Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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The Supreme Court remanded this case after holding that retroactive application of Minnesota's revocation-upon-divorce statute did not violate the Contracts Clause. In light of the Supreme Court's remand, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment awarding the policy proceeds to the deceased's children. View "Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Melin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed the underlying action against BNSF after he was injured when the backrest of his locomotive seat broke, and alleged that the seat did not comply with the federal standards in the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA). BNSF settled a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) claim with plaintiff. BNSF then filed suit against Seats to recover the costs of settlement. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred in determining that the LIA preempted BNSF's claims for products liability and breach of contract. Because the district court did not address defendant's other grounds for dismissal of the two claims, the court remanded for further proceedings on those alternative arguments. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Seats, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kinder filed suit against Manning, alleging that Manning breached a contract to build a pumping station. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Manning, holding that Kinder committed the first material breach of contract by threatening to assess delay-related damages without any justification, interfering with the relationship between Manning and EarthTec, and failing to provide adequate assurances that Manning would be paid for its work. The court also held that the district court correctly found that Kinder wrongfully terminated the contract and that evidence at trial supported the damage award. View "Randy Kinder Excavating, Inc. v. JA Manning Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to American Family in an action alleging breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of Minnesota's consumer fraud statutes. The court held that American Family did not breach the contract because nothing in the policy imposed on American Family a contractual obligation to make objectively reasonable or accurate replacement cost estimates; American Family did not negligently misrepresent the replacement cost of plaintiffs home where, regardless of any breach of duty, no genuine dispute existed as to justifiable reliance upon the estimates; and plaintiffs could point to any promise, misrepresentation, or false statement made by American Family, let alone one that they relied upon, justifiably or unjustifiably, in deciding to purchase or renew the policy. View "Nelson v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a breach-of-contract action to recover unpaid insurance premiums. The court held that the administrative procedures available to the insurer were too informal to require exhaustion under then-applicable Missouri law. Therefore, Travelers had no obligation to exhaust its administrative remedies before filing its lawsuit. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Travelers Property Casualty Insurance Company of America v. Jet Midwest Technik" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action against WireCo's workers' compensation insurance carriers, Liberty, seeking damages for excess premiums that WireCo allegedly paid on three of Liberty's insurance policies. The court held that the plain language and established purpose of the Missouri vexatious refusal to pay statute indicated that it applied to claims filed under a policy that related to a covered loss and that a breach of a contract of overcharging or of failure to refund premium was not a loss contemplated by the statute. Therefore, a loss under the statute did not include excess premium payments. The court also held that only the theories of breach of contract were before the district court at summary judgment; even assuming the rating plans were incorporated into the policies, and that Liberty breached the contracts, WireCo must present evidence that Liberty's alleged breaches caused WireCo to suffer damages; and Liberty was entitled to summary judgment on WireCo's breach of contract claims because WireCo failed to present evidence that it would have paid lower premiums if Liberty had complied with the notice and documentation requirements of the Missouri and Texas schedule rating plans. View "WireCo WorldGroup, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for CyberPower in an action alleging breach of contract, fraud, and unpaid wages. Plaintiff alleged that CyberPower breached a Compensation Agreement that secured his employment until the company reached a specific monetary sales threshold. The court held that there was no ambiguity on the question of whether CyberPower clearly intended to modify plaintiff's at-will status with the Compensation Agreement where the text of the agreement indicated that it governed only compensation. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining arguments. View "Ayala v. CyberPower Systems (USA), Inc." on Justia Law

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Smoky II filed a breach of contract suit against the city when it did not receive payment from the city on invoices related to curtailed energy (wind energy that was not actually produced because the producer was directed to reduce production). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the parties' contract provided that the city could be billed for economic curtailments; the district court did not err in holding the city liable for certain charges that it found to be "timely-billed;" the plain language of the Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement (REPA) supported the district court's interpretation of the meaning of "Emergency Curtailment;" the trial evidence clearly supported the district court's rejection of the city's theory regarding over-allocation of energy; and Smoky II waived the issue of substantial performance. View "Smoky Hills Wind Project II v. Independence, Missouri" on Justia Law

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Unitherm filed suit against Hormel, alleging that Hormel wrongfully terminated a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) and breached a Mutual Confidential Disclosure Agreement (MCDA). Hormel counterclaimed and alleged that Unitherm breached the JDA and sought a declaratory judgment that Hormel owned the patented "Unitherm Process" for precooking bacon in a spiral oven. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, dismissing Unitherm's breach of contract claims and Hormel's breach of contract and declaratory judgment counterclaims. The court held that Unitherm failed to present evidence permitting a reasonable jury to find that Hormel wrongfully terminated the JDA; Hormel was under no contractual duty to disclose to Unitherm whether it intended to continue exploring a commercially viable method to produce precooked bacon using a process that included superheated steam in a spiral oven; the spiral test oven did not qualify as confidential information; Hormel did not breach the MCDA; and the district court did not err in denying Unitherm's request for discovery. Finally, no reasonable jury could find that Hormel became the rightful owner of Unitherm's patented process. View "HIP, Inc. v. Hormel Foods Corp." on Justia Law

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Leonetti's filed suit against Crew for negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and trade libel. Leonetti's alleged that an email sent by the president of Crew caused Sam's Club to decline to purchase Leonetti's stromboli products. The district court granted summary judgment for Crew on each count except the breach of contract count, which was later dismissed with prejudice. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to the causation of the project termination. In this case, the district court failed to consider Leonetti's evidence offered to rebut an email explaining that Sam's Club was terminating the project for product quality concerns. View "Leonetti's Frozen Foods,Inc. v. Crew, Inc." on Justia Law