Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Ohio law allows nonsignatory agents to compel arbitration under general principles of contract and agency law. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Navient's motion to compel arbitration against plaintiff. The court disagreed with the district court's finding that the relevant arbitration clause does not include Navient as a party and so Navient cannot compel arbitration. Rather, the court held that Ohio law permits plaintiff to compel arbitration as a nonsignatory agent of the holder of the loan. The court also held that Ohio's rule of alternate estoppel prevents plaintiff from disavowing the arbitration clause because his claim arises out of the same contract. Therefore, plaintiff is estopped from avoiding the arbitration clause because his claims are integrally intertwined with the contract containing the agreement to arbitrate. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Neal v. Navient Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Pharmacies filed suit against ESI, the nation's largest Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM), alleging breach of contract, attempted monopolization, and other claims. The district court dismissed the entire complaint with prejudice, holding that the Pharmacies did not state a claim for breach of contract because their claim was based on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The parties had incorporated HIPAA and the HITECH Act into section 5.3 of their pharmacy provider agreements (PPA).The court affirmed and held that, textually, HIPAA does not authorize the Pharmacies to direct or control the use of their customers’ information and does not grant the Pharmacies power to enforce their customers' rights. Furthermore, the Pharmacies failed to allege a breach of contract based upon an alleged past or ongoing HIPAA violation. In this case, the Pharmacies failed to allege that ESI's use of their customers’ HIPAA-protected information to provide lower cost mail order refills lacked the express authorization of the plan sponsors and, thus, the implied authorization of the customers seeking to have their prescription costs covered by their plans.The court also held that the district court did not err in dismissing the Pharmacies' claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing where the parties' agreements give ESI access to the Pharmacies' customer information and do not prevent its use for mail-order service dispensing. Finally, the court rejected the Pharmacies' claims of unfair competition, misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with business expectancy and attempted monopolization. View "Trone Health Services, Inc. v. Express Scripts Holding Co." on Justia Law

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In 2019, Perficient filed suit against its former employee and his new employer, Spaulding, alleging claims including breach of contract and violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and the Missouri Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The district court ruled in favor of Perficient, concluding that the employee violated the covenant-not-to-compete provision in his employment contract. The district court then granted permanent injunctive relief of short duration. The employee and Spaulding timely filed this interlocutory appeal but did not seek a stay of the district court’s order pending appeal. The injunction expired in May 2020 on its own, with the appeal pending and further proceedings stayed in the district court. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court's injunction has become moot and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. Furthermore, none of the traditional exceptions to mootness apply. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "Perficient, Inc. v. Munley" on Justia Law

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Travelex filed suit against defendant to enforce an alleged agreement restricting her ability to compete with Travelex by soliciting business from certain customers. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of defendant, determining that the purported agreement was unenforceable.The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that summary judgment was not warranted. In this case, the district court concluded that the agreement was unenforceable because the 2008 agreement became a nullity when Travelex was acquired by Cover-More and defendant refused to sign a new agreement as a condition of continued employment and was terminated. The court held that defendant's refusal to sign the new agreement nullified the prior agreement. The court also held that defendant's alternative argument, that under New York law restrictive covenants may not be enforced when an employee is dismissed without cause, does not apply because the non-solicitation agreement is not unreasonable as a matter of law. View "Travelex Insurance Services, Inc. v. Barty" on Justia Law

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FEI, Crop Venture's successor-in-interest, filed suit alleging that the individual defendants took proprietary information they developed at Crop Ventures after they left the company and co-founded Farmobile (the corporate defendant). Specifically, FEI alleges that the individual defendants' behavior constituted a breach of explicit or implicit contracts with the company; defendants were obligated to assign to their employer the ownership rights of products they worked to develop; the individual defendants breached their duty of loyalty to their employer; and the individual defendants misappropriated trade secrets. The district court denied in full FEI's motion, and granted in part and denied in part Farmobile's motion.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that because no contract bound the parties during Defendant Nuss' term of employment, Nuss was not in breach of an explicit contract; FEI has not shown that any of the individual defendants was similarly "specifically directed" during their product-development process, so no implied contracts were created under the hired-to-invent doctrine; FEI failed to show the individual defendants breached their duty of loyalty to their employer; FEI cannot maintain a trade secret claim under the Nebraska Trade Secrets Act (NTSA) or the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA); and the remaining claims are unpersuasive. View "Farmers Edge Inc. v. Farmobile, LLC" on Justia Law

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CRST filed suit against TransAm, alleging that TransAm wrongfully recruited and hired several long-haul truck drivers who were under contract with CRST. The district court granted TransAm's motion for summary judgment and dismissed all of CRST's claims with prejudice.The Eighth Circuit held that the district court erred with respect to the causation element but did not err with respect to the existence of a valid contract element, and that the record contains sufficient evidence to support the intentional and improper interference element. The court also held that the district court erred in granting TransAm's motion for summary judgment on CRST's unjust enrichment claim. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the drivers were not indispensable parties. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded the district court's order granting TransAm's motion for summary judgment and affirmed the district court's determination that the drivers are not indispensable parties to the proceedings. View "CRST Expedited, Inc. v. Transam Trucking, Inc." on Justia Law

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The National Credit Union Administration Board ("NCUAB"), the self-appointed conservator of Citizens Community Credit Union ("Citizens"), repudiated a letter of credit Citizens issued to Granite Re, Inc. Granite filed a complaint for damages against the NCUAB, claiming wrongful repudiation and wrongful dishonor of a letter of credit. The NCUAB moved to dismiss with prejudice, arguing 12 U.S.C. 1787(c) authorized it to repudiate the letter of credit with no liability for damages, and section 1787(c) preempted conflicting North Dakota Law. The district court agreed and dismissed the complaint. The Eighth Circuit determined that were it to adopt the NCUAB's construction of section 1787(c), the NCUAB could "quietly appoint itself conservator and repudiate letters of credit with no liability to the injured beneficiary. Absent the ability to predict an impending conservatorship, a clean letter-of-credit beneficiary like Granite is subject to repudiation with no recourse." The Court determined NCUAB's construction was inconsistent with the language of the statue, which provided a limited remedy for damages determinable at the point of conservatorship, but did not negate recovery entirely. The Court also determined it was premature to declare section 1787(c) preempted North Dakota law. The Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Granite Re, Inc. v. Nat'l Credit Union Adm. Board" on Justia Law

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Top Rank and Middendorf are boxing promoters and parties to an Agreement and Release regarding a successful boxer's promotional rights. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Middendorf in part, holding that the Agreement and Release contemplates that Middendorf is entitled to a fee so long as Top Rank promotes the boxer's title defenses pursuant to a promotional rights agreement. However, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Middendorf in part, holding that the term "purse," as used in the Agreement and Release, does not include a boxer's share of gate revenues. View "Middendorf Sports v. Top Rank, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motions for dismissal and for summary judgment, granting summary judgment to the law firm. The court applied a five-factor test to determine the sufficiency of defendant's contacts and held that, when all of the circumstances are viewed in the aggregate, defendant had fair warning that he could be subject to jurisdiction in Arkansas. In this case, defendant's contacts with Arkansas involved more than just his guaranty; the language of the contract provided for Cuker to perform its obligations in the Western District of Arkansas; and, as personal guarantor of Cuker's performance, it was reasonable and foreseeable for defendant to anticipate being haled into that same court if Cuker failed to perform.The court rejected defendant's claim that his personal guaranty is unenforceable as a matter of law because his obligations are not adequately specified. The court held that the express terms of the legal services agreement evidence an intent to hold defendant liable to the same extent as Cuker's liability. Finally, the court applied state, not federal elements of estoppel in diversity cases, and held that the district's reasoning and the record supported equitable estoppel. View "Henry Law Firm v. Atalla" on Justia Law

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After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Cuker on its claims against Walmart for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and misappropriation of trade secrets, the district court reduced the amount of damages awarded by the jury and entered judgment in favor of Cuker. The district court subsequently further reduced the damages awarded to Cuker on the ground that Cuker presented insufficient evidence to demonstrate it undertook reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of three of the four alleged trade secrets. Finally, the district court found in favor of Cuker on all other issues.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the evidence in the record supported the jury's finding that Cuker took reasonable efforts to protect only one of the alleged trade secrets, the Adobe Source Files; because Cuker failed to take reasonable steps to protect the other three alleged trade, that information was not subject to protection under the Arkansas Trade Secrets Act (ATSA); evidence in the record established that Walmart used improper means to acquire Cuker's Adobe Source Files and that it did so wilfully and maliciously; there was no error in the district court's analysis or conclusions on the reduction in damages based on Cuker's failure to establish proximate cause; and Walmart's argument that the contract granted Walmart a perpetual and irrevocable license was without merit.The court also held that the district court properly instructed the jury on material breach of contract; the record supported the jury's finding that Walmart's acts, hindrances, or delays excused Cuker's performance; sufficient evidence supported the conclusion that Walmart engaged in intentional wrongdoing; it was permissible under the ATSA for the district court to enter a injunction; and there was no error in denying Walmart's motion for a new trial. View "Walmart, Inc. v. Cuker Interactive, LLC" on Justia Law