaint. The court concluded that adhering to the two-part test announced in FilmOn.com Inc. v. DoubleVerify Inc. (2019) 7 Cal.5th 133 (FilmOn), that while the creation of a television show is an exercise of constitutionally protected expression, in this case, there is no “functional relationship” between the activity challenged in the complaint and the issue of public interest, as required by FilmOn. Further, the court wrote that the conduct challenged, while it “implicates” a public issue, does not “contribute to public discussion of that issue” Consequently, Defendants’ activity excluding Plaintiff and failing to compensate her was not undertaken “in furtherance of free speech ‘in connection with’ an issue of public interest.” View "Li v. Jenkins" on Justia Law
Tilsen v. Benson
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dissolving Plaintiff's marriage to Defendant, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.At issue in this case was the extent to which a Connecticut court may enforce the terms of a "ketubah," a contract governing marriage under Jewish law. The trial court in this case denied Plaintiff's motion to enforce the terms of the parties' ketubah as a prenuptial agreement on the ground that doing so would be a violation of the First Amendment to the United States constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly denied Plaintiff's motion to enforce the ketubah; and (2) the trial court's alimony order, considered in light of Plaintiff's net earning capacity, was not an abuse of discretion. View "Tilsen v. Benson" on Justia Law
Herndon v. City of Sandpoint
This case stemmed from a 2019 lease by Respondents the City of Sandpoint (“the City”) to The Festival at Sandpoint (“The Festival”), a nonprofit corporation, to operate a multi-day music concert series in War Memorial Field Park. The Festival had a long-standing policy of prohibiting festival patrons from bringing weapons, including firearms, into the event. On August 9, 2019, Scott Herndon and Jeff Avery purchased tickets to the festival and attempted to enter. Avery openly carried a firearm and Herndon possessed a firearm either on his person or in a bag (the record was unclear on this point). Security personnel for the event denied entry to both. After discussions with a City police officer and the City’s attorney, who was coincidentally attending the same event in his private capacity, Herndon and Avery eventually left the music festival and received a refund for their tickets. Appellants Herndon, Avery, the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, Inc., and the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc. subsequently sued the City and The Festival, asserting several claims, including seeking injunctive relief prohibiting the Respondents from violating the Idaho and United States Constitutions, particularly the Second Amendment and the Idaho Constitution’s provision securing the right to keep and bear arms in public for all lawful purposes. The district court ultimately granted the Respondents’ motions for summary judgment, awarded both the City and The Festival attorney fees and costs, and dismissed all the Appellants’ claims with prejudice. The issue raised on appeal was whether a private party who leased public property from a municipality may govern those who come and go from the property during the lease. The Idaho Supreme Court responded in the affirmative, and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Herndon v. City of Sandpoint" on Justia Law
Singh v. Uber Technologies, Inc
Current or former Uber drivers from different states agreed to Uber’s “Technology Services Agreement” as a condition of using Uber’s platform. The agreement requires drivers to resolve disputes with Uber on an individual basis through final and binding arbitration. Drivers may opt-out by sending Uber an email or letter. Singh’s class action alleged Uber had violated New Jersey wage and hour laws by misclassifying drivers as independent contractors, failing to pay them the minimum wage, and failing to reimburse them for business expenses. Calabrese’s class action, which was joined to Singh’s, sought to proceed collectively under the Fair Labor Standards Act.The district court ruled in Uber’s favor, compelling arbitration, having defined the relevant class as Uber drivers nationwide. The court found that interstate "rides constitute just 2% of all rides, resemble in character the other 98% of rides, and likely occur due to the happenstance of geography” for purposes of the exception in the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) for arbitration agreements contained in the “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce,” 9 U.S.C. 1. The Third Circuit affirmed. The drivers' work is centered on local transportation. Most Uber drivers have never made an interstate trip. When Uber drivers do cross state lines, they do so only incidentally. They are not “engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” View "Singh v. Uber Technologies, Inc" on Justia Law