Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Defendants Eagle Crest Apartments, LLC, et al. appealed a judgment awarding UMB Bank N.A. more than $21 million in an action for breach of contract, foreclosure, fraudulent transfers, and deceit. The Defendants raised a number of issues on appeal. The North Dakota limited review to the issues raised in defendants' motion for a new trial, and concluded the district court did not err when it entered a deficiency judgment and pierced the Defendants’ corporate veils. View "UMB Bank N.A. v. Eagle Crest Apartments, et al." on Justia Law

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Justin Shafer appealed a district court judgment confirming an arbitration award against Diamond Development & Custom Homes, L.L.C. Shafer argued the district court erred by failing to increase the amount of damages he was awarded. He also argued the North Dakota Supreme Court should narrowly expand the standard for reviewing an arbitration award. The Court declined Shafer’s request to expand the standard of review, and concluded the district court did not err in confirming the arbitration award. View "Shafer v. Scarborough, et al." on Justia Law

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Thomas Burckhard appealed a judgment entered following consideration of Larson Latham Huettl LLP’s motion for summary judgment. Burckhard began employment with Larson Latham Huettl LLP (hereinafter LLH) in January 2019. In May 2019 Burckhard signed an employment contract, under which Burckhard agreed he would receive compensation based upon projected hours billed. Any overpayment resulting from a deficiency between the projected hours he would bill and the actual hours he billed would be considered a debt owed by Burckhard to LLH. Burckhard’s employment with LLH ended on August 15, 2020. At that time, Burckhard was paid for 697.88 projected billable hours more than his actual billable hours resulting in an overpayment of compensation in the amount of $29,885.38. LLH filed suit alleging breach of contract seeking to recover the excess compensation plus pre-judgment interest. The district court granted LLH’s motion finding there were no issues of material fact and LLH was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Burckhard appealed, arguing summary judgment was improper because the contract’s purpose was frustrated, the contract is unconscionable, the contract fails for lack of consideration, LLH waived its right to obtain payment, there is a genuine dispute as to the amount of the damages, and the district court abused its discretion in denying Burckhard additional time for discovery. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined Burckhard failed to prove there was a genuine dispute as to any material fact. The district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of LLH and properly dismissed all of Burckhard’s affirmative defenses. View "Larson Latham Huettl, LLP v. Burckhard" on Justia Law

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Scotty Fain, Sr., Scotty Fain, Jr., and Kris Durham appealed a district court judgment entered following findings that there was no contract between the parties, no transfer of ownership interest in Integrity Environmental, LLC, and no violation of fiduciary duties as alleged in the complaint against Integrity Environmental, LLC, Andrea Vigen, Lewis Vigen, and Kelly Harrelson. They also challenged the court’s findings that a substitute arrangement agreed upon by all parties led to an accord and satisfaction, novation, and waiver of contractual rights. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Fain, et al. v. Integrity Environmental, et al." on Justia Law

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Jeff Trosen appealed a judgment and amended judgment awarding damages for a breach of contract claim to the Estate of Shirley Trosen and the Trosen Family Trust and dismissing Jeff’s counterclaim and third-party complaint. A dispute arose over Jeff’s lease of farmland from Shirley. The lease covered the farming seasons of 2017 through 2022. Partial payments were made in 2020 and 2021, leaving balances owed for those years. Shirley and the Trust sued Jeff for breach of contract and to cancel the lease. Jeff argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the breach of contract claim and by dismissing his counterclaim and third-party complaint. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgments. View "Trosen, et al. v. Trosen, et al." on Justia Law

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Ordahl LLC (“Ordahl”) appeals from a district court order granting Arlene Lykken, Bruce Lykken, Paul Lykken, and Sandra Teske’s (“the Lykkens”) motion for summary judgment and denying Ordahl’s motion for summary judgment. Ordahl and the Lykkens executed a purchase agreement for the sale of 12 acres of land and an easement on adjacent property to the north of the parcel. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Ordahl was required to provide a $10,000 earnest money payment. After the purchase agreement was signed, the Lykkens anticipatorily breached the agreement. Ordahl brought suit seeking a declaratory judgment declaring that Ordahl’s relief was not limited to the return of its earnest money. Ordahl claimed it was not required to terminate the parties’ agreement and was entitled to enforce the terms of the agreement through the equitable doctrine of specific performance. The Lykkens counterclaimed seeking reformation of the purchase agreement. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in determining the purchase agreement required Ordahl to terminate the agreement and limited Ordahl to a recovery of its earnest money. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this case for consideration of whether Ordahl should have prevailed on its equitable claim to enforce the terms of the parties’ agreement through specific performance and, if necessary, consider the Lykkens’s request for reformation of the agreement. View "Ordahl v. Lykken, et al." on Justia Law

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Troubadour Oil and Gas, LLC, petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court for a supervisory writ after the district court issued a discovery order requiring Troubadour to disclose all communications between Troubadour’s counsel and Troubadour’s owner who also was identified as an expert witness. Troubadour argued the court erroneously required the disclosure of confidential communications protected by the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. After review, the Supreme Court granted the petition and directed the district court to vacate the portion of its March 10, 2022 discovery order requiring disclosure of all communications between Troubadour’s counsel and Troubadour’s owner because the court abused its discretion and misapplied the law by relying on federal rules and case law not applicable in this state court proceeding. The Supreme Court also vacated the court’s award of attorney’s fees and remanded for reconsideration. View "Troubadour Oil & Gas v. Rustad, et al." on Justia Law

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The State of North Dakota, ex rel. the North Dakota Board of University and School Lands, and the Office of the Commissioner of University and School Lands, a/k/a the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands appealed a judgment dismissing its claim against Newfield Exploration Company relating to the underpayment of gas royalties. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that the district court concluded the State did not establish a legal obligation owed by Newfield. However, the State pled N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1 in its counterclaim, which the court recognized at trial. Because the State satisfied both the pleading and the proof requirements of N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1, the Supreme Court held the district court erred in concluding the State did not prove Newfield owed it a legal obligation to pay additional royalties. Rather, as the well operator, Newfield owed the State an obligation under N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1 to pay royalties according to the State’s leases. The court failed to recognize Newfield’s legal obligations as a well operator under N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1. The Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in dismissing the State's counterclaim; therefore, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for findings related to the State's damages and Newfield's affirmative defenses. View "Newfield Exploration Company, et al. v. North Dakota, et al." on Justia Law

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Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company appealed a district court judgment ordering it to pay Larry Pavlicek $214,045.55 under a commercial general liability insurance (CGL) policy Grinnell had with JRC Construction. Grinnell argued the district court misinterpreted the insurance policy, and that it was not required to indemnify JRC Construction because its work product was defective. In 2013, Pavlicek hired a contractor to construct a steel building on his property. JRC Construction installed the concrete floor and floor drain for the project. Another subcontractor installed the in-floor heating system for the concrete floor. After JRC completed the floor drain, it failed to properly install the concrete floor, and its attempts to repair the concrete damaged the drain. Pavlicek sued JRC for breach of contract relating to the defective work. In February 2020, Pavlicek filed a supplemental complaint against Grinnell, alleging it was required to satisfy the judgment as JRC’s insurer. Grinnell claimed it had no obligation to indemnify JRC under the CGL policy. The district court concluded JRC’s defective work on the concrete floor was not covered under the CGL policy, but damage to the floor drain was covered. Because removal and replacement of the floor and in-floor heat were necessary to repair the drain the court concluded the CGL policy covered all of those costs. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that although the CGL policy provided coverage to repair the floor drain, it did not cover the cost of replacing the concrete floor because that damage was the result of JRC’s defective work. The district court erred in finding the CGL policy covered the entire concrete floor replacement because replacement of the floor was the only way to repair the floor drain. Further, the Supreme Court found the district court erred in concluding the CGL policy provided coverage for replacement or repair of the in-floor heating system beyond that which may be necessary to repair the drain. View "Pavlicek v. American Steel Systems, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Ralph Fischer appealed from an order denying his request for attorney’s fees under N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. In February 2018, Fischer and Darin Hoyt executed a Cattle Share Lease. Under the terms of the lease, Fischer rented pasture land to Hoyt. In July 2019, Fischer sued Hoyt in small claims court arguing he was entitled to $15,000 for Hoyt’s failure to pay pasture rent in 2018. Hoyt removed the case to district court and filed an answer and counterclaim, asserting Fischer breached terms of the agreement. Fischer answered the counterclaim and requested attorney’s fees under N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. In February 2020, Fischer received leave of court to amend his complaint and increased his alleged damages to $25,000. After a bench trial, the district court found both parties breached the lease in different respects. Pertinent here, the district court found Hoyt breached the lease by failing to pay rent in 2018. The district court denied Fischer’s request for attorney’s fees, finding "the claims and counterclaims in this matter were far too complex for small claims court and would have been dismissed without prejudice to refile in district court." To the North Dakota Supreme Court, Fischer argues the district court erred in denying his request because he is the prevailing plaintiff after removal from small claims court. Fischer also argued he was entitled to attorney’s fees incurred in this appeal. The Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded for an award of Fischer’s attorney’s fees in the district court action and on appeal. View "Fischer v. Hoyt" on Justia Law