Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
McCutcheon v. Colgate-Palmolive Co.
Plaintiffs brought a class action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), arguing that Defendant Colgate-Palmolive Co. miscalculated residual annuities based on an erroneous interpretation of its retirement income plan and improperly used a pre-retirement mortality discount to calculate residual annuities, thereby working an impermissible forfeiture of benefits under ERISA. The district court granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs on these claims. Colgate appealed that order and the final judgment of the district court. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the text of the RAA is unambiguous and requires Colgate to calculate a member's residual annuity by subtracting the AE of LS from that member's winning annuity under Appendix C Section 2(b). Further, the court wrote that Colgate's "same-benefit" argument does not disturb our conclusion that the RAA's language is unambiguous. Because "unambiguous language in an ERISA plan must be interpreted and enforced in accordance with its plain meaning," the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the class Plaintiffs as to Error 1. View "McCutcheon v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law
JTH Tax d/b/a Liberty Tax Service v. Agnant
Plaintiff, a franchisor of tax preparation services, appeals from the district court’s denying its motion for preliminary injunctive relief to enforce, among other things, covenants not to compete or solicit former clients against Defendants, its former franchisees. On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the district court erroneously applied a heightened standard for obtaining preliminary injunctive relief, failed to credit an undisputed fact that Plaintiff had grounds to terminate the franchise agreements because Defendants were violating federal tax laws, and was compelled as a matter of law to find that it would suffer irreparable harm to its goodwill and client relationships in the absence of an injunction. The Second Circuit affirmed the order denying preliminary relief. The court concluded that the district court applied the appropriate standard, permissibly credited Defendants’ denials that they violated federal tax laws, and acted well within its discretion in concluding that Plaintiff would not suffer irreparable harm. The court reasoned that nothing in the court’s precedents compels a district court to find irreparable harm to goodwill and client relationships in covenant-not-to-compete or -solicit cases simply because irreparable harm is often found in such cases. Instead, a plaintiff must present the district court with actual evidence. On that record, the court wrote it cannot conclude that the district court’s finding that Plaintiff had failed to make a strong showing of irreparable injury represented a clear error or exceeded the court’s discretion. View "JTH Tax d/b/a Liberty Tax Service v. Agnant" on Justia Law
RSS WFCM2018-C44 – NY LOD, LLC v. 1442 Lexington Operating DE LLC
The case presents an apparently unresolved question in the Second Circuit: whether a district court’s order granting a purportedly final judgment on a noteholder’s claims seeking (1) foreclosure on a mortgage, (2) foreclosure on a security interest in real property and (3) possession of said real property is an appealable final judgment – even though the order also refers the case to a magistrate judge to calculate the amount of the judgment of foreclosure and sale. The district court struck the Borrower’s and Guarantors’ affirmative defenses, granted the motion for summary judgment on the Foreclosure Claims, and granted the motion to sever the Guaranty Claim in an opinion and order dated December 2, 2021. On appeal, the Borrower contends that the district court improperly struck certain affirmative defenses prior to entering summary judgment for the Noteholder on the Foreclosure Claims. The Second Circuit dismissed the appeal. The court concluded that such a judgment is not, in fact “final” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. Section 1291 and that no other basis for appellate jurisdiction exist. The court explained that the district court did not certify its judgment as final and appealable under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) in its December 2, 2021, Order and Judgment. And even if it did, the Court would have to “consider for itself whether the judgment satisfies the requirements of that rule.” View "RSS WFCM2018-C44 - NY LOD, LLC v. 1442 Lexington Operating DE LLC" on Justia Law
Admiral Ins. Co. v. Niagara Transformer Corp.
Admiral Insurance Co. (“Admiral”) sought a declaration that it need not defend or indemnify its historical insured, Niagara Transformer Corp. (“Niagara”), in potential litigation between Niagara and nonparties Monsanto Co., Pharmacia LLC, and Solutia Inc. (collectively, “Monsanto”) over harms caused by polychlorinated biphenyls that Monsanto had sold to Niagara in the 1960s and 1970s. Admiral appealed from the order of the district court dismissing its action for lack of a justiciable “case of actual controversy” within the meaning of the Declaratory Judgment Act (the “DJA”). The district court principally relied on (1) the fact that Monsanto has not commenced or explicitly threatened formal litigation against Niagara, and (2) its assessment that Monsanto would not be likely to prevail in such litigation. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order dismissing Admiral’s action to the extent that it sought a declaration of Admiral’s duty to indemnify Niagara, and remanded for the district court to determine whether there exists a practical likelihood that Monsanto will file suit against Niagara. The court explained that while the district court properly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to declare Admiral’s duty to indemnify Niagara, it did not adequately distinguish between that duty and the insurer’s separate duty to defend its insured. Because a declaratory-judgment action concerning either duty becomes justiciable upon a “practical likelihood” that the duty will be triggered, the justiciability of Admiral’s duty-to-defend claim turns on the practical likelihood that Monsanto will file suit against Niagara – not on whether Monsanto has already in fact done so. View "Admiral Ins. Co. v. Niagara Transformer Corp." on Justia Law
Brettler v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America
Plaintiff brought a lawsuit against Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (“Allianz”) in Plaintiff’s capacity as a trustee of the Zupnick Family Trust 2008A (“Trust”). Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that an Allianz life insurance policy (“Zupnick Policy”), which Plaintiff contends is owned by the Trust, remains in effect. The district court concluded that the Trust was not the actual owner of the Zupnick Policy under New York law because any assignment of the policy to the Trust failed to comply with the Zupnick Policy’s provision that assignment would be effective upon Allianz’s receipt of written notice of the assignment. The district court held that the Trust lacked contractual standing to sue on the Zupnick Policy, and granted Allianz’s motion to dismiss. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that failure to comply with the provisions of a life insurance policy requiring written notice of assignment cannot, under New York law, render an assignment ineffective. The Second Circuit certified the question to the Court of Appeals because the argument turns on a question of state law for which no controlling decision of the New York Court of Appeals exists. The court certified the following question: Where a life insurance policy provides that “assignment will be effective upon Notice” in writing to the insurer, does the failure to provide such written notice void the assignment so that the purported assignee does not have contractual standing to bring a claim under the Policy? View "Brettler v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America" on Justia Law
Badar v. Swissport USA, Inc.
Pakistan International Airlines (“PIA”) failed to transport the body of N.B. to Pakistan for burial due to a miscommunication by employees of Swissport USA, PIA’s cargo loading agent. N.B.’s family members sued PIA and Swissport in New York state court under state law; PIA removed the action to the district court. Following cross-motions for summary judgment and an evidentiary hearing, the district court held that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Montreal Convention and dismissed the suit. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the Montreal Convention, which preempts state-law claims arising from delayed cargo, does not apply because human remains are not “cargo” for purposes of the Montreal Convention and because their particular claims are not for “delay.” The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that human remains are cargo for purposes of the Montreal Convention; and on the facts found by the district court, the claims arise from delay. The claims are therefore preempted by the Montreal Convention. The court further wrote that it was Plaintiffs who cut off PIA’s ability to perform under the terms of the waybill. That decision was understandable given the need to bury N.B. quickly, and it cannot be doubted that Plaintiffs found themselves in a hard situation. But their only recourse against PIA and Swissport was a claim under the Montreal Convention, a claim which they have consistently declined to assert. View "Badar v. Swissport USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Local Union 97 v. NRG Energy, Inc.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO 20 (“Local Union 97”), a union primarily of electrical workers, executed a memorandum of agreement (“2003 MOA”) detailing a two-pronged approach to providing retiree life insurance benefits. Local Union 97 brought a complaint seeking to compel arbitration of a grievance they submitted alleging that NRG violated the terms of the CBAs by changing the life insurance benefit for the Pre-2019 Retirees to a lump sum of $10,000. The district court held that: 1) the grievance is not arbitrable under the 2019-2023 CBA, 2) the 2003 MOA is not arbitrable, and 3) the grievance is not arbitrable under any of the CBAs covering 2003-2019. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded and held the grievance is arbitrable under the 2019-2023 CBA because the broad arbitration provision creates a presumption in favor of arbitrability that NRG failed to overcome. The court also held that the parties’ dispute was arbitrable under the Prior CBAs because the 2003 MOA was a supplemental agreement that arguably vested the life insurance benefit for life. View "Local Union 97 v. NRG Energy, Inc." on Justia Law
Nitkewicz v. Lincoln Life & Annuity Co. of N.Y.
The United States District Court for the Southern District Court concluded that Lincoln Life & Annuity Company of New York was not obligated under New York Insurance Law Section 3203(a)(2) to refund a payment that Plaintiff had deposited into a policy account associated with her life insurance policy five months before she died. Because no New York court has analyzed this provision of New York insurance law, and because insurance policy implicates significant New York State interests, the Second Circuit deferred a decision on this appeal in order to certify the following question to the New York Court of Appeals: Whether a planned payment into an interest-bearing policy account, as part of a universal life insurance policy, constitutes a “premium actually paid for View "Nitkewicz v. Lincoln Life & Annuity Co. of N.Y." on Justia Law
Cantero v. Bank of Am., N.A.
Plaintiffs in two putative class actions took out home mortgage loans from Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”), one before and the other after the effective date of certain provisions of the DoddFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“DoddFrank”). The loan agreements, which were governed by the laws of New York, required Plaintiffs to deposit money in escrow accounts for property taxes and insurance payments for each mortgaged property. When BOA paid no interest on the escrowed amounts, Plaintiffs sued for breach of contract, claiming that they were entitled to interest under New York General Obligations Law Section 5-601, which sets a minimum 2% interest rate on mortgage escrow accounts. BOA moved to dismiss on the ground that GOL Section 5-601 does not apply to mortgage loans made by federally chartered banks because, as applied to such banks, it is preempted by the National Bank Act of 1864 (“NBA”). The district court disagreed and denied the motion. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that (1) New York’s interest-on-escrow law is preempted by the NBA under the “ordinary legal principles of pre-emption,” Barnett Bank of Marion Cnty., N.A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 37 (1996), and (2) the Dodd-Frank Act does not change this analysis. GOL Section 5-601 thus did not require BOA to pay a minimum rate of interest, and Plaintiffs have alleged no facts supporting a claim that interest is due. View "Cantero v. Bank of Am., N.A." on Justia Law
Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co. v. OneBeacon Ins. Co.
Defendant OneBeacon Insurance Company reinsured one of three excess insurance policies issued by Plaintiff Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company to policyholder ASARCO, Inc. After developing significant potential liability on claims made by asbestos-injured claimants, ASARCO sought coverage from Fireman’s Fund under all of its excess policies. ASARCO and Fireman’s Fund ultimately settled all of the claims under the three policies. Fireman’s Fund allocated a portion of that settlement to the policy reinsured by OneBeacon and sought reinsurance coverage on the allocated sum. OneBeacon rejected Fireman’s Fund’s claim, arguing that the settlement allocation violated the terms of the excess and reinsurance policies. The district court granted summary judgment to Fireman’s Fund, and OneBeacon appealed. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court that Fireman’s Fund’s allocation of a portion of the settlement to the excess policy reinsured by OneBeacon was not contrary to that policy’s exhaustion requirement or to the terms of the reinsurance policy. OneBeacon is therefore obligated under the reinsurance policy’s follow-the-settlements clause to provide the requested coverage. View "Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. OneBeacon Ins. Co." on Justia Law