Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision vacating the bankruptcy court's determination concerning whether General Motors assumed liability, through a judicial admission, for claims like appellant's. Appellant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New GM after his wife was involved in an accident that left her incapacitated. She was driving a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, a vehicle manufactured by Old GM, which allegedly had a faulty ignition switch. The Second Circuit held that for a statement to constitute a judicial admission, it must be intentional, clear, and unambiguous. In this case, the court held that the inadvertent inclusion of language from an outdated, non-operative version of a sale agreement was not intentional, clear, and unambiguous, and thus was not a judicial admission. Therefore, General Motors was not bound by the language. View "In re Motors Liquidation Co. (Pillars)" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's award of $64 million to Utica. In this case, the jury found that the Fireman's Fund breached its obligations under reinsurance contracts issued to Utica.  The court agreed with Fireman's Fund that the reinsurance contracts, by their terms, demonstrate as a matter of law that Fireman's Fund did not owe to Utica the obligations allegedly breached. The court explained that the umbrella policies unambiguously define their attachment point by reference to the underlying limits of liability "as stated in the Schedule[s]." Therefore, where the losses in question did not exceed the limits stated for bodily injury in the Schedules, Fireman's Fund had no obligation under the reinsurance contracts to pay for those losses. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Utica Mutual Insurance Co. v. Fireman's Fund Inc." on Justia Law

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Jasmin appealed the district court's grant of Trina's petition to confirm an arbitration award entered in its favor and denial of Jasmin and JRC's motion to vacate the award. The district court relied on an agency and direct benefits theory of estoppel to find that Jasmin was bound by the arbitration clause. The Second Circuit reversed the district court's judgment as to Jasmin, holding that the district court erred when it determined that Jasmin was bound as a principal to the contract under agency theory. The court was not persuaded that JRC acted as Jasmin's agent in executing the contract or that, in the alternative, Jasmin was bound to the arbitration clause under a direct benefits theory of estoppel. In this case, the commercial contract containing the arbitration clause was governed by New York law and signed by Trina and JRC, not Jasmin. The court explained that Jasmin was not a party to the contract and thus could not enforce any rights or duties under the contract. The court remanded with instructions to enter an amended judgment dismissing the case as to Jasmin. View "Trina Solar US, Inc. v. Jasmin Solar Pty Ltd." on Justia Law

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This case arose out of the 2009 bankruptcy of Old GM, which resulted in a sale under 11 U.S.C. 363 of the bulk of its assets to a new entity that has continued the business (the new General Motors). The New General Motors assumed the liability of Old GM with respect to post‐Sale accidents involving automobiles manufactured by Old GM. The claims assumed included those by persons who did not transact business with Old GM, such as individuals who never owned Old GM vehicles and persons who bought Old GM cars after the Sale. At issue was whether the New General Motors was liable for punitive damages with respect to such claims. The Second Circuit held that the new General Motors did not contractually assume liability for punitive damages in its predecessor's bankruptcy sale, and thus the Post-Closing Accident Plaintiffs may not assert claims for punitive damages based on the predecessor's conduct. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's decision on the issue of punitive damages. View "In re Motors Liquidation Co." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Argentina's motion to dismiss with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and denying as moot plaintiffs' motion for injunctive relief and expedited discovery. In this case, plaintiffs claimed that they entered into binding settlement agreements with Argentina over defaulted bonds. The court held, under its precedent and New York state law, that when an agreement expressly requires a party's countersignature to be binding and the factors set out in Winston Mediafare Entertainment Corp., 777 F.2d 78, 80 (2d Cir. 1985), otherwise indicate that the parties did not intend to be bound, no valid contract exists in the absence of a party's countersignature. In this case, the purported agreements between plaintiffs and Argentina expressly required Argentina's countersignature before binding the parties, and the parties did not intend to be bound in the absence of a countersigned agreement. View "Attestor Value v. Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their state tort claims against defendants, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with contract, and negligent supervision or retention. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from the actions of Fox News employees after their son, Seth Rich, was murdered during a botched robbery. A Fox News Reporter, Malia Zimmerman, and a Fox News commentator, Ed Butowsky, recruited a contributor to infiltrate the Rich family in order to find information to give credence to a conspiracy theory that Seth had leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks and was assassinated for doing so. Applying de novo review, the Second Circuit held that the allegations in the complaint sufficiently stated a claim for intentional or reckless "extreme and outrageous" conduct against the Riches on the part of defendants; the complaint plausibly alleged that defendants tortiously interfered with the contract between the Riches and the contributor, who the Riches hired as a private investigator to look into the circumstances of Seth's death; and an amended complaint could likely cure any defect in plaintiffs' claim of negligent supervision or retention regarding the employment relationship between Fox News and Zimmerman and Wheeler. The court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rich v. Fox News Network, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their claims against Sequoia Fund, alleging that Sequoia Fund breached a contractual obligation not to concentrate its investments in a single industry. The Second Circuit agreed with the district court's alternative holding and affirmed the judgment. The court assumed, without deciding, that plaintiffs plausibly alleged the existence of a contract that included the Concentration Policy as an enforceable term that could not be changed without a shareholder vote. Even assuming the existence of a binding contract, however, the court held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege a breach. In this case, because the SEC's 1998 Guidance ‐‐ and by extension the Concentration Policy ‐‐ allows for the passive increases at issue, plaintiffs have failed to allege a violation of the Concentration Policy. View "Edwards v. Sequoia Fund, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a purported class action against Xoom, alleging that the company breached a customer agreement by failing to set their electricity rates according to their actual or estimated supply costs. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim and denied plaintiffs' post-judgment request for leave to amend under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). The Second Circuit held that the district court failed to accept as true plausible allegations in the complaint and the proposed amended complaint (PAC). In this case, plaintiffs have alleged, with the support of the expert calculations included in the complaint and the PAC, that XOOM's rates showed significant upward deviations from the Market Supply Cost and continued to rise even when that cost fell. Therefore, these allegations were sufficient to state a claim for breach of contract. Furthermore, there was no support for the district court's suggestion that plaintiffs fabricated their calculations. Likewise, the district court erred in denying plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint, and the district court should have accepted the PAC, notwithstanding its presentation after judgment was entered. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mirkin v. XOOM Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision declining to reconsider its original decision granting the Town's motion to dismiss the amended complaint alleging claims of, inter alia, breach of contract, innocent misrepresentation, and fraud in connection with plaintiff's loan to a licensee of the Town that was allegedly secured by the Town. The court held that PHL's arguments with regard to dismissals of the unjust enrichment and negligent misrepresentation claims were not properly before the court. Even if they were properly before the court, the court would still reject PHL's arguments. The court also held that PHL's amended complaint failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted for breach of contract or equitable relief because it failed to plausibly allege a valid contract; PHL's claims for misrepresentation failed because PHL failed to allege that it reasonably or justifiably relied on the misrepresentation; and there was no merit to PHL's contention that it should have been allowed to file a second amended complaint. View "PHL Variable Insurance Co. v. Town of Oyster Bay" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims for breach of contract, copyright infringement, misappropriation, and unfair competition arising from its sale of equipment and software for an automated assembly system. The court held that defendants' conduct did not breach Section 8.2(d) of the Equipment Purchase Agreement (EPA) and was non‐infringing because that provision permitted defendants to reproduce and use the station and server source code; defendantsʹ adaptation of the server source code was non‐infringing because it was authorized by 17 U.S.C. 117(a); Universalʹs contract claim that defendantsʹ modification of the server source code breached the EPA was preempted by the Copyright Act; Universalʹs claim of misappropriation of trade secrets was time‐barred; and MTA did not unfairly compete with Universal because its conduct was not in bad faith. View "Universal Instruments Corp. v. Micro Systems Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law