Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
AJZ Hauling, LLC v. TruNorth Warranty Program of N. America
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in this second lawsuit brought by AJZ's Hauling, LLC against TruNorth Warranty Programs of North American (TruNorth) affirming the decision of the trial court denying TruNorth's motion to stay and compel arbitration, holding that the claims filed by AJZ's Hauling against TruNorth were subject to arbitration.AJZ's Hauling purchased a truck that came with a TruNorth warranty. AJZ's Hauling later sued TruNorth, and the trial court granted TruNorth's motion to stay the proceedings and to compel arbitration. AJZ's then filed a second lawsuit raising the same claims it had alleged against TruNorth in the first lawsuit. TruNorth again filed a motion to stay and to compel arbitration, which the trial court denied. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that application of the doctrine of res judicata would be unreasonable or unjust. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) AJZ's Hauling's claims filed against TruNorth in the second lawsuit were subject to arbitration; and (2) an exception to application of the doctrine of res judicata to avoid unjust results does not apply when the parties had a full opportunity to litigate the issue and chose not to do so. View "AJZ Hauling, LLC v. TruNorth Warranty Program of N. America" on Justia Law
Hagey v. Solar Service Experts
Plaintiff Phil Hagey appealed a judgment of dismissal entered following the sustaining of a demurrer to his second amended complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff owned a home with a solar energy system (the system). At the time he purchased the home, the prior homeowner was party to a contract with a company, Kilowatt Systems, LLC (Kilowatt), which owned the system (the solar agreement). Among other terms, the solar agreement required the prior homeowner to purchase the energy produced by the system through monthly payments to Kilowatt. In the event of a sale of the house, the solar agreement afforded the prior homeowner three options. The prior homeowner and plaintiff agreed to an option which allowed prepayment of all remaining monthly payments and a transfer of all solar agreement rights and obligations to plaintiff, except for the monthly payment responsibility. In conjunction with the sale of the house, prepayment occurred and the parties entered into the requisite transfer agreement. At some later point in time, defendant Solar Service Experts, LLC began sending plaintiff monthly bills on Kilowatt’s behalf, demanding payments pursuant to the solar agreement. After receiving a bill, plaintiff spoke to a representative of defendant who told him he should not have received the bill and the issue would be resolved. Plaintiff received additional bills and at least one late payment notice which identified defendant as a debt collector. Plaintiff communicated with defendant’s representatives about the errors by phone and email, all to no avail. Plaintiff thereafter filed a class action lawsuit against defendant. The trial court concluded plaintiff did not, and could not, allege facts sufficient to constitute a consumer credit transaction, as statutorily defined. Plaintiff argued the court erroneously focused on the undisputed fact he did not owe the debt which defendant sought to collect and, in doing so, failed to recognize the Rosenthal Act applied to debt alleged to be due or owing by reason of a consumer credit transaction. To this the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the judgment. View "Hagey v. Solar Service Experts" on Justia Law
Allstate Insurance Co. v. Fougere
The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of Allstate Insurance Company and dismissing the counterclaims brought by two of Allstate's former agents - James Fougere and Sarah Brody-Isbill - and A Better Insurance Agency, Inc. (ABIA) (collectively, Appellants), holding that there was no error.At issue in the underlying case were spreadsheets that Allstate alleged contained trade secrets misappropriated by Brody-Isbill and Fougere, thus breaching their contracts with Allstate. Allstate filed suit alleging claims for, among other things, breach of contract and trade secrets, violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 28 U.S.C. 1836. Appellants counterclaimed, alleging claims for, inter alia, wrongful interference with contractual relations and violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. The district court granted summary judgment for Allstate and dismissed Appellants' counterclaims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in dismissing Appellants' counterclaims; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in granting summary judgment to Allstate on liability for its trade secret and contract claims against Appellants. View "Allstate Insurance Co. v. Fougere" on Justia Law
Sanders v. Savannah Highway Automotive Company
Petitioners Rick Hendrick Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram (Rick Hendrick Dodge) and Isiah White argued an arbitrator had to decide whether they could enforce an arbitration provision in a contract even after that contract had been assigned to a third party. The court of appeals rejected this argument and affirmed the circuit court's determinations that: (1) the circuit court was the proper forum for deciding the gateway question of whether the dispute is arbitrable; and (2) Petitioners could not compel arbitration because Rick Hendrick Dodge assigned the contract to a third party. The South Carolina Supreme Court held that the doctrine announced in Prima Paint Corp. v. Flood & Conklin Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 395 (1967) required the arbitrator to decide whether the assignment extinguished Petitioners' right to compel arbitration. Therefore, the Court reversed the court of appeals' decision and vacated the circuit court's discovery order. View "Sanders v. Savannah Highway Automotive Company" on Justia Law
Hoosier Contractors, LLC v. Gardner
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court denying Hoosier Contractors, LLC's motion for summary judgment, denying Sean Gardner's motion for partial summary judgment, and denying Hoosier's motion to decertify a class of Hoosier's similarly situated customers, holding that Gardner, on behalf of himself and as class representative, lacked standing to bring his counterclaim against Hoosier.When Gardner asked Hoosier to inspect the roof of his home Hoosier made Gardner sign a contract for Hoosier to perform any needed work. When Gardner refused to let Hoosier repair his roof Hoosier brought this action for breach of contract. Gardner filed a counterclaim, on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated customers, alleging that the contract violated the Indiana Home Improvement Contractors Act and that the violations were deceptive acts under the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. The Supreme Court held (1) Gardner lacked standing to bring his counterclaim against Hoosier, and this disposition mooted the class-action issues; and (2) the court of appeals properly affirmed the denial of Gardner's motion for partial summary judgment as to Hoosier's breach of contract claim. View "Hoosier Contractors, LLC v. Gardner" on Justia Law
Dinerstein v. Google, LLC
Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center collaborated to develop software capable of anticipating patients’ future healthcare needs. The University delivered several years of anonymized patient medical records to Google, to “train” the software’s algorithms. An agreement restricted Google’s use of the records to specific research-related activities and prohibited Google from attempting to identify any patient whose records were disclosed. Dinerstein sued on behalf of himself and a class of other patients whose anonymized records were disclosed, claiming that the University had breached either an express or an implied contract traceable to a privacy notice he received and an authorization he signed upon each admission to the Medical Center. Alternatively, he asserted unjust enrichment. Citing the same notice and authorization, he alleged that the University had breached its promise of patient confidentiality, violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Against Google, he claimed unjust enrichment and tortious interference with his contract with the University. He brought a privacy claim based on intrusion upon seclusion.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. To sue in federal court, a plaintiff must plausibly allege (and later prove) that he has suffered an injury in fact that is concrete and particularized, actual or imminent, and traceable to the defendant’s conduct. The injuries Dinerstein alleges lack plausibility, concreteness, or imminence (or some combination of the three). View "Dinerstein v. Google, LLC" on Justia Law
Rosenberg-Wohl v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.
Rosenberg-Wohl had a State Farm homeowners insurance policy, covering her San Francisco home. The policy required lawsuits to be “started within one year after the date of loss or damage.” In late 2018 or early 2019, Rosenberg-Wohl noticed that an elderly neighbor twice stumbled on Rosenberg-Wohl’s outside staircase and learned that the pitch of the stairs had changed. The staircase needed to be replaced. In April 2019, Rosenberg-Wohl authorized the work and contacted State Farm. On August 9, she submitted a claim for the money she had spent. On August 26, State Farm denied the claim. Rosenberg-Wohl’s husband, an attorney, later contacted State Farm “to see if anything could be done.” In August 2020 a State Farm adjuster said it had reopened the claim. Days later, it was denied.In October 2020, Rosenberg-Wohl filed suit, alleging breach of the policy and bad faith. That lawsuit was removed to federal court and was dismissed based on the one-year limitation provision. It is currently on appeal. Another action alleges a violation of California’s unfair competition law. The California court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of that suit, rejecting arguments that the one-year limitation provision does not apply to the unfair competition claim, and that State Farm waived the limitation provision. View "Rosenberg-Wohl v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Resmini v. Verizon New England Inc.
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting Verizon New England Inc.'s motion to dismiss this complaint related to a billing dispute over a particular telephone service contract, holding that the hearing justice erred in granting Defendant's motion to dismiss, which had been converted sub silentio to a motion for summary judgment.Plaintiff filed a complaint against Verizon alleging false representation and breach of contract stemming from a billing dispute. Verizon filed a motion to dismiss under Sup. Ct. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The hearing justice dismissed Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety with prejudice. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that that issues of genuine material fact existed precluding summary judgment. View "Resmini v. Verizon New England Inc." on Justia Law
Andrez Marquez, et al v. Amazon.com, Inc.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) stopped providing “Rapid Delivery”1 to Amazon Prime (“Prime”) subscribers. Because Prime subscribers were not notified of the suspension and continued to pay full price for their memberships, Plaintiff and others brought a putative class action against Amazon alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (“WCPA”), and unjust enrichment. The district court granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim with prejudice because it found that Amazon did not have a duty to provide unqualified Rapid Delivery to Prime subscribers. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court first wrote that it is allowed to use its “experience and common sense” to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic even though it was not included as a factual allegation in the First Amended Complaint. The court dispensed with this argument because Amazon’s prioritization of essential goods during the COVID-19 pandemic obviously did not harm the public interest. Further, the court explained that Plaintiffs specifically incorporated the terms of their contract with Amazon as part of their unjust enrichment count. So, while Plaintiffs may plead breach of contract and unjust enrichment in the alternative, they have not done so. Instead, Plaintiffs pleaded a contractual relationship as part of their unjust enrichment claim, and that contractual relationship defeats their unjust enrichment claim under Washington law. View "Andrez Marquez, et al v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law
State ex rel. West Virginia-American Water Co. v. Honorable Webster
In a putative class action involving a water main break the Supreme Court denied a requested writ of prohibition sought by West Virginia-American Water Company (WVAWC) to preclude enforcement of the circuit court's order certifying an "issues" class pursuant to W. Va. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(4), holding that WVAWC failed to demonstrate that the circuit court's class certification was clearly erroneous.The water break in this case and its ensuing repair resulted in water service interruptions that caused outages, inadequate water pressure, and boil water advisories affecting 25,000 WVAWC customers. Respondents filed this putative class complaint on behalf of the putative class asserting breach of contract and other claims. The circuit court certified the "issues" class to determine "the overarching common issues" as to WVAWC's liability, resulting in WVAWC bringing this action. The Supreme Court denied the requested writ of prohibition, holding that WVAWC failed to demonstrate that the circuit court's class certification was clearly erroneous. View "State ex rel. West Virginia-American Water Co. v. Honorable Webster" on Justia Law