Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
SG Homes Associates, LP v. Marinucci
Defendant appealed from the district court's order affirming the bankruptcy court's finding of fraud and entry of a nondischargeable judgment for SG Homes. The court concluded that SG Homes justifiably relied on defendant's fraudulent misrepresentations and thereby suffered proven damages. Therefore, the bankruptcy court's finding of fraud on the basis of justifiable reliance was not clearly erroneous. Further, the award of damages for SG Homes was not clearly erroneous and the bankruptcy court did not err in determining that the judgment debt was nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(A). Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "SG Homes Associates, LP v. Marinucci" on Justia Law
VRCompliance LLC v. HomeAway, Inc.
HomeAway filed suit in the District Court of Travis County, Texas, against Eye Street and others, asserting, inter alia, state law claims for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. Eye Street did not attempt to remove HomeAway's Texas suit to federal district court but, instead, filed its own action against HomeAway and others in federal district court. After HomeAway moved to dismiss Eye Street's action for improper venue or, alternatively, to transfer venue to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, the district court stayed the action pending the resolution of HomeAway's Texas lawsuit. On appeal, Eye Street challenged the propriety of the stay. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in staying Eye Street's action. Given the strong case for a stay under the United Capitol Insurance Co. v. Kapiloff factors and Eye Street's deliberate choice to forego removal, the district court's decision would be an appropriate exercise of discretion under either Brillhart v. Excess Insurance Co. of America/Wilton v. Seven Falls Co. or Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "VRCompliance LLC v. HomeAway, Inc." on Justia Law
Johnson v. American United Life Ins.
Plaintiff, the widow of the insured, filed this action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B), after AUL, the insurer, refused to pay accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) benefits. The district court affirmed the denial of benefits on the grounds that the death was not accidental because the fatal crash was an "anticipated and expected" result of driving while intoxicated. The insurance policies did not define the term "accident" despite its critical importance for determining eligibility for AD&D benefits. Because "accident" was susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, the court construed it against AUL, the drafting party, and concluded that a reasonable plan participant under similar circumstances would have understood the insurer's alcohol-related crash to be an "accident" under the policy language. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Johnson v. American United Life Ins." on Justia Law
Central Telephone Co. v. Sprint Communications Co.
Sprint entered into interconnection agreements with incumbent local exchange carriers (CenturyLink Plaintiffs) providing for the mutual exchange of telecommunications traffic pursuant to the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 151 et seq. When Sprint began to withhold payments under the agreement, CenturyLink brought a breach of contract claim in federal district court. The court held that the 1996 Act did not require a State commission to interpret and enforce an interconnection agreement (ICA) in the first instance; neither the text of the 1996 Act nor prudential considerations compelled federal deference to State commissions in the first instance; the district court judge's ownership of shares in plaintiff did not constitute a financial interest in plaintiff for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 455(b); the district court did not violate the recusal statute and therefore did not abuse his discretion in deciding that neither recusal nor vacatur was appropriate; when viewed in conjunction with the ambiguity in the ICA's coverage of voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) traffic over Feature Group D (FGD) trunks, the parties' course of dealing reinforced the court's conclusion that the district court did not err in entering judgment for plaintiff on its breach of contract claim; and, in the face of ambiguity, the court construed the relevant provisions of the North Carolina ICA against Sprint and in favor of plaintiff. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Central Telephone Co. v. Sprint Communications Co." on Justia Law
Spaulding v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Plaintiffs filed suit against Wells Fargo after plaintiffs' application for a mortgage modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) was denied. The district court concluded that plaintiffs had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and therefore granted Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss. The court concluded that plaintiffs have not plausibly stated a breach of contract claim; plaintiffs' negligence claim failed because there was no express or implied contract and therefore, no tort duty could arise as a matter of law; plaintiffs' Maryland Consumer Protection Act, Md. Code Ann., Com. Law 13-301(1), claim failed because Wells Fargo did not make misrepresentations when it stated that it needed more information to process plaintiffs' HAMP application; and the district court court properly dismissed the negligent misrepresentation and common law fraud claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Spaulding v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Southern Walk at Broadlands v. Openband at Broadlands, LLC
Southern Walk, a homeowners association, brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment against OpenBand, the corporation with which it had contracted in 2001 for wire-based video services. Southern Walk alleged that the 2007 Exclusivity Order issued by the FCC rendered "null and void" OpenBand's exclusive rights under the 2001 contracts to provide such wire-based video services to Southern Walk homeowners. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court to the extent that it held that Southern Walk failed to allege facts supporting standing in this case, but vacated that judgment to the extent that it dismissed the case with prejudice, and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice. The court affirmed the district court's denial of attorney's fees to OpenBand. View "Southern Walk at Broadlands v. Openband at Broadlands, LLC" on Justia Law
Lansdowne on the Potomac Homeowners Assoc. v. Openband at Lansdowne, LLC
The homeowners association sued OpenBand, a group of interlocking entities that provided cable services to Lansdowne real estate development. The homeowners alleged that OpenBand entered into a series of contracts that conferred upon Open Band the exclusive right to provide video services to the the development, in violation of an order of the FCC prohibiting such exclusivity arrangements. Because the contract prohibited competing cable providers from accessing the Lansdowne development in patent violation of the FCC's Order, the court affirmed the district court's judgment declaring the challenged provisions null and void and permanently enjoining their enforcement. View "Lansdowne on the Potomac Homeowners Assoc. v. Openband at Lansdowne, LLC" on Justia Law
Muriithi v. Shuttle Express, Inc.
In this appeal, the court considered the enforceability of an arbitration clause included in a franchise agreement between plaintiff and Shuttle Express. The court concluded that the Supreme Court's recent decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion required reversal of the district court's holding that the class action waiver in the franchise agreement was an unconscionable contract provision; the district court erred in holding that the other two challenged provisions of the franchise agreement also rendered the arbitration clause unconscionable; and therefore, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for entry of an order compelling arbitration. View "Muriithi v. Shuttle Express, Inc." on Justia Law
McCauley v. Home Loan Investment Bank, F.S
This appeal arose from the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against Home Loan and Deutsche Bank, alleging state law claims based on a mortgage contract. The district court determined that plaintiff's claims were preempted by the Home Owner's Loan Act (HOLA), 12 U.S.C. 1461 et seq., and its implementing regulation, 12 C.F.R. 560.2. The court concluded that plaintiff's allegations supporting her first count - that the mortgage contract was unconscionable - fell under section 560.2(b) and therefore, the court concluded that her claim was preempted and affirmed the dismissal of that claim. However, because plaintiff's state tort claim for fraud only incidentally affected lending, it was not preempted by HOLA or its implementing regulation. Therefore, dismissal of that claim on preemption grounds was unwarranted. Further, the court found no basis for dismissal of plaintiff's fraud count on Rule 12(b)(6) grounds and plaintiff's complaint met the requirements of Rule 9(b). Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "McCauley v. Home Loan Investment Bank, F.S" on Justia Law
Francis v. Allstate Ins. Co.
Plaintiffs brought this action in Maryland state court seeking a declaration as to Allstate's duty under a renters insurance policy to defend and indemnify plaintiffs in a tort suit brought against them, and others. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment to Allstate, concluding that Allstate did not have a duty to defend. The court held that Maryland law applied to the issue of whether Allstate had a duty to defend plaintiffs if Maryland law would apply without the choice-of-law provision in the policy; according to Maryland's lex loci contractus rule for choice-of-law decisions, California law governed the analysis of whether Allstate had a duty to defend plaintiffs in the underlying action; and the court rejected plaintiffs' argument that Allstate nonetheless owed them a duty to defend under the policy. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Francis v. Allstate Ins. Co." on Justia Law