Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The case revolves around a ski lift accident that left a minor, Annalea Jane Miller, a quadriplegic. The plaintiff, Michael D. Miller, acting as the parent and guardian of Annalea, sued the defendant, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, alleging negligence per se based on violations of the Ski Safety Act of 1979 and the Passenger Tramway Safety Act, as well as a claim for negligence-highest duty of care. The plaintiff argued that the defendant could not absolve itself of statutory duties through private release agreements that purported to release negligence claims against it.The district court dismissed the negligence per se claim, ruling that the defendant could absolve itself of liability through private release agreements. It also dismissed the negligence-highest duty of care claim, finding that the release agreements signed by the plaintiff were enforceable and barred the claim.The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado disagreed with the district court's dismissal of the negligence per se claim. It held that the defendant could not absolve itself of liability for violations of statutory and regulatory duties through private release agreements. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing the negligence per se claim.However, the Supreme Court agreed with the district court's dismissal of the negligence-highest duty of care claim. It found that the district court correctly applied the factors set forth in Jones v. Dressel, determining that the release agreements signed by the plaintiff were enforceable and barred the claim. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the negligence-highest duty of care claim.The case was remanded to the district court with instructions to reinstate the plaintiff’s negligence per se claim and for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Miller v. Crested Butte, LLC" on Justia Law

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In October 2018, Molitor Equipment, LLC purchased two tractors from Deere & Company. These tractors were a transitional model and did not include engine compartment fire shields as standard equipment, which were included in the subsequent 2019 model. A year after purchase, both tractors caught fire in separate incidents. Molitor had an insurance policy with SECURA Insurance Company, who paid Molitor's claim and then pursued Molitor's warranty claims against Deere. SECURA claimed the tractors were defective and unreasonably dangerous due to the absence of the fire shields and that Deere's warranty obligated them to remedy the problem or refund the purchase prices.Deere moved to dismiss the claims, arguing that its warranty only covered manufacturing defects, not design defects. The district court granted Deere's motion, dismissing SECURA's breach of warranty claim to the extent it was based on a design defect theory. The case proceeded on a manufacturing defect theory. At the close of discovery, both parties moved for summary judgment. Deere argued that since the tractors conformed to their intended design, there was no manufacturing defect. The district court granted Deere's motion, holding that SECURA could not establish its breach of warranty claim because Deere's warranty covers defects only in "materials or workmanship."On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions. The appellate court agreed with the district court's interpretation of Deere's warranty, concluding that it did not cover design defects. The court also agreed that SECURA could not establish a breach of warranty claim based on a manufacturing defect, as the tractors conformed to their intended design. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of SECURA's design defect claim and its grant of summary judgment to Deere on the manufacturing defect claim. View "Secura Insurance Company v. Deere & Company" on Justia Law

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Five diabetic patients, Henry J. Hebert, Traci Moore, Aliya Campbell Pierre, Tiffanie Tsakiris, and Brenda Bottiglier, were prescribed the Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (Dexcom G6) to manage their diabetes. The device allegedly malfunctioned, failing to alert them of dangerous glucose levels, resulting in serious injuries and, in Hebert's case, death. The patients and Hebert's daughters filed separate product liability actions against Dexcom, Inc., the manufacturer. Dexcom moved to compel arbitration, arguing that each patient had agreed to arbitrate disputes when they installed the G6 App on their devices and clicked "I agree to Terms of Use."The trial court granted Dexcom's motions to compel arbitration in all five cases. The plaintiffs petitioned the appellate court for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its orders compelling them to arbitrate. The appellate court consolidated the cases and issued an order directing Dexcom to show cause why the relief sought should not be granted.The appellate court concluded that the trial court erred. Although a clickwrap agreement, where an internet user accepts a website’s terms of use by clicking an “I agree” or “I accept” button, is generally enforceable, Dexcom’s G6 App clickwrap agreement was not. The court found that Dexcom undid whatever notice it might have provided of the contractual terms by explicitly telling the user that clicking the box constituted authorization for Dexcom to collect and store the user’s sensitive, personal health information. For this reason, Dexcom could not meet its burden of demonstrating that the same click constituted unambiguous acceptance of the Terms of Use, including the arbitration provision. Consequently, arbitration agreements were not formed with any of the plaintiffs. The court granted the petitions and directed the trial court to vacate its orders granting Dexcom’s motions to compel arbitration and to enter new orders denying the motions. View "Herzog v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Weston Bennion was injured when his apartment deck collapsed and subsequently sued his landlord, Dale Stolrow, for negligence. The parties settled, with Bennion agreeing to release Stolrow and his insurer from all claims in exchange for $150,000. The settlement was subject to related subrogation claims and healthcare liens, and Bennion promised to indemnify Stolrow from liability for any such claims and liens. Before making the payment, Stolrow informed Bennion that he intended to distribute the payment in two checks: one payable to Bennion and the other payable to a collection agency that had a healthcare lien on the settlement funds. Bennion objected and filed a motion to enforce the parties’ agreement, arguing that its terms did not allow Stolrow to issue a portion of the settlement funds to a third party.The district court disagreed with Bennion and suggested that Stolrow issue two checks: one jointly to Bennion and the third party for the amount of the lien, and another to Bennion for the remainder of the funds. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision. Bennion then petitioned for certiorari.The Supreme Court of the State of Utah granted certiorari to address whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that the parties’ agreement permitted Stolrow to issue a portion of the settlement funds jointly to Bennion and the third-party collection agency. The court agreed with Bennion, stating that the plain language of the release provides for payment to Bennion in exchange for his release of claims against Stolrow and his assumption of responsibility for third-party liens. Therefore, the court reversed the decision of the lower courts. View "Bennion v. Stolrow" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Diamond Transportation Logistics (Diamond) and The Kroger Company (Kroger). In 2010, the two companies entered into a transportation agreement, which was renewed in 2016, for Diamond to transport Kroger's goods. The agreement included an indemnity provision, which allowed Kroger to withhold payments from Diamond for claims against Diamond under certain conditions. In December 2015, a subcontractor of Diamond was involved in a fatal accident while transporting Kroger's goods. The family of the deceased sued both Diamond and Kroger for wrongful death, alleging negligence in Kroger's selection, hiring, and retention of Diamond as a shipper. Kroger demanded Diamond to cover its legal expenses based on the indemnity provision in their agreement. However, Diamond failed to reimburse Kroger, leading Kroger to withhold nearly $1.8 million in shipping payments from Diamond.The case was first heard in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, where Kroger filed a counterclaim for breach of the transportation agreement's indemnity provision. The district court ruled in favor of Kroger, awarding it $612,429.45 plus interest. Diamond appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision. The main issue was whether the indemnity provision's exception for "liability...caused by the sole negligence or willful misconduct of Kroger" relieved Diamond of its obligation. The court held that the exception did not apply in this case because Kroger's liability for the family's negligent selection, hiring, and retention claim was not caused by its "sole negligence." The court reasoned that Diamond's negligence also played a part in Kroger's liability, and therefore, Diamond was required to cover Kroger's costs in settling the family's claim. View "Diamond Transp. Logistics, Inc. v. Kroger Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Louisiana considered whether an architect and contract administrator had duty of care towards an employee of a subcontractor under the terms of a construction contract. The employee, Gustavo Bonilla, had been injured during a demolition job and filed a suit alleging negligence against Verges Rome Architects (VRA) and Morphy Makofsky, Inc. (MMI). VRA had been hired as a consultant for design and contract administration services. The trial court ruled in favor of VRA, but the court of appeal reversed this decision.Upon review, the Supreme Court of Louisiana found that the contract terms were clear and unambiguous, and did not impose a duty on VRA to oversee, supervise, or maintain the construction site or Mr. Bonilla’s safety. VRA was required to make weekly site visits to ensure work was progressing according to specifications. However, the contract specifically stated that these visits should not be construed as supervision of actual construction. Responsibility for site safety and construction methods was allocated to the contractor.The Court concluded that VRA could not be held liable for failing to perform duties it was not contractually obligated to undertake. As a result, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal's decision and reinstated the trial court's judgment, which granted summary judgment in favor of VRA. View "BONILLA VS. VERGES ROME ARCHITECTS" on Justia Law

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In a case before the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon, the plaintiffs, Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, sued TNA NA Manufacturing, Inc. and Food Design, Inc., claiming negligence and product liability for a listeria outbreak that resulted from using the defendants' food processing equipment. The outbreak cost the plaintiffs around $20 million. The trial court and Court of Appeals upheld that the plaintiffs had waived any action in tort through their purchase contract with the defendants, as the contract contained a waiver of tort liability. The Supreme Court of Oregon, however, disagreed.The court ruled that, under Oregon law, a contract will not be construed to provide immunity from consequences of a party’s own negligence unless that intention is clearly and unequivocally expressed. The court found that the language in the contract between the plaintiffs and defendants did not meet this standard. The court held that to waive tort liability, contract language must be clear and explicit, stating that the waiver will not be deduced from inference or implication. The text of the contract must unambiguously show that the parties intended to disclaim actions outside of contract, i.e., actions in tort.Consequently, the court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings. The court confirmed that, while no magic words are required for a waiver of tort liability to be effective, the use of terms such as "negligence" or "tort" may be helpful in demonstrating an explicit intent to waive such liability. View "Certain Underwriters v. TNA NA Manufacturing" on Justia Law

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In this case heard before the Supreme Court of Kentucky, the primary issue was whether the Breathitt Circuit Court correctly dismissed Teresa Spicer's lawsuit against James Combs for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). Spicer's suit arose from damages linked to Combs' actions, following a fatal ATV accident which resulted in the death of Tiara Combs, James Combs’ wife and Spicer's daughter. Prior to the lawsuit, Combs and Spicer, as co-administrators of Tiara's estate, had signed a release settlement with Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, effectively absolving both Combs and Progressive of any further liability relating to the accident.After learning that Combs was intoxicated at the time of the accident, a fact he allegedly hid from her, Spicer sought to sue Combs personally for IIED. Combs moved to dismiss Spicer's complaint on the grounds that the previous release signed by Spicer barred her claim, and that her complaint did not meet the standard for an IIED claim. The circuit court dismissed the action, holding that the release was intentionally broad and included all potential claims, including IIED.On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, ruling that the release did not prevent Spicer from asserting a personal cause of action against Combs. The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision. The court ruled that the language of the release only covered claims possessed by the estate and not Spicer's individual claims. Furthermore, the Court held that Spicer's complaint was sufficient to proceed under a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, leaving it to the circuit court to resolve whether Spicer can sufficiently establish her claim at a later time. View "COMBS V. SPICER" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals considered an indemnification case between Nissan, an automobile manufacturer, and Continental, a brake parts supplier. Nissan sought indemnification from Continental for a $24 million jury award and $6 million in attorney fees and costs resulting from a products liability lawsuit in California. The lawsuit arose after an accident involving a Nissan vehicle, with the jury finding that the design of the vehicle’s braking system caused harm to the plaintiffs. Nissan argued that a provision in their contract with Continental obligated Continental to indemnify them for the jury award and litigation costs. Both the district court and the Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the contract required Nissan to show that a defect in a Continental-supplied part caused the injury, which Nissan failed to do. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Continental. View "Nissan North America, Inc. v. Continental Automotive Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case is about a dispute between Richard Roe and St. John’s University (SJU) and Jane Doe. Roe, a male student at SJU, was accused of sexually assaulting two female students, Doe and Mary Smith, on separate occasions. SJU's disciplinary board found Roe guilty of non-consensual sexual contact with both Doe and Smith and imposed sanctions, including a suspension and eventual expulsion. Roe then sued SJU, alleging that his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and state contract law had been violated. He also sued Doe for allegedly defaming him in an anonymous tweet accusing him of sexual assault. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed Roe's Title IX and state law claims, and declined to exercise jurisdiction over his defamation claim. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Roe's complaint failed to state a plausible claim of sex discrimination under Title IX. The court found that, while Roe had identified some procedural irregularities in SJU's disciplinary proceedings, these were not sufficient to support a minimal plausible inference of sex discrimination. Furthermore, the court ruled that Roe's hostile environment claim was fatally deficient, as the single anonymous tweet at the center of his claim was not, standing alone, sufficiently severe to support a claim of a hostile educational environment under Title IX. View "Roe v. St. John's University" on Justia Law