Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
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U.S. Home challenges the district court's orders granting judgment, prejudgment interest, and attorneys' fees to Parkway in an action stemming from disputes over land and purchase development contracts. The Fourth Circuit held that the plain language of the contracts supports the district court's conclusion that Parkway's lawsuit is timely. In this case, Parkway's cause of action did not accrue until 2017, and the lawsuit was filed in the same year. However, the court held that the district court erred in ordering U.S. Home to pay prejudgment interest dating from May 27, 2008 and attorneys' fees. Under Maryland law, the court explained that Parkway is entitled to prejudgment interest only from the date of the purchase in 2017. Under the contract, Parkway may not be awarded attorneys' fees. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated in part, remanding for instructions to award prejudgment interest from April 21, 2017. View "Parkway 1046, LLC v. U.S. Home Corporation" on Justia Law

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After Affinity was sued for allegedly submitting Medicaid reimbursement claims for services that they never provided, it sought coverage for the suit under its insurance policy with StarStone. StarStone denied coverage because the lawsuit's claims did not fall within the policy's coverage for "damages resulting from a claim arising out of a medical incident." The district court agreed and granted judgment on the pleadings against Affinity on a declaratory judgment claim and breach of contract claim. The Fourth Circuit first found that it had appellate jurisdiction over the appeal, because Affinity properly appeals from a "final" decision. In this case, Affinity properly appealed the district court’s order dismissing its contractual claims after voluntarily dismissing extra-contractual claims that were necessarily precluded by the order. On the merits, the court applied North Carolina law and held that the allegations in the underlying complaint fall within the insurance policy's coverage provision. The court found that the False Claims Act action "arises out of" a medical incident as required to fall under the coverage provision of StarStone's policy. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order granting StarStone's motion for judgment on the pleadings and vacated the order denying Affinity's motion for partial summary judgment. View "Affinity Living Group, LLC v. Starstone Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Fessler sued, alleging that his former employer, IBM. unlawfully “capped” his sale commissions despite representing to him that his commissions would be uncapped. The district court dismissed his claims on the basis that the Incentive Plan Letters (IPLs) that IBM presents to its employees foreclosed any reasonable expectation that Fessler would receive additional commissions. The Fourth Circuit vacated, finding that Fessler adequately stated claims for fraud, constructive fraud, unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and punitive damages. Although the IPLs stated that they did not constitute a promise and IBM reserved the right to adjust the plan’s terms,.Fessler can plausibly allege that he reasonably relied on PowerPoint presentations that repeatedly informed him that his commissions would be uncapped, and his past experience that IBM never capped a commission before 2016. A jury could find that since the representations that his commission would be uncapped were presented subsequent to Fessler receiving IPLs, it was reasonable for Fessler to understand them as adjustments to the plan’s terms. Fessler can plausibly allege the requisite intent to deceive, based on IBM’s motivation to recruit good salespeople who would not work for IBM if they knew that their commissions would be capped. Fessler’s quantum meruit claim is sufficient because of the lack of a meeting of the minds with regard to the exact payment he would receive for his work. View "Fessler v. IBM Corp." on Justia Law

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Expo Properties owns an office complex in which they leased to Experient. When the lease term ended, the parties dispute the condition the premises should be in when defendant vacated, and who should pay for any work to put the premises into that condition. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Experient, holding that the Estoppel Certificate did not satisfy the requirements of Maryland contract law for modification of a contract. Therefore, contrary to Expo Properties' contention, the Estoppel Certificate did not modify the Lease under Maryland law. Furthermore, the Lease unambiguously does not allocate all costs for all maintenance and repairs, no matter what, to the tenant. Consequently, the district court properly held that Expo Properties' parol evidence was inadmissible. View "Expo Properties, LLC v. Experient, Inc." on Justia Law

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Modern filed suit against Turner, alleging claims arising from a subcontract outlining Modern's role in the construction of an FBI facility. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court properly applied West Virginia's law and rejected all of Modern's claims based on the plain language of the contract. In this case, the district court granted Turner summary judgment on the field verification claim, and subsequently ruled in favor of Turner on the remaining claims. The court held that Modern and Turner were two sophisticated parties that entered into a detailed contract spelling out their rights and responsibilities in the construction of the FBI facility, and the provisions of that contract directly addressed the very issues raised in this appeal. Furthermore, the provisions of the contract compelled the result reached by the district court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "US f/u/b of Modern Mosaic, Ltd v. Turner Construction Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a tortious interference claim brought by Sprint against Wireless Buybacks, an arbitrager of upgraded phones from customers that then resells them at higher prices. Sprint alleged that its written contract with customers categorically prohibits them from reselling their phones, and Wireless Buybacks has wrongfully induced customers to do so. The district court found that the contract unambiguously barred resale and granted partial summary judgment for Sprint. The Fourth Circuit held that Sprint's terms and conditions did not unambiguously prohibit customers from reselling their phones, and thus Sprint was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In this case, the court rejected Sprint's two theories in support of why "Services" unambiguously included all upgraded phones, and Sprint failed to show that Wireless Buybacks bought phones from Sprint customers who agreed to activate their upgraded phones on Sprint's network. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's summary judgment order insofar as it found Wireless Buybacks liable for tortious interference and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sprint Nextel Corp. v. Wireless Buybacks Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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After English filed suit against RK&K and CDM Smith for breach of contract and indemnification, the district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, holding that the district court construed ambiguous contractual language and resolved factual disputes, which violated the established principles of summary judgment. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the court noted that the factfinder will need to interpret the relevant aspects of the contract and to determine the effect of any breach by English on RK&K's liability. Furthermore, the factfinder will need to determine what CDM Smith’s contractual obligations were under the circumstances, whether CDM Smith satisfied those obligations, and if CDM Smith failed to meet its obligations, whether and to what extent English is entitled to damages. View "W. C. English, Inc. v. Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, LLP" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of disputes between the parties involving a twelve year commercial lease of office space in Baltimore, Maryland. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court misconstrued the lease agreement and misapplied Maryland law in concluding that Montgomery Park had a duty to endeavor to relet the premises and minimize its damages as a condition precedent to recovering against NCO. The panel held that the lease agreement's language incorporated the common law mitigation-of-damages doctrine, which holds that a plaintiff cannot recover damages which it could have reasonably avoided. Therefore, Montgomery Park's recovery should only have been reduced by the amount of rent that NCO could demonstrate would have been recovered by reasonable efforts to re-let the space. The court also held that the district court, in evaluating the commercial reasonableness of Montgomery Park's mitigation efforts, applied the wrong standard. The court held that reasonable commercial efforts to mitigate damages did not require Montgomery Park to favor NCO’s space over other vacant space in the building, but rather, commercial reasonableness only required Montgomery Park to reasonably market NCO's space on an equal footing with the other spaces that it was seeking to rent. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "NCO Financial Systems, Inc. v. Montgomery Park, LLC" on Justia Law

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The parties dispute whether the obligation to "spud" three wells on a tract of land in West Virginia was an obligation only to begin drilling or to complete the wells to the point of mineral production. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that the Purchase Sale Agreement executed between the parties contained no requirement that the spudded wells be completed to production. The court also affirmed the district court's conclusion that Pine Resources failed to prove that it sustained any damages. View "Equinor USA Onshore Properties, Inc. v. Pine Resources, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from a bond transaction involving a municipal golf course in the City of Buena Vista, Virginia (the City), the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s motion to dismiss a ten-count complaint filed by ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation (ACA) and SunTrust Bank (Bank) against the City and the Public Recreational Facilities Authority (Authority), holding that the complaint failed to allege claims for which relief could be granted. In an effort to refinance a loan that the Authority took out to finance the construction of the golf course, the Authority issued over $9 million in bonds. The Authority and the Bank entered into a trust agreement regarding the bonds. To repay the bonds, the Authority leased the golf course to the City. The City and the Authority then issued deeds of trust to the Bank pledging certain property as security. The City later failed to pay the rent due on the golf course lease, and the Authority could not repay the bonds. ACA, which provided insurance on the bonds, and the Bank sued. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the City’s obligation to make rent payments was not legally enforceable when the obligation was expressly subject to the city’s annual decision to appropriate funds. View "ACA Financial Guaranty v. City of Buena Vista, Virginia" on Justia Law