Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiff-appellant Richard Salzer received medical care at an SSM Healthcare of Oklahoma (SSM) facility for injuries he sustained in an accident. At the time of his treatment, he had a health insurance plan (the "Plan"). Salzer entered into a contract with SSM to receive its services (the "Hospital Services Agreement"), under which he "authorized disclosure of [his] medical information for billing purposes and authorized [his] health insurance company to pay." SSM had an existing contract with Salzer's health insurance company (the "Provider Agreement") which required SSM to submit covered medical charges to Salzer's insurance company and accept discounted payment from the insurer. Although the Provider Agreement prohibited SSM from seeking payment for a covered charge from Salzer, SSM sought the non-discounted amount directly from him. Salzer sued SSM alleging breach of contract and other state law claims based on SSM's attempt to collect payment for medical care from Salzer instead of his health insurance company. SSM removed the case to federal district court. Salzer challenged the district court's denial of his motion to remand based on its determination that his claims were completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Salzer v. SSM Health Care of Oklahoma" on Justia Law

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In October 2004, Cellport Systems, Inc. and Peiker Acustic GMBH & Co. KG entered into an agreement concerning Cellport’s technology for the hands-free use of cellphones in cars. In 2009, Cellport filed suit against Peiker, alleging breach of that agreement and sought royalties for seven Peiker products. The district court awarded Cellport royalties on only two of the products, interpreting an acknowledgment in the license agreement as "a rebuttable presumption." Cellport appealed, and Peiker filed a conditional cross-appeal. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The Court found that section 1.17(i) of the License Agreement created a category of products on which royalties are due regardless of whether any of Cellport’s patents were infringed; Peiker owed Cellport royalties on those products. On remand, the district court was directed to calculate the damages due Cellport for those two products. Because the district court only briefly addressed the relationship between the "BTPSC" and the "'456 Patent" the Tenth Circuit remanded to allow the district court to determine whether additional royalties were owed to Cellport. With respect to Peiker's cross-appeal, the Tenth Circuit agreed with Cellport that the issue was not ready for appellate review and further held that it was not ripe for review by the district court. View "Cellport Systems v. Peiker Acustic" on Justia Law

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Lisa Knitter worked as a "handyman" for Lewis General Contracting, Inc. (LGC) from March to October 2010. During this time, LGC's sole client was Picerne Military Housing, LLC (Picerne), now known as Corvias Military Living, LLC. Knitter performed handyman services exclusively on Picerne properties. She sued Picerne under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging: (1) she was paid lower wages than her male counterparts; (2) Picerne effectively fired her in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment and wage discrimination; and (3) after she was fired, Picerne denied her application for vendor status in retaliation for her prior complaints of discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment to Picerne, dismissing Knitter's Title VII action because Picerne was not her employer. The district court also dismissed her claim for retaliatory denial of vendor status because Knitter did not apply for employment with Picerne when she applied to be a vendor. Knitter appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Finding no reversible error, however, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Knitter v. Picerne Military Housing" on Justia Law

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MMS Construction & Paving, L.L.C. entered into a subcontract with Head, Inc. to pave asphalt runway shoulders at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma. The project was delayed and MMS, expressing concern that Head had not been making agreed payments, quit the job. MMS also complained that completing the job would be more expensive than it originally believed because certain requirements were being imposed that Head said would be waived. After MMS quit, Head finished the job, relying on other subcontractors. MMS sued Head on state-law claims of breach of contract, tortious breach of contract, quantum meruit, and misrepresentation, and brought a claim under the federal Miller Act on Head’s surety bond for the project. Head filed a counterclaim, alleging that MMS breached the contract. After a jury trial, MMS was awarded damages and attorney fees. Head filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial, both of which the district court denied. Head appealed, arguing: (1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to show that Head breached the contract; (2) if there was a breach, it was not material; (3) an Oklahoma statute limited MMS’s breach-of-contract damages to the amount unpaid plus interest; (4) the evidence was not sufficient to establish MMS’s alleged lost-profits damages for breach of contract; (5) MMS did not present sufficient evidence to prove misrepresentation or any damages from misrepresentation, MMS waived the misrepresentation claim, and the award of misrepresentation damages duplicated the award of damages for breach of contract; and (6) MMS was not entitled to attorney fees from Head because the Miller Act does not allow recovery of those fees. Upon careful consideration of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit reversed damages award based on the misrepresentation claim because the jury’s award was not supported by any evidence at trial. On all other issues, the Court affirmed. View "MMS Construction & Paving v. Head, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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The contracts at issue in this case related to Z3 Technology's design and manufacturing of circuit board modules for use in Digital Ally, Inc.'s products. The first contract, called for Z3 to design, manufacture, and deliver to Digital 1,000 modules incorporating Texas Instruments' DM355 computer chip. The second contract involved a larger quantity of modules that would use Texas Instruments' next-generation DM365 chip. Both contracts were signed by Robert Haler, who was then Digital's Executive Vice President of Engineering and Production. The contracts were described as "Production License Agreement[s]," and they expressly provided that the modules would be licensed, not sold, to Digital. The contracts both stated they would "be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Nebraska, without reference to conflict of laws principles." Upon review of the contracts at issue in this case, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for the district court to award prejudgment interest to Z3 on a damages award and unpaid design fees. All other portions of the district court's judgment were affirmed. View "Digital Ally, et al v. Z3 Technology, et al" on Justia Law

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A bank purchased insurance on a commercial property mortgaged to it by a borrower. The policy prohibited an assignment "of this Policy" without the insurer's consent. After the property was damaged, the bank assigned its loss claim to the borrower. The insurer refused to pay the borrower's claim because of the nonassignment provision, and the borrower sued. The district court held that the suit was barred and awarded judgment for the insurer. The issue before the Tenth Circuit in this case centered on whether the nonassignment provision was enforceable. The Court concluded, after review of the provision in question, that the provision did not apply to the assignment of a postloss claim, so the Court did not determine the enforceability of a provision prohibiting such assignments. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "City Center West v. American Modern Home Insurance" on Justia Law

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THI of New Mexico at Hobbs Center, LLC and THI of New Mexico, LLC (collectively THI) operate a nursing home in Hobbs, New Mexico. When Lillie Mae Patton's husband was admitted into the home, he entered into an arbitration agreement that required the parties to arbitrate any dispute arising out of his care at the home except claims relating to guardianship proceedings, collection or eviction actions by THI, or disputes of less than $2,500. After Mr. Patton died, Mrs. Patton sued THI for negligence and misrepresentation. THI then filed a complaint to compel arbitration of the claims. The district court initially ruled that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable and ordered arbitration. Under New Mexico law a compulsory-arbitration provision in a contract may be unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable, if it applies only, or primarily, to claims that just one party to the contract is likely to bring. The question before the Tenth Circuit was whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted the state law for contracts governed by the FAA. The Court held that New Mexico law was preempted in this case and the arbitration clause should have been enforced. View "THI of New Mexico at Hobbs v. Patton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Robert Bonnet is a petroleum landman who conducted business through Bobby Bonnet Land Services. In 2008, Plaintiffs entered into a written contract with the Energy and Minerals Department of the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation to serve collectively as an independent contractor and consultant. When the Tribe terminated this contract in 2009, Plaintiffs sued various companies and individuals (but not the Tribe) in federal court, alleging these defendants caused the Tribe to terminate this contract prematurely. Plaintiffs served the Tribe with a non-party subpoena duces tecum requesting documents relevant to their suit. The Tribe moved to quash the subpoena based on the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity. The district court denied the Tribe's motion, but modified the subpoena to limit or strike requests it deemed overbroad. The Tribe appealed. The issue before the Tenth Circuit was whether a subpoena duces tecum served on a non-party Tribe seeking documents relevant to a civil suit in federal court is itself a "suit" against the Tribe triggering tribal sovereign immunity. Pursuant to the collateral order doctrine, the Court concluded, yes, it is a "suit" against the Tribe. Therefore the Court reversed the district court's denial of the Tribe's motion to quash based on tribal immunity. View "Bonnet v. Ute Indian Tribe" on Justia Law

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In November 2004, Dr. Ashard Yousuf sued Dr. George Cohlmia and Cardiovascular Surgical Specialists Corporation (CVSS) in Oklahoma state court for defamation, tortious interference with business relations/contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress/outrage, negligence, and breach of contract. Dr. Yousuf alleged that Dr. Cohlmia made a series of false statements to local media disparaging Dr. Yousuf's professional reputation. Dr. Cohlmia denied that the statements he made were false. CVSS held a professional liability policy with Physicians Liability Insurance Company (PLICO) and two identical general commercial liability policies with American National Property and Casualty Company (ANPAC, one for each business location), each of which covered Dr. Cohlmia as an additional insured. Dr. Cohlmia demanded that both insurers provide for his defense, pursuant to their respective policies. PLICO agreed to defend the lawsuit under a reservation of rights and requested ANPAC to share in the defense. ANPAC refused, contending its policy did not cover the alleged wrongdoing and that it owed no duty to defend. ANPAC further claimed that even if it erred in refusing to defend Dr. Cohlmia, PLICO had no right to indemnification or contribution for the defense costs it incurred. ANPAC appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of PLICO in a dispute regarding ANPAC's breach of its duty to defend a co-insured. PLICO cross-appealed the district court's denial of its motion for prejudgment interest. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. View "Yousuf v. Cohlmia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Anil Vazirani was an independent insurance agent who owned and managed Vazirani & Associates Financial, LLC and Secured Financial Solutions, LLC. Vazirani contracted with Aviva Life and Annuity Company. After Defendants Mark Heitz and Jordan Canfield, executives at Aviva, cancelled the contract, Vazirani sued them in federal district court, alleging that they tortuously interfered with the contract. The district court awarded summary judgment to Defendants, holding that an officer of a company could be liable for tortious interference with a company contract only if he was motivated by solely personal interests. The court concluded Vazirani failed to produce evidence that defendants were motivated by solely personal interests in terminating the contract. Finding no error with that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Vazirani v. Heitz" on Justia Law