Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiffs, active and retired Baltimore police officers and firefighters who participate in a public pension plan, challenged the City's decision changing the manner in which annual increases to pension benefits are calculated. Plaintiffs claimed that the substitution of a cost-of-living adjustment for a "variable benefit" violates the members' rights under the Contract Clause and the Takings Clause. The court concluded that the members' rights under the Contract Clause were not impaired because the members retained a state law remedy for breach of contract. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment with respect to the City's elimination of the variable benefit. The court affirmed the district court's decision upholding the remaining portions of the ordinance at issue, and vacated the district court's order dismissing the Takings Clause claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cherry, Jr. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City" on Justia Law

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The Club is a non-profit provider of protection and indemnity insurance. The Club's Rules include a choice-of-law provision selecting New York law and a two-year statute of limitations for claims against the Club. The Club filed a civil action against defendant alleging that it breached the insurance contract by failing to reimburse the Club for a shortfall and by failing to pay the overdue insurance premiums. The court agreed with the district court, and precedent, that an otherwise valid choice-of-law provision in a maritime contract is enforceable and may require application of a jurisdiction's statute of limitations, in lieu of the doctrine of laches, to govern issues regarding the timeliness of claims asserted under that agreement. Accordingly, the court held that the district court correctly applied New York's six-year statute of limitations to the Club's claims arising under its maritime insurance contract with plaintiff. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "American Steamship Owners v. Dann Ocean Towing, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute between CoreTel and Verizon regarding their respective responsibilities under an interconnection agreement (ICA), a private contract that implements duties imposed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 151 et seq. Each party contended that the other improperly billed it for various services. The district court granted summary judgment in Verizon's favor on each claim. The court concluded that CoreTel was entitled to summary judgment in its favor on both its and Verizon's claims for declaratory relief relating to Verizon's facilities charges where the ICA entitled CoreTel to order entrance facilities for interconnection at TELRIC. The court remanded for consideration of CoreTel's claim for injunctive relief. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on CoreTel's facilities claims where the facilities CoreTel provided were not entrance facilities under ICA 1.25 and CoreTel pointed to no provision of the ICA that authorized it to simply levy facilities charges for any piece of equipment that handled Verizon's traffic. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in Verizon's favor on CoreTel's reciprocal compensation claims. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in Verizon's favor on Verizon's switched-access claims. View "CoreTel Virginia, LLC v. Verizon Virginia, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was the owner of certain fractional work interests in four Ritchie County mining partnerships. The court certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia: Whether the proponent of his own working interest in a mineral lease may prove his entitlement thereto and enforce his rights thereunder by demonstrating his inclusion within a mining partnership or partnership in mining, without resort to proof that the lease interest has been conveyed to him by deed or will or otherwise in strict conformance with the Statute of Frauds. View "Valentine v. Sugar Rock, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute over Core's interconnection agreement with Verizon. On appeal, Core challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment to Verizon with respect to tort claims pursued by Core under Maryland law. Core also contended that the district court erred when it awarded nominal damages to Core on its related claim for breach of contract (Reconsideration Order). The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting Verizon to raise the Exculpatory Clause, post-remand, in the summary judgment proceedings; the district court did not err in enforcing the Exculpatory Clause in the consolidated proceedings where the Clause was not void under principles of Maryland contract law; the district court did not err in awarding Verizon summary judgment on Core's state law tort claims for concealment and unfair competition where Core failed to establish that Verizon acted with intent to defraud or deceive; and the district court properly entered judgment on Core's breach of contract claim in the nominal sum of one dollar. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Core Communications, Inc. v. Verizon Maryland, Inc." on Justia Law

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Carnell, a "minority-owned" corporation, filed suit against the Housing Authority and Blaine based on claims of race discrimination, retaliation, and breach of contract. The court held that a corporation can acquire a racial identity and establish standing to seek a remedy for alleged race discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, but that the district court properly dismissed one of the defendants from liability on plaintiff's race discrimination claims; the district court abused its discretion in permitting the use of particular impeachment evidence, which should have been excluded as unfairly prejudicial under Federal Rule of Evidence 403; and the district court properly reduced certain damages awarded to plaintiff on its contract claims, but decided that the strict notice requirements of the Virginia Public Procurement Act, Virginia Code 2.2-4300 through 4377, required the court to narrow further the scope of recoverable contract damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Carnell Construction Corp. v. Danville RHA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against RAC after entering into a rental agreement with RAC for a wooden trundle bed and mattress infested with bedbugs. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's order compelling arbitration of their breach of warranty claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301 et seq. Relying on regulation promulgated by the FTC under its authority to interpret the Act, plaintiffs argued that RAC could not require binding arbitration as part of a consumer warranty. The court concluded that the district court erred in holding that the FTC regulations contained no ban on binding arbitration. However, the FTC arbitration ban simply did not apply to plaintiffs' rental agreement with RAC. Because plaintiffs have not linked RAC's warranty to any sale, they failed to establish the existence of a written warranty under FTC regulations. Accordingly, the binding arbitration clause was enforceable and the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Seney v. Rent-a-Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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DynCorp contracted with the U.S. Department of State to assist in the development of a civilian police force in Iraq and subcontracted with PMC for operations and maintenance support. PMC filed suit against DynCorp alleging that DynCorp breached its contract with PMC by making payments to one account instead of another. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of PMC's case against DynCorp as a sanction for its discovery malfeasance. The court rejected PMC's arguments on appeal because they did not support reversal of the district court's orders. View "Projects Mgmt. Co. v. DynCorp Int'l LLC" on Justia Law

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Motor Carriers filed suit against defendants under 49 U.S.C. 13706(b) of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act. At issue was whether, absent a federal tariff, federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over a motor carrier's breach of contract claim against a shipper for unpaid freight charges. The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal under the Act, finding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded with instructions to dismiss. View "Gaines Motor Lines, Inc. v. Klaussner Furniture Ind." on Justia Law

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ABB filed a complaint against CSX alleging that the electrical transformer that CSX transported was damaged in transit and that CSX was liable for the full amount of the damage. CSX denied full liability, alternatively contending that the parties had agreed in the bill of lading to limit CSX's liability. The court vacated the portion of the district court's judgment limiting any liability on the part of CSX because it concluded that the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 11706, subjected CSX to full liability for the shipment and that the parties did not modify CSX's level of liability by written agreement as permitted in that statute. View "ABB, Inc. v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law