Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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This litigation arose from a suit filed by plaintiff Beverly Smith against Darlene Shelmire and her insurer, GoAuto Insurance Company (“GoAuto”), as a result of an automobile accident in 2010. In 2015, following a trial on the merits, the district court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff against Shelmire and GoAuto in an amount in excess of the insurance policy limits. GoAuto appealed that judgment, but Shelmire did not. The court of appeal ultimately affirmed the district court’s judgment in March 2016. Thereafter, Shelmire assigned her rights to pursue a bad faith action against GoAuto to Smith. Through that assignment of rights, Smith filed the underlying suit against GoAuto on March 10, 2017, and amended her petition on September 27, 2017, asserting a bad faith claim based on GoAuto’s violation of its duties under La. R.S. 22:1973(A) as well as the recognized duty of good faith pre-existing the statute. GoAuto answered the petitions, asserting the prescriptive period for a bad faith claim against an insurer was a delictual action, and subject to a one-year prescriptive period. Plaintiff opposed the exception arguing a bad faith claim against an insurer was a contractual action and subject to a ten-year prescriptive period. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application to determine whether a first-party bad faith claim against an insurer was indeed a delictual action subject to a one-year prescriptive period, or whether it was a contractual claim subject to a ten-year prescriptive period. Finding the bad faith claim arose as a result of the insured’s contractual relationship with the insurer, the Court held it was subject to a 10-year prescriptive period. View "Smith vs. Citadel Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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This case concerned a disagreement over a claim for flood damage submitted by Plaintiff-Respondent Creekstone/Juban I, LLC (“Creekstone”), a Delaware limited liability company, under a commercial property and casualty insurance policy issued by Defendant-Appellant XL Insurance America, Inc. (“XL Insurance”), a Delaware corporation. The Policy was issued to named insured MRMG Commercial and delivered to MRMG Commercial in Lufkin, Texas. According to the parties, though not evident from the record, Creekstone was one of 20 unrelated additional insureds who obtained coverage under the Policy, which covered over 100 properties in more than 20 states. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari review to resolve the question of whether La. R.S. 22:868(A)(2) prohibited the enforcement of the forum selection clause in dispute. The Court determined the statute did not prohibit enforcement of the forum selection clause to which these parties contractually agreed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the trial court and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Creekstone Juban I, LLC v. XL Insurance America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court accepted a certified question of Louisiana law presented by the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. This case involves a dispute between two creditors, each of which attached the same pig iron owned by the common debtor, America Metals Trading L.L.P. (“AMT”). Daewoo International Corp. (“Daewoo”), a South Korean trading company, entered into a series of contracts with AMT in May 2012 for the purchase of pig iron, to be delivered in New Orleans. The sale contracts contained arbitration clauses. Although Daewoo made payments under the contracts, AMT never shipped the pig iron. Daewoo sued AMT in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking an order compelling AMT to arbitrate the dispute pursuant to the terms of the contract and also seeking a writ of attachment of AMT’s pig iron on board the M/V Clipper Kasashio under the Louisiana non-resident attachment statute, Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 3542. The writ was granted and served by the U.S. Marshals Service on December 22, 2012. Noting that La. C.C.P. art. 3542, Louisiana’s non-resident attachment statute, allows a party to obtain a writ of attachment in "any action for a money judgment, whether against a resident or a nonresident, regardless of the nature, character, or origin of the claim, whether it is for a certain or uncertain amount, and whether it is liquidated or unliquidated," the federal court stated the issue as "whether Daewoo’s suit to compel arbitration and obtain provisional relief is an 'action for a money judgment' to which Louisiana’s non-resident attachment statute applies." The Louisiana Supreme Court responded: "Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 3542 allows for attachment in aid of arbitration if the origin of the underlying arbitration claim is one pursuing money damages and the arbitral party has satisfied the statutory requirements necessary to obtain a writ of attachment." View "Stemcor USA Inc. v. CIA Siderurgica Do Para Cosipar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Brandon Forvendel was injured in a multi-vehicle accident in 2013. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was driving a Chevrolet Equinox owned by him and insured under a policy issued by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”), which included uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. Plaintiff recovered the limits of his UM coverage under his State Farm policy. At the time of the 2013 accident, plaintiff lived in the household of his mother, Deborah Forvendel, who was also insured by State Farm. Plaintiff also sought to recover under his mother’s State Farm UM policy, which carried significantly higher policy limits. State Farm refused to allow him to recover under his mother's policy, citing the anti-stacking provisions of La. R.S. 22:1295(1)(c). In this case, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the insurer waived its defenses to plaintiff’s current claim by paying on an earlier claim to him in error. The Court found the insurer did not waive its rights. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgments of the courts below. View "Forvendel v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Customers of an indoor trampoline park, of Sky Zone Lafayette, must complete a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk” document (“Agreement”) prior to entering the facility. The Agreement contains a clause waiving the participant’s right to trial and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff, James Duhon, was such a customer, and was injured in the course of participating in the park’s activities. After plaintiff filed suit seeking damages, Sky Zone moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the Agreement. The district court overruled Sky Zone’s exception, but the court of appeal reversed, finding the arbitration provision should be enforced. After review, the Supreme Court found that the arbitration clause in the Sky Zone agreement was adhesionary and therefore unenforceable. View "Duhon v. Activelaf, LLC" on Justia Law

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Customers of an indoor trampoline park, of Sky Zone Lafayette, must complete a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk” document (“Agreement”) prior to entering the facility. The Agreement contains a clause waiving the participant’s right to trial and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff Theresa Alicea executed the Agreement prior to her husband, Roger Alicea, taking their minor sons to Sky Zone. The Aliceas’ son, Logan, was injured while jumping on a trampoline. The Aliceas filed suit against Sky Zone, individually and on behalf of Logan. Sky Zone moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the Agreement. The district court overruled Sky Zone’s exception and the court of appeal denied Sky Zone’s writ application. After review, the Supreme Court held the arbitration clause in the Sky Zone agreement was adhesionary and therefore unenforceable. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the rulings of the lower courts. View "Alicea v. Activelaf, LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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Lamar Contractors, Inc. was general contractor on a construction project, and entered into a subcontract with Kacco, Inc. to provide metal framing and drywall work on the project. The subcontract included a “pay-if-paid” payment provision, which afforded Lamar ten days to remit payment to its subcontractors after receipt of payment from the owner. Kacco began work on the project but experienced recurring problems with providing manpower and paying for supplies. Kacco submitted an invoice for work that reflected that forty-five percent of the work had been performed. Lamar paid the invoice prior to receiving payment from the owner. Lamar sent Kacco an email noting its concerns with whether Kacco would be able to perform under the subcontract. Kacco notified Lamar that Kacco was waiting on another payment so that it could order and pay for supplies to finish the project. Lamar had received payment from the owner on January 26; however, pursuant to the subcontract, Lamar was not required to make payment to Kacco until February 9, ten business days later. Lamar officially terminated Kacco’s subcontract in a letter dated February 5. After termination of the subcontract with Kacco, Lamar hired another contractor to complete the work. Lamar then sued Kacco for breach of the subcontract. Kacco countersued Lamar for allegedly failing to pay for work performed under the contract, and that failure to pay caused it to breach. After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment on the main demand for Lamar for $24,116.67 with interest, $7,681.75 for attorney’s fees, and $3,105.81 in costs. Additionally, the district court entered a judgment in the amount of $60,020.00 plus interest in favor of Kacco on its countersuit. Lamar appealed but the court of appeal affirmed. Under the circumstances of this case, it was clear to the Supreme Court that Lamar did not violate any obligation owed under the contract to make payment to Kacco and could not have negligently contributed to Lamar’s breach of its obligations under the contract. Accordingly, the district court erred in reducing Lamar’s award of damages. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Lamar Contractors, Inc. v. Kacco, Inc." on Justia Law

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This matter stemmed from a public works project for the construction of a gymnasium in Terrytown. JaRoy Construction Inc. served as the general contractor, and pursuant to statute, furnished a surety bond to Jefferson Parish. Ohio Casualty Insurance Company was the surety. JaRoy entered into a written subcontract with Pierce Foundations, Inc. to provide and install pilings for the project. Once finished, Pierce alleged JaRoy failed to pay certain funds due under the subcontract. Pierce sued both JaRoy and Ohio Casualty Insurance, alleging they were jointly and severally liable to Pierce. JaRoy filed for bankruptcy, leaving only Ohio Casualty Insurance as party to the suit. When the project was substantially completed, the Jefferson Parish government filed a notice of acceptance of work with the Jefferson Parish mortgage records office. This occurred over a year after Pierce amended its lawsuit to add Ohio Casualty as a defendant. Pierce never filed a sworn statement of claim in the mortgage records. Ohio Casualty filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that Pierce was required to comply with statutory notice and recordation, and because it failed to do so within 45 days of Jefferson Parish’s acceptance of the project, Pierce could not recover from Ohio Casualty. Pierce argued that the statute did not affect its right to proceed in contract. After a bench trial, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Pierce for sums owed under the contract plus judicial interest from the date of the original judgment. Ohio Casualty appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in not dismissing Pierce's claims. The court of appeal reversed and ruled in Ohio Casualty's favor. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed and affirmed the trial court judgment. View "Pierce Foundations, Inc. v. JaRoy Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application to determine whether a plaintiff had a private right of action for damages against a health care provider under the Health Care and Consumer Billing and Disclosure Protection Act. Plaintiff Yana Anderson alleged that she was injured in an automobile accident caused by a third party. She received medical treatment at an Ochsner facility. Anderson was insured by UnitedHealthcare. Pursuant to her insurance contract, Anderson paid premiums to UnitedHealthcare in exchange for discounted health care rates. These reduced rates were available pursuant to a member provider agreement, wherein UnitedHealthcare contracted with Ochsner to secure discounted charges for its insureds. Anderson presented proof of insurance to Ochsner in order for her claims to be submitted to UnitedHealthcare for payment on the agreed upon reduced rate. However, Ochsner refused to file a claim with her insurer. Instead, Ochsner sent a letter to Anderson’s attorney, asserting a medical lien for the full amount of undiscounted charges on any tort recovery Anderson received for the underlying automobile accident. Anderson filed a putative class action against Ochsner, seeking, among other things, damages arising from Ochsner’s billing practices. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court found the legislature intended to allow a private right of action under the statute. Additionally, the Court found an express right of action was available under La. R.S. 22:1874(B) based on the assertion of a medical lien. View "Anderson v. Ochsner Health System" on Justia Law