Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Non-Profit Corporations
Breathe Southern California v. American Lung Association
“Breathe” was previously known as the American Lung Association of Los Angeles County, affiliated with the national organization, ALA, and the American Lung Association in California (ALAC). Breathe’s predecessor entered into annual agreements with ALAC and the ALA that provided for “income sharing” between Breathe and ALAC, except for “funds restricted in writing by the donor, not later than the date of donation, to exclude or limit sharing, such restriction not having been invited by the donee association.” ALA sued ALAC and its affiliates, including Breathe, for trademark infringement and related causes of action. Under a 2006 Consent Judgment, Breathe disaffiliated from the ALA and ALAC and was renamed. The parties agreed to a process for settling their outstanding accounts.In 2015, ALAC moved to enforce the Consent Judgment by compelling Breathe to share three bequests that were created but not distributed before the Consent Judgment. The trial court ruled in favor of the ALA, concluding the restricted funds exception of the Affiliate Agreement was ambiguous and that the bequests were shareable. The court of appeal reversed. The plain language of the bequests indicates the testators' intentions to benefit only the organization now known as Breathe. Sharing the bequests with the ALA is incompatible with those intentions and is not required under the Affiliate Agreement. View "Breathe Southern California v. American Lung Association" on Justia Law
Callawassie Island Club v. Dennis
In 1999, Ronnie and Jeanette Dennis purchased property on Callawassie Island. At that time, the Dennises joined a private club known as the Callawassie Island Club, and paid $31,000 to become "equity members." The Club's bylaws stated "Any equity member may resign from the Club by giving written notice to the Secretary. Dues, fees, and charges shall accrue against a resigned equity membership until the resigned equity membership is reissued by the Club." In 2010, the Dennises decided they no longer wanted to be in the Members Club, so they submitted a "letter of resignation" and stopped making all payments. The Club filed a breach of contract action against the Dennises, alleging the unambiguous terms of the membership documents required the Dennises to continue to pay their membership dues, fees, and other charges until their membership was reissued. The Dennises denied any liability, alleging they were told by a Members Club manager that their maximum liability would be only four months of dues, because after four months of not paying, they would be expelled. The Dennises also alleged the membership arrangement violated the South Carolina Nonprofit Corporation Act. Finding no ambiguity in the Club bylaws, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated summary judgment for all unpaid dues, fees and other charges. View "Callawassie Island Club v. Dennis" on Justia Law
Southam v. S. Despain Ditch Co.
James Garside acquired shares in South Despain Ditch Company in contravention of corporate restrictions on transferability of South Despain shares. After the sale, South Despain refused to issue certificates in Garside’s name and recognize him as a shareholder, claiming that the sale violated the transfer restrictions and was therefore was void. Garside filed suit, challenging the enforceability of the restrictions and asserting that their enforcement put South Despain in breach of its obligations in contract, fiduciary duty and the Utah Nonprofit Corporation Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of South Despain. Garside died during litigation, and Paul Southam proceeded on appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the restrictions on the transfer of South Despain shares were enforceable, and thus, Southam acquired no viable rights as a shareholder. Absent a shareholder interest in the corporation, Southam lacked standing to pursue any of his claims.View "Southam v. S. Despain Ditch Co." on Justia Law
Town of Smyrna, TN v. Mun. Gas Auth. of GA
The Authority was formed under Ga. Code 46-4-82(a) to provide member municipalities with natural gas. It operates as a non-profit, distributing profits and losses to member municipalities: 64 in Georgia, two in Tennessee, 12 in other states. It pays its own operating expenses and judgments; it is exempt from state laws on financing and investment for state entities and has discretion over accumulation, investment, and management of its funds. It sets its governance rules; members elect leaders from among member municipalities. Smyrna, Tennessee has obtained gas from the Authority since 2000, using a pipeline that does not run through Georgia. The Authority entered a multi-year “hedge” contract for gas acquisition, setting price and volume through 2014, and passed the costs on. The market price of natural gas then fell due to increased hydraulic fracturing (fracking), but Smyrna was still paying the higher price. Smyrna sued for breach of contract, violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, breach of fiduciary duty, and unjust enrichment. The district court denied the Authority’s motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity under Georgia law and the Eleventh Amendment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that the Authority’s claim that any entity referred to as a state “instrumentality” in a Georgia statute is entitled to state-law sovereign immunity “requires quite a stretch of the imagination.” View "Town of Smyrna, TN v. Mun. Gas Auth. of GA" on Justia Law
McCarthy v. Fuller
In 1956, Sister Ephrem of the Most Precious Blood, experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary, during which, Sister Ephrem claimed, she was told: “I am Our Lady of America.” The Archbishop supported a program of devotions to Our Lady of America. In 1965 Pope Paul VI approved creation of a cloister, which lasted until at least 1977, when surviving members left and formed a new congregation, dedicated to devotions to Our Lady of America. Sister Ephrem directed it until her death in 2000. Sister Therese succeeded Sister Ephrem, who willed to Sister Theres all her property, mostly purchased with donated money. Sister Therese worked with McCarthy, a lawyer, and Langsenkamp until 2007, when Langsenkamp and McCarthy established the Langsenkamp Family Apostolate in the chapel in which the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to Sister Ephrem. They sued Sister Therese, claiming theft of physical and intellectual property, fraud, and defamation. She counterclaimed, alleging theft of a statue and of the website and defamation by calling her a “fake nun.” The district court denied McCarthy’s motion that the court take notice of the Holy See’s rulings on Sister Therese’s status in the Church. The Seventh Circuit reversed, with “a reminder” that courts may not decide (or to allow juries to decide) religious questions. Determination of the ownership of the property is likely possible without resolving religious questions. View "McCarthy v. Fuller" on Justia Law
Evanston Ins. Co. v. Legacy of Life, Inc.
This case involved the construction and application of a combined professional and general liability insurance policy issued by appellant to appellee where appellee requested a defense from appellant under the policy for a civil lawsuit. In that underlying suit, plaintiff alleged that while her mother was terminally ill, she consented to appellee's harvesting of some of her mother's organs and tissues after her mother's death and consented to the harvesting because appellee was a non-profit corporation. Appellee, instead, transferred the tissues to a for-profit company, which sold the tissues to hospitals at a profit. Appellee subsequently sought coverage under its general liability insurance with appellant and appellant denied coverage because the conduct alleged was outside the scope of the insurance policy's coverage. The court certified the following questions to the Supreme Court of Texas: (1) "Does the insurance policy provision for coverage of 'personal injury,' defined therein as 'bodily injury, sickness, or disease including death resulting therefrom sustained by any person,' include coverage for mental anguish, unrelated to physical damage to or disease of the plaintiff's body?" (2) "Does the insurance policy provision for coverage of 'property damage,' defined therein as 'physical injury to or destruction of tangible property, including consequential loss of use thereof, or loss of use of tangible property which has not been physically injured or destroyed,' include coverage for the underlying plaintiff's loss of use of her deceased mother's tissues, organs, bones, and body parts?"
Petty v. Hospital Service Assoc. of NE Penna.
Appellant Robert Petty is sole owner of Co-Appellant R.G. Petty Masonry. Appellants contracted with Respondent Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (Blue Cross), a nonprofit hospital corporation that provides health insurance coverage for its employees. Appellants are covered under the group policy as subscribers. Appellants filed a four-count class action suit against Blue Cross, alleging that it violated the state Nonprofit Law by accumulating excessive profits and surplus well beyond the "incidental profit" permitted by statute. The second count alleged Blue Cross breached its contract with Appellants by violating the Nonprofit Law. The third count alleged Blue Cross owed appellants a fiduciary duty by virtue of their status as subscribers, and that duty was breached when it accrued the excess surplus. The fourth count requested an inspection of Blue Cross' business records. The trial court found Appellants lacked standing to challenge Blue Cross' alleged violations of the Nonprofit Law and dismissed the suit. The Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court. Upon careful consideration of the briefs submitted by the parties in addition to the applicable legal authorities, the Supreme Court found that Appellants indeed lacked standing under the Nonprofit Law to challenge Blue Cross by their four-count complaint. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the lower courts' decisions and dismissed Appellants' case.