Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) breached a 1998 agreement between the parties, holding that the court erred in dismissing Plaintiff's claim that the State Defendants breached a settlement agreement in two respects. Centuries after the disappearance of two ships Plaintiff, a marine research and recovery corporation, received permits from DNCR to search for the ships. After discovering one of the ships, Plaintiff entered into an agreement with DNCR in 1998 agreeing to forgo certain rights in exchange for other rights. Plaintiff later alleged that DNCR breached the agreement in several ways, and the parties entered into a settlement agreement in 2013. Plaintiff later sued, and the trial court granted summary judgment for the State Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court properly dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the State Defendants for breach of the 1998 agreement; but (2) the trial court erred in dismissing Plaintiff's claims for breach of the 2013 settlement agreement stemming from DNCR's alleged violations of Plaintiff's media and promotional rights and from DNCR's non-renewal of Plaintiff's permit to search for the second ship. View "Intersal, Inc. v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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In this contract interpretation case, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the court of appeals decision ruling that a critical paragraph in a commercial real estate lease was ambiguous and that, as a result, interpretation of the contract was a matter for a jury to resolve, holding that the pertinent provisions of the lease served as a complete bar to Plaintiff lessees’ negligence-based claims against Defendants, one of which was the lessor. At issue was the operation of the lease provisions regarding insurance and liability when the lessees sought damages allegedly caused by the lessor’s negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that the pertinent lease provision was not ambiguous and was a complete defense to the claims raised in the complaint. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the provision was ambiguous in that it did not clearly reflect the intent of the parties to bar negligence claims against each other. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the language of the lease arrangements reflected the clear intent of the parties to discharge each other from all claims and liabilities for damages resulting from hazards covered by insurance; and (2) the damages claims by the lessees resulted from a hazard that was subject to their insurance coverage. View "Morrell v. Hardin Creek, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that summary judgment was improper in this case alleging fraudulent concealment and professional negligence. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants failed properly to prepare and file her delinquent tax returns for tax years 2006 through 2009 and intentionally deceived her about the status of the returns. The trial court allowed Defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment regarding Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment claim, the corresponding claim for punitive damages, and Defendants’ statute of repose defense for professional negligence for tax years 2006 and 2007. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision regarding the statute of repose and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment claim and Plaintiff’s related claim for punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the fraudulent concealment claim and the accompanying punitive damages claim, as well as the triggering event for the running of the statute of repose. View "Head v. Gould Killian CPA Group, P.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs failed to state claims for tortious interference with contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair and deceptive practices, civil conspiracy, and unjust enrichment sufficient to survive Defendants’ motion to dismiss pursuant to N.C. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). After Plaintiffs asserted various causes of action against Defendants, including the "Metropolitan defendants" and "dancer defendants," the Metropolitan defendants and dancer defendants filed motions to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The business court granted the motion to dismiss as to all of Plaintiffs’ claims except for the claims for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages against the dancer defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to state valid claims for forties interference with contract, unfair and deceptive practices, and unjust enrichment against the Metropolitan defendants; (2) Plaintiffs failed to state valid claims for misappropriation of trade secrets and civil conspiracy against all defendants. View "Krawiec v. Manly" on Justia Law

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The trial court did not err in dismissing Plaintiffs’ action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to Plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies in seeking damages for denied Medicaid reimbursement claims. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s order, ruling that the trial court erred in dismissing Plaintiffs’ complaint without resolving certain factual issues and that Plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated that it would be futile to pursue administrative remedies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in reversing the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims where Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies prior to filing suit and failed to demonstrate futility of the available remedies at this time. View "Abrons Family Practice & Urgent Care, PA v. North Carolina Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The trial court did not err in dismissing Plaintiffs’ action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to Plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies in seeking damages for denied Medicaid reimbursement claims. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s order, ruling that the trial court erred in dismissing Plaintiffs’ complaint without resolving certain factual issues and that Plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated that it would be futile to pursue administrative remedies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in reversing the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims where Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies prior to filing suit and failed to demonstrate futility of the available remedies at this time. View "Abrons Family Practice & Urgent Care, PA v. North Carolina Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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An attorney-client relationship existed between Defendants and a non-party that contractually agreed to indemnify Defendants, but because Defendants failed to request that the trial court provide written findings of fact and did not present in a timely manner the documents at issue, the trial court did not err in determining that the attorney-client privilege did not extend to the communications at issue. Plaintiff sued Defendants for payment of back rent and other charges due under a lease. Defendants notified the non-party, which agreed to indemnify and defend Defendants in accordance with their agreement. During discovery, counsel for Plaintiff requested copies of documents exchanged between Defendants and the non-party. Defendants moved for a protective order, asserting the attorney-client privilege. The trial court denied Defendants’ motion for a protective order and granted Plaintiff’s motion to compel. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the attorney-client privilege did not extend to the communications between Defendants and the non-party. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed, holding (1) the non-party’s contractual duty to defend and indemnify Defendants created a tripartite attorney-client relationship; but (2) the trial court did not err in determining that the documents between Defendants and the non-party were not privileged. View "Friday Investments, LLC v. Bally Total Fitness of the Mid-Atlantic, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s order of dismissal that dismissed the attempts of Plaintiff, a former chief of police for the City of Greensboro, to obtain reimbursement from the City for costs he incurred in defending lawsuits brought against him for events that occurred during his tenure as chief of police. The trial judge granted the City’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the City was shielded by the doctrine of governmental immunity and that immunity was not waived. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff set forth allegations that the City waived governmental immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently presented allegations that were adequate to raise a waiver of governmental immunity and thus to survive the City’s motion to dismiss. View "Wray v. City of Greensboro" on Justia Law

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In 1999, Plaintiff and Defendants entered into an agreement. Defendants never performed any of their obligations under the agreement. For more than a decade, Defendants allegedly continued to be in breach of the agreement. Despite having never received the benefit of its bargain, Plaintiff waited fourteen years before filing this action in 2014. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged breach of contract, fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and unjust enrichment. The trial court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss, finding that Defendants did not perform their obligations as early as 2000, and therefore, North Carolina’s statutes of limitations barred all of Plaintiff’s claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff failed to pursue its claims within the statute of limitations period, Plaintiff’s claims were time barred. View "Christenbury Eye Center, P.A. v. Medflow, Inc." on Justia Law

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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