Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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The plaintiffs were two wholly owned subsidiaries of First American Financial Corporation: First American Title Insurance Company (FA Company) and First American Title Company, LLC (FA LLC) (collectively Plaintiffs). The defendants, who appealed a judgment against them (Defendants) were Michael Smith, Kristi Carrell, and Northwest Title Insurance Agency, LLC. Jeffrey Williams was also a defendant, but is not a party to the appeal. Defendants raised numerous grounds on appeal of a large jury award based on breaches of contractual and fiduciary duties, many of which the Tenth Circuit concluded were not adequately preserved or presented. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, "[w]e may not have awarded the same amount, but we see no abuse of discretion." View "First American Title Insurance v. Northwest Title Insurance" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (“ODRS”) appealed a district court’s affirmance of an arbitration decision rendered under the Randolph-Sheppard Act (the “RSA”). The statute authorized designated state agencies such as ODRS to license and assign blind vendors to operate vending facilities on federal property; it also established an arbitration scheme to resolve disputes arising from this program. In accordance with the statute, the Department of Education (“DOE”) convened an arbitration panel (the “Panel”) to hear the grievances of David Altstatt, a blind vendor, challenging ODRS’s selection of another blind vendor, Robert Brown, for a particular vending assignment. Both Mr. Altstatt and Mr. Brown had applied for the assignment. The Panel found for Altstatt and ordered ODRS to remove Brown from the disputed assignment, appoint Altstatt in Brown’s place, and pay damages and attorney fees to Altstatt. ODRS brought suit to vacate the Panel’s decision, which the Randolph-Sheppard Act subjectd to judicial review as a final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act (the “APA”). Altstatt intervened as a defendant and counterclaimant, requesting that the court affirm the arbitration decision. DOE participated in the litigation only to the extent of filing the administrative record of the Panel proceedings. The district court entered judgment in favor of Altstatt and ordered ODRS to comply with the Panel’s decision. ODRS then appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision with respect to the Panel’s award of injunctive relief in the form of Brown’s removal and Altstatt’s appointment to the disputed assignment, but reversed as to the Panel’s award of damages and attorney fees. View "Tyler v. United States Dept. of Educ." on Justia Law

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Belsen Getty, LLC, a registered investment adviser owned by Terry Deru, obtained a claims-made financial-services-liability policy (the Policy) from XL Specialty Insurance Company covering Belsen Getty and its advisers for the period for one year. Under the policy, XL had no duty to defend. During the policy period James, Jenalyn, and Wade Morden brought claims against Belsen Getty and Deru alleging improper and misleading investment advice. XL denied coverage, asserting the Mordens’ claims and claims brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) before the policy period concerned “Interrelated Wrongful Acts,” as defined by the Policy, and that the Policy therefore required treating the two claims as one claim made before the policy period. Belsen Getty and Deru then settled with the Mordens, assigning their rights against XL; and the Mordens sued XL in federal district court, raising the assigned claims that XL breached its covenant of good faith and fair dealing and its fiduciary duties to Belsen Getty and Deru in denying coverage under the Policy. XL counterclaimed that the Policy’s Interrelated Wrongful Acts provision precluded coverage. The Mordens moved for partial summary judgment on the counterclaim and on several of XL's affirmative defenses. XL moved for summary judgment based on the policy and for failure to prove bad faith or breach of fiduciary duty. The district court denied XL's counterclaim, but granted summary judgment on the bad-faith and fiduciary-duty claims. The Mordens appealed summary judgment against them on their bad-faith and fiduciary-duty claims and on the denial of their motion to amend their complaint to add a breach-of-contract claim. XL cross-appealed the summary judgment against it on its counterclaim that the Policy’s Interrelated Wrongful Acts provision barred all the Mordens’ claims. The Tenth Circuit reversed the denial of XL’s motion for summary judgment on its counterclaim: this reversal undermined the Mordens’ challenges to the summary judgment against them and the denial of their motion to amend. The Court therefore affirmed summary judgment against the Mordens on their claims and the denial of their motion to amend. View "Morden v. XL Specialty Insurance" on Justia Law

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Auto-Owners Insurance Company provided automobile insurance to Frank and Nancy Csaszar and their daughter, Jennifer. But when that policy’s term came to a close, Auto-Owners informed Mr. and Mrs. Csaszar that, because of their daughter’s driving record, it would only renew their policy if it excluded her from coverage. The Csaszars agreed. The policy accordingly included an “excluded-driver” provision that stated the policy “shall provide no coverages” for “claims arising out of [Jennifer Csaszar’s] operation or use of any automobile. While this new policy was operative, an uninsured motorist rear-ended Jennifer while she was driving a vehicle not scheduled under her parents’ Auto-Owners policy. Jennifer filed a claim with Auto-Owners, requesting it pay her $500,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. Auto-Owners denied the claim because it believed the excluded-driver provision barred Jennifer from such coverage. It then sought a declaratory judgment that Jennifer was not entitled to any coverage, including UM/UIM coverage, under her parents’ policy. In response, Jennifer filed a counterclaim seeking a declaration she was, in fact, entitled to this coverage. The district court granted Auto-Owners’ motion for summary judgment. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Auto-Owners Insurance Company v. Csaszar" on Justia Law

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This case centered on an agreement between the City of Rawlins, Wyoming, and Dirty Boyz Sanitation Services (Dirty Boyz) for local garbage collection and disposal. About two years after the parties executed the agreement, the State of Wyoming required Rawlins to close its landfill. Soon after, Rawlins opened a transfer station to process garbage for transport to a landfill elsewhere. Later, Rawlins adopted a flow-control ordinance requiring that all locally licensed garbage haulers take collected garbage to Rawlins’ transfer station. Dirty Boyz argued the ordinance violated the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution, and was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration and Authorization Act (FAAAA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Rawlins. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in Rawlins' favor. View "Dirty Boyz Sanitation Service v. City of Rawlins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Spring Creek Exploration & Production Company, LLC and Gold Coast Energy, LLC appealed four separate district court orders dismissing contract and tort claims against Defendants Hess Bakken Investments II, LLC and Statoil Oil & Gas, LP. Around January 2009, Statoil entered into two agreements with a Hess affiliate. One of those agreements, the “Rough Rider Agreement,” prohibited Hess for one year from acquiring any oil or gas interests in the Rough Rider Prospect (land in North Dakota’s McKenzie and Williams Counties) in exchange for Hess’s affiliate receiving certain proprietary information from Statoil. In October 2009, still within the one-year non-compete period, Hess entered into a series of agreements (collectively, the “Tomahawk Agreement”) with Spring Creek, Gold Coast, and non-party Coachman Energy relating to the Tomahawk Prospect, a collection of land lying entirely within the much larger Rough Rider Prospect. As one part of the Agreement, Spring Creek and Gold Coast sold all of their oil and gas leasehold interests in the Tomahawk Prospect to Hess in exchange for an overriding royalty interest (“ORRI”) in the hydrocarbons produced under the terms of the leases (the “First Assignment”). Hess’s plan for these leases was to drill enough exploratory wells to prove their value and then sell them to larger operators. In another part of the Tomahawk Agreement, Spring Creek, Gold Coast and Hess executed an “Area of Mutual Interest Agreement” ("AMI"). In 2010, Statoil alleged Hess breached the Rough Rider Agreement by acquiring leases in the Rough Rider Prospect during the non-compete period. That led to a settlement agreement in which Hess sold most of its Tomahawk Prospect leases to Statoil at a discount. Hess further agreed that any leases it acquired in the Tomahawk Prospect in the next three months would be offered to Statoil at cost. In connection with Statoil’s due diligence in executing the settlement agreement, Hess disclosed to Statoil the terms of the AMI Agreement. Neither Spring Creek nor Gold Coast was privy to the Hess-Statoil negotiations. After the agreement was finalized, Statoil publicly announced that it had acquired about 10,000 net acres in the Rough Rider Prospect. The underlying litigation was filed in 2013, when Spring Creek brought suit against Hess and Statoil in Colorado state court. After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit determined summary judgment in favor of Hess and Statoil was proper, and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Spring Creek Exploration v. Hess Bakken Investment" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether Aspen Insurance (UK) Ltd. And Lloyd’s Syndicate 2003 (collectively, “Aspen”) had to reimburse Black & Veatch Corporation (“B&V”) for costs B&V incurred due to damaged equipment a subcontractor made for power plants in Ohio and Indiana. The district court held Aspen did not have to pay B&V’s claim under its commercial general liability (“CGL”) insurance policy because B&V’s expenses arose from property damages that were not covered “occurrences” under the Policy. Because the only damages involved here were to B&V’s own work product arising from its subcontractor’s faulty workmanship, the court concluded that the Policy did not provide coverage and granted Aspen’s motion for partial summary judgment. B&V appealed. The Tenth Circuit found that the Policy contained a choice-of-law clause, making the Policy subject to New York law. The Court also found a trend among state supreme courts that supported the contention that construction defects could constitute “occurrences” under CGL policies, and that contractors have coverage for the unexpected damage caused by defective workmanship done by subcontractors. The Tenth Circuit predicted the New York Court of Appeals would decide that the damages here constituted an “occurrence” under the Policy, and as such, vacated the district court’s summary judgment decision and remand for further proceedings. View "Black & Veatch Corp. v. Aspen Insurance" on Justia Law

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Oklahoma and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (the “Nation”) entered into a Tribal-State gaming compact; Part 12 of which contained a dispute-resolution procedure that called for arbitration of disagreements “arising under” the Compact’s provisions. The terms of the Compact indicated either party could, “[n]otwithstanding any provision of law,” “bring an action against the other in a federal district court for the de novo review of any arbitration award.” In Hall Street Associates, LLC. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, (2008), the Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) precluded parties to an arbitration agreement from contracting for de novo review of the legal determinations in an arbitration award. At issue before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals was how to treat the Compact’s de novo review provision given the Supreme Court’s decision in Hall Street Associates. The Nation argued the appropriate course was to excise from the Compact the de novo review provision, leaving intact the parties’ binding obligation to engage in arbitration, subject only to limited judicial review under 9 U.S.C. sections 9 and 10. Oklahoma argued the de novo review provision was integral to the parties’ agreement to arbitrate disputes arising under the Compact and, therefore, the Tenth Circuit should sever the entire arbitration provision from the Compact. The Tenth Circuit found the language of the Compact demonstrated that the de novo review provision was a material aspect of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate disputes arising thereunder. Because Hall Street Associates clearly indicated the Compact’s de novo review provision was legally invalid, and because the obligation to arbitrate was contingent on the availability of de novo review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the obligation to arbitrate set out in Compact Part 12 was unenforceable. Thus, the matter was remanded to the district court to enter an order vacating the arbitration award. View "Citizen Potawatomi Nation v. State of Oklahoma" on Justia Law

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This case involved an implied covenant to market gas. Energen owned and operated oil and gas wells in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Its wells were subject to leases and other agreements (many of which were quite old) requiring it to pay a monthly royalty or overriding royalty on production to the Anderson Living Trust, the Pritchett Living Trust, the Neely-Robertson Revocable Family Trust (N-R Trust), and the Tatum Living Trust. Believing Energen was systematically underpaying royalties, the Trusts filed a putative class action complaint against it. The New Mexico Trusts claimed Energen was improperly deducting from their royalties their proportionate share of (1) the costs it incurs to place the gas produced from the wells in a marketable condition (postproduction costs) and (2) a privilege tax the State of New Mexico imposes on natural gas processors (the natural gas processors tax). They also alleged Energen had not timely paid royalties or interest thereon, as required by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Proceeds Payments Act. Both the New Mexico Trusts and the Tatum Trust further claimed Energen was wrongfully failing to pay royalty on the gas it used as fuel. The district judge dismissed the New Mexico Trusts’ marketable condition rule claim for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and entered summary judgment in favor of Energen on the remaining claims. All of the Trusts appealed those judgments. For the most part, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court. The Tenth Circuit’s analysis differed from that of the district court relating to: (1) the fuel gas claims made by the N-R Trust and Tatum Trust; and (2) the New Mexico Trusts’ claim under the New Mexico Oil and Gas Proceeds Payments Act. As to the former, the N-R Trust’s overriding royalty agreement required royalty to be paid on all gas produced, including that gas used as fuel. And the Tatum Trust’s leases explicitly prohibited Energen from deducting post-production costs (Energen treats its use of the fuel gas as an in-kind postproduction cost). Moreover, the “free use” clauses and royalty provisions in the Tatum Trust’s leases limited the free use of gas to that occurring on the leased premises. Because use of the fuel gas occurred off the leased premises, Energen owed royalty on that gas. With regard to the latter, the district court was right in permitting Energen to hold funds owed to the N-R Trust in a suspense account until a title issue concerning a well was resolved in favor of that Trust. However, the district court did not address whether the N-R Trust was entitled to statutory interest on those funds. It was so entitled, yet the current record (at least in the Tenth Circuit’s analysis) did not show interest to have been paid on the funds. View "Anderson Living Trust v. Energen Resources" on Justia Law

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Richard Turley appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States, acting on behalf of the United States Postal Service, awarding specific performance of an option to purchase real estate from Turley. The purchase option was contained in a lease of the premises that the Postal Service had renewed on several occasions. Turley argued on appeal: (1) the lease had expired when the Postal Service attempted to exercise the purchase option because he had not received notice that the government was exercising its final option to renew the lease; (2) even if the lease was renewed, the Postal Service did not properly exercise the purchase option because it continued to negotiate for a new lease after it purported to exercise the option; and (3) equity precluded enforcement of the purchase option because the Postal Service attempted to use the purchase option as leverage to negotiate a better lease agreement. The Tenth Circuit was not persuaded. The Court found the lease-renewal option was properly exercised when the notice was delivered to the proper address, even though Turley refused to retrieve it. And Turley has presented no legal or equitable doctrine that would forbid a party who exercises (and is bound by) an option to purchase from pursuing an alternative arrangement. View "United States v. Turley" on Justia Law