Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Hernandez v. Avera Queen of Peace Hosp.
This lawsuit centered around the termination of the employment of Dr. Sonia Hernandez by Avera Queen of Peace Hospital (Avera). Hernandez brought suit against Avera and multiple persons associated with the hospital for, inter alia, defamation and breach of contract. The circuit court dismissed several of Hernandez’s causes of action and, during the ensuing jury trial, entered judgment as a matter of law dismissing the defamation action. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Avera on the breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err (1) when it dismissed several of Hernandez’s claims against Avera and the additional parties, and (2) when it dismissed Hernandez’s defamation claim during trial. View "Hernandez v. Avera Queen of Peace Hosp." on Justia Law
CommScope Credit Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP
CommScope Credit Union (Plaintiff), a state-chartered credit union, hired Butler & Burke, LLP (Defendant), a certified public accounting firm, to conduct annual independent audits of its financial statements. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and professional malpractice. Defendant pleaded seven affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence and in pari delicto. The trial court subsequently granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the specific allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint were sufficient to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, and (2) Defendant’s affirmative defenses would not entitle Defendant to dismissal at this stage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s allegations did not establish that Defendant owed it a fiduciary duty in fact, and therefore, the trial court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim; and (2) the members of the Court are equally divided on whether the facts alleged in the complaint established the defenses of contributory negligence and in pari delicto, and therefore, the court of appeals’ decision on this issue is left undisturbed. View "CommScope Credit Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP" on Justia Law
Mills v. AAA Northern CA, NV and Utah Ins. Exch.
Defendant insurance company denied uninsured motorist coverage to a third party beneficiary injured in an automobile accident because it had cancelled the policy before the accident occurred. The third party sued, and the insurer sought summary judgment. The third party opposed, contending the cancellation was invalid because a written notice seeking information sent by the insurer to the insureds prior to cancellation was unreasonable as a matter of law, and disputed facts existed as to whether the insurer had mailed the notice of cancellation and actually cancelled the policy. The trial court granted summary judgment, and finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Mills v. AAA Northern CA, NV and Utah Ins. Exch." on Justia Law
Folsom v. Livingston
David and Alana Folsom filed a complaint against Eagle’s Rest, LLC and the City of Livingston claiming breach of contract, negligence, unjust enrichment, and quantum meruit. After a jury trial, the district court entered judgment specifying that plaintiffs recovered nothing from Eagle’s Rest but awarding damages as to Livingston. The court also awarded attorney fees to the Folsoms as the prevailing party. The Folsoms appealed, and Livingston cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the district court (1) did not err by excluding expert testimony of a professional appraiser; (2) did not err in excluding David Folsom’s expert testimony at trial; (3) properly instructed the jury regarding unjust enrichment; (4) erred by awarding negligence damages to the Folsoms; and (5) abused its discretion by awarding essentially all of the attorney fees incurred by the Folsoms. View "Folsom v. Livingston" on Justia Law
In Re Viking Pump, Inc. and Warren Pumps, LLC Insurance Appeals
Viking Pump, Inc. and Warren Pumps, LLC sought to recover under insurance policies issued to a third company, Houdaille Industries, Inc. In the 1980's, Viking and Warren acquired pump manufacturing businesses from Houdaille. As a result, Viking and Warren were confronted with potential liability flowing from personal injury claims made by plaintiffs alleging damages in connection with asbestos exposure claims dating back to when the pump manufacturing businesses were owned by Houdaille. Houdaille had purchased occurrence-based primary and umbrella insurance from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. Above the Liberty umbrella layer, Houdaille purchased layers of excess insurance. In total, Houdaille purchased 35 excess policies through 20 different carriers (the "Excess Policies"). Viking and Warren sought to fund the liabilities arising from the Houdaille-Era Claims using the comprehensive insurance program originally purchased by Houdaille. The insurance companies that issued the Excess Policies (the "Excess Insurers") contended that Viking and Warren were not entitled to use the Excess Policies to respond to the claims. The Excess Insurers also disputed the extent of any coverage available, particularly with respect to defense costs. The Supreme Court held, after careful consideration of the policies at issue: (1) the Superior Court correctly held that the 1980-1985 Liberty Primary Policies were exhausted; (2) the Superior Court held that 33 of the Excess Policies at issue in this appeal provided coverage to Viking and Warren for their defense costs, with many payments contingent on insurer consent; (3) the Court of Chancery correctly held that there were valid assignments of insurance rights to Warren and Viking under the Excess Policies; (4) the Superior Court was affirmed in part and reversed in part with respect to its determination of the Excess Policies' coverage for defense costs; and (5) the Superior Court erred with respect to the trigger of coverage under the Excess Policies. View "In Re Viking Pump, Inc. and Warren Pumps, LLC Insurance Appeals" on Justia Law
Nutt v. United States
Nutt was hit and killed by a U.S. Army soldier driving an Army truck in 1983. His family filed a claim under 28 U.S.C. 2674, the Federal Tort Claims Act. A 1985 Agreement provided that the government “agrees to purchase annuities which will pay:” $60,000 per year to Cynthia; lump-sum payments on specified anniversaries to Cynthia; lump-sum payments on specified anniversaries to James; plus $240,000 to Cynthia and a payment to the Nutts’ attorneys. The Agreement provided that “[t]he payments by the United States set forth above shall operate as full and complete discharge of all payments to be made to and of all claims which might be asserted.” The government purchased a structured annuity ELNY. ELNY went into receivership in 1991. In 2011, the New York State Liquidation Bureau informed the Nutts that their benefit payments would be reduced. In 2013, they began receiving payments reduced to approximately 45% of their expected benefits. They were informed that, as of 2015, they would not be receiving the anniversary payments. The Nutts alleged breach of the agreement. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal, finding that the government “was not obligated to guarantee or insure that annuity; its obligation ended at the initial purchase of the ELNY annuity.” View "Nutt v. United States" on Justia Law
Holiday Motor Corp. v. Walters
Shannon Walters sustained serious injuries when her 1995 Mazda Miata convertible overturned while she was driving it with the soft top closed. Walters filed negligence and breach of implied warranty of merchantability claims against Mazda Motor Corporation and Mazda Motor of American, Inc. (collectively, Mazda), arguing that the soft top’s latching system was defective and that she was injured after the windshield headed disconnected from the top and collapsed into the occupant compartment. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Walters. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Mazda had no legally recognized duty to design or supply a soft top that provided occupant protection in a rollover crash; and (2) the opinion offered by Walters’ expert that the Mada Miata latching system was defectively designed lacked an adequate foundation, and therefore, the circuit court abused its discretion in admitting it. Final judgment entered for Mazda. View "Holiday Motor Corp. v. Walters" on Justia Law
Arceneaux v Amstar Corp.
The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was whether the duty to defend in long latency disease cases could be prorated between an insurer and its insured when occurrence-based policies provide coverage for only a portion of the time during which exposure occurred. In the underlying Arceneaux suit, plaintiffs alleged that they suffered hearing loss from exposure to unreasonably loud noise in the course of their work at American Sugar’s refinery in Arabi, Louisiana. Two sets of plaintiffs, the Barbe plaintiffs and the Waguespack plaintiffs, filed suit against American Sugar in 2006. These suits were consolidated with the Arceneaux action, which was filed in 1999 against American Sugar’s predecessor, Tate & Lyle North American Sugars, Inc. This opinion concerned only the Barbe and Waguespack plaintiffs, and not the Arceneaux plaintiffs whose claims had been litigated extensively in the trial court, the court of appeal, and the Louisiana Supreme Court. Continental Casualty Company argued that defense costs should have been prorated among insurers and the insured if there were periods of non-coverage. American Sugar Refining, Inc. claimed that the duty to defend as agreed upon in the policy provided for a complete defense so long as the duty to defend attached, even if some claims fell outside of coverage. The Supreme Court held that the duty to defend should have been prorated in this case based upon policy language. View "Arceneaux v Amstar Corp." on Justia Law
Wagner v. MSE Technology Applications, Inc.
Chris Wagner sued MSE Technology Applications, Inc. and related MSE entities (collectively, the MSE entities) and Butte Local Development Corporation (BLDC), alleging that they had improperly interfered with his attempt to purchase certain property to establish a commercial nursery. Plaintiff later amended his complaint to add Shea Relators as a defendant. The district court dismissed Wagner’s claims at trial pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 50. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) did not err in granting judgment as a matter of law to the MSE entities and BLDC; but (2) erred in granting Shea Realtors summary judgment and judgment as a matter of law. Remanded. View "Wagner v. MSE Technology Applications, Inc." on Justia Law
Flint Hills Resources Alaska, LLC v. Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc.
Williams Alaska Petroleum owned the North Pole refinery until 2004. Williams knew that the then-unregulated chemical sulfolane was present in refinery property groundwater, but it did not know that the sulfolane had migrated off the refinery property via underground water flow. Flint Hills Resources Alaska bought the North Pole refinery from Williams in 2004 pursuant to a contract that contained detailed terms regarding environmental liabilities, indemnification, and damages caps. Almost immediately the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation informed Flint Hills that sulfolane was to be a regulated chemical and that Flint Hills needed to find the source of the sulfolane in the groundwater. The Department contacted Flint Hills again in 2006. Flint Hills’s environmental contractor repeatedly warned Flint Hills that sulfolane could be leaving the refinery property and that more work was necessary to ascertain the extent of the problem. In 2008, Flint Hills drilled perimeter wells and discovered the sulfolane was migrating beyond its property and had contaminated drinking water in North Pole. A North Pole resident sued Flint Hills and Williams, and Flint Hills cross-claimed against Williams for indemnification. After extensive motion practice the superior court dismissed all of Flint Hills’s claims against Williams as time-barred. Flint Hills appealed. After review, the Supreme Court held that the superior court correctly applied the contract’s damages cap provision, but concluded that the court erred in finding Flint Hills’s contractual indemnification claims and part of its statutory claims were time-barred. The Court also affirmed the court’s dismissal of Flint Hills’s equitable claims. View "Flint Hills Resources Alaska, LLC v. Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc." on Justia Law