Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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In 2007, Sovereign extended a $15 million line of credit to REMI to fund residential mortgage loans. Kaiser guaranteed REMI’s obligations. Sovereign and Kaiser agreed that any judgment entered against Kaiser would bear interest at the Prime Rate plus six percent per annum, not at the statutory rate of interest after judgment. REMI defaulted. Sovereign sued REMI and Kaiser. The parties resolved the case by agreement, which the district court entered as a $1,560,430.24 consent judgment in 2010. The Judgment was silent about any applicable interest rate.In 2017, Kaiser moved to declare that judgment had been satisfied. The district court denied the motion, ordering that the applicable interest rate is the federal statutory post-judgment interest rate, fixed by the Federal Reserve Bank, at 0.26%; and that REMI may serve discovery to determine the status of payments made toward the Consent Judgment. The court reasoned that no clear, unambiguous, and unequivocal language in the Consent Judgment demonstrated an intent to depart from the rate of interest provided by 28 U.S.C. 1961. The Third Circuit affirmed. It is incumbent on the parties to detail, with precision and with clarity, the bargain they have struck. The failure to do so in a consent judgment precludes a district court from enforcing an otherwise-silent provision one party asks it to enforce. View "Sovereign Bank v. Remi Capital Inc." on Justia Law

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In the 1990s, Aldossari’s company, Trans Gulf, entered into an agreement in Saudi Arabia with three other businesses to establish and operate an oil refinery in Saint Lucia, a Caribbean island nation. Crude oil was to be sourced from the Saudi government or its national oil company, Saudi Aramco. The project went forward, but, Aldossari alleged, the owners of the three contract counterparties – one of whom became the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia –refused to pay Trans Gulf its share of the proceeds. Two decades later, the soon-to-be Crown Prince promised to pay Aldossari but never did. Aldossari, transferred his rights to his minor son, a U.S. citizen.The federal district court dismissed Aldossari’s subsequent tort and contract claims. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that dismissal of the claims against a deceased defendant was proper because Aldossari failed to allege any basis for exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims. As for the surviving defendants, the lack of any meaningful ties between those defendants and the United States in Aldossari’s claims defeats his effort to sue them in the U.S. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act precludes subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims against Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco. The case was remanded with directions to dismiss without prejudice since none of the dispositive rulings reach the merits. View "Aldossari v. Ripp" on Justia Law

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Xylem, which sells large-capacity water pumps, requested that Field develop hardware to interface with the pumps and computer software for monitoring and controlling the equipment. A 2013 “NonDisclosure Agreement” contained an arbitration provision. Xylem purchased the units from Field via written Purchase Orders and purchased monthly subscriptions that permitted Xylem’s customers to use Field’s software via cellular networks to monitor and control their Xylem pumps. There was no written agreement governing Xylem’s software subscription purchases until the 2017 “Software Subscription Service Agreement,” which contained an “integration clause” stating that “[t]his Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties with respect to its subject matter and supersedes any and all prior or contemporaneous understandings or agreements.” The 2017 contract contained no arbitration provision, instead requiring any “action under or concerning” that contract to be litigated in New Jersey. Xylem began building its own hardware.Field sued, in New Jersey, for breach of the 2017 contract. In discovery, Xylem sent Field an interrogatory asking whether it intended to rely on the 2013 contract to support any of its claims. Field responded that Xylem breached the 2013 contract by its actions. Xylem then filed an arbitration demand. The district court held that the 2017 agreement superseded the earlier contract, eliminating any duty to arbitrate. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The district court was authorized to determine whether the second agreement superseded the first but the first agreement was not superseded. View "Field Intelligence Inc v. Xylem Dewatering Solutions Inc" on Justia Law

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OneMain, a non-bank finance company, loaned Zirpoli $6,200.08, to be repaid at a rate of 26.91% (total $11,364.35). The loan was issued under the Consumer Discount Company Act (CDCA), a consumer protection statute, which creates an exception to Pennsylvania’s usury law. The loan is governed by a disclosure statement, a security agreement, and an arbitration agreement. Later, OneMain sold delinquent accounts to Midland, including Zirpoli’s loan. Midland sued Zirpoli but later dismissed the suit and undertook collection efforts.Zirpoli filed a class action, alleging that Midland’s collection activities constituted an unlawful attempt to collect the loan because Midland does not have a CDCA license and never obtained nor requested approval from the Department of Banking. Midland was, therefore, not lawfully permitted to purchase the loan. Midland moved to compel arbitration. The court denied the motion, focusing on the validity of the assignment from OneMain and Midland. The Third Circuit vacated. The ultimate illegality of a contract does not automatically negate the parties’ agreement that an arbitrator should resolve disputes arising from the contract. The parties to the loan clearly agreed to arbitrate the issue of arbitrability. The arbitration agreement provides that an arbitrator shall resolve the arbitrability of defenses to enforcement, including alleged violations of state usury laws. View "Zirpoli v. Midland Funding LLC" on Justia Law

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Crozer owns healthcare companies that operate as wholly owned subsidiaries: Prospect, employs professionals working at hospitals; CCMC, is a hospital and hired Abdurahman as an emergency medical resident. Abdurahman signed new-hire paperwork, including an at-will employment agreement with Crozer and an arbitration agreement with Prospect. Several weeks later, Abdurahman signed a residency agreement with CCMC. Dr. Jacobs was an employee of Prospect, working as CCMC’s Director of Toxicology and supervised Abdurahman. Abdurahman alleged that Jacobs sexually harassed her; Jacobs claimed the opposite and informed CCMC Human Resources that Abdurahman had assaulted her. The dispute escalated until Abdurahman was fired.Abdurahman filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the EEOC, alleging defamation and discrimination under Title VII, Title IX, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. She subsequently filed suit against CCMC and Jacobs. The district court denied a motion to compel arbitration. The Third Circuit affirmed. Abdurahman signed an arbitration agreement with Prospect, not CCMC. That agreement cannot stretch to govern Abdurahman’s employment with CCMC. The court noted that the corporations are sophisticated entities that drafted the forms. View "Abdurahman v. Prospect CCMC LLC" on Justia Law

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R&C, run by two employees, entered an agreement to haul equipment for American Wind. The agreement’s arbitration clause provides: any claim, dispute or controversy including, but not limited to the interpretation of any federal statutory or regulatory provisions purported to be encompassed by this Agreement; or the enforcement of any statutory rights emanating or relating to this Agreement shall be resolved on an individual basis (and not as part of a class action) exclusively between Contractor and Carrier by final and binding arbitration.R&C alleges that American Wind failed to make agreed-upon detention payments, resulting in a cash shortfall, forcing R&C to sell its trucks. R&C continued to haul equipment for American Wind but on behalf of the trucks’ new owner. R&C filed suit, alleging breach of contract and contending that the arbitration clause was unenforceable because R&C is a transportation worker operating under a contract of employment, exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). R&C also argued that the arbitration provision was unconscionable. After R&C refused to arbitrate, the case was dismissed for failure to prosecute. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that R&C had not sought interlocutory review of the order compelling arbitration, as permitted by the FAA. The interlocutory order was not part of the final order, so the court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to review it. View "R & C Oilfield Services LLC v. American Wind Transport Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Bernstein and France are certified agents, registered with the NFL Players Association to represent NFL players in contract negotiations. Bernstein also owns Clarity, which represents professional athletes in matters such as marketing and endorsement contracts. Golladay signed a standard representation agreement with Bernstein in 2016, before Golladay’s rookie season with the Detroit Lions, and signed a separate agreement with Clarity for representation in endorsement and marketing deals. In January 2019, Golladay terminated both agreements. three days after participating in an autograph-signing event that Bernstein had played no role in arranging. Golladay immediately signed with France.Bernstein believed France was behind the signing event and filed a grievance against France pursuant to the NFLPA dispute resolution provisions. The matter went to arbitration. In pre-hearing discovery, France denied possessing any documents pertaining to the event and denied any involvement in the event. France’s lies were not uncovered until after the arbitration was decided in his favor.The Third Circuit reversed the district court’s confirmation of the arbitration award because France’s fraud procured it. The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 10, permits an award to be vacated under narrow circumstances, including “where an award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means.” France’s fraud was not discoverable through reasonable diligence and was material to the case. View "France v. Bernstein" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit vacated in part the order of the district court denying OptumRX's (Optum) motion to compel arbitration in the underlying action alleging breaches of contract and breaches of duties of good faith and fair dealing and violations of certain state statutes, holding that the district court erroneously applied the incorrect standard in ruling on Optum's motion.More than 400 pharmacies brought suit against Optum, a pharmacy benefits manager responsible for administering prescription drug programs on behalf of health-insurance plans. Optum moved to compel arbitration based on arbitration agreements found in various contracts covering the majority of the pharmacies. The district court denied the motion in full, concluding that compelling the pharmacies to proceed with arbitration would be procedurally unconscionable. The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment in part, holding that the district court erred by not adhering to Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, 716 F.3d 764 (3d Cir. 2013). View "Robert D. Mabe, Inc v. OptumRX" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Transit was awarded an exclusive license to bring telecommunications services to 277 New York City subway stations. Transit subcontracted with Fiber-Span, to develop remote fiber nodes to amplify telecommunication signals in the first six subway stations to receive service. Fiber-Span agreed to subsidize certain developmental costs, hoping to be selected as the contractor for the remaining 271 subway stations. Transit agreed that, if Fiber-Span was not selected to supply nodes for the remaining stations, Transit would reimburse those front-loaded costs. The relationship deteriorated. Transit asserted that Fiber-Span remained in breach of contract even after attempts to remediate problems but nevertheless took the network live. Transit insisted that Fiber-Span replace the nodes. Fiber-Span said it would do so only after it was awarded a contract for the remaining stations. Transit continued to use the nodes for two more years, then sued in New York state court. Fiber-Span filed for bankruptcy.The Third Circuit concluded Transit’s decision to keep using the nodes was consistent with the acceptance of non-conforming goods. Fiber-Span breached the contract; the damages must reflect the difference in value between what Transit received and what it was promised, which is less than what the bankruptcy and district courts awarded. Transit was not required to compensate Fiber-Span for not selecting it to provide nodes for the remaining subway stations. Transit’s claim to the payment on Fiber-Span's performance bond is time-barred. View "In re: Fiber-Span Inc" on Justia Law

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Under "loyalty contracts," Physician Buying Groups (PBGs) members are entitled to discounts if they buy a large enough percentage of their vaccines from Merck. The loyalty contracts include an arbitration provision. Membership contracts between PBGs and medical practices give medical practices discounts on Merck vaccines for enrolling in PBGs. PBGs contract with both Merck and medical practices and are middlemen but PBGs never possess the vaccines. Medical practices buy their vaccines directly from Merck, receiving discounts for belonging to a PBG. The Pediatricians, members of PBGs that contracted with Merck, never signed contracts containing an arbitration clause.The Pediatricians filed federal suits alleging Merck’s vaccine bundling program was anticompetitive. Merck moved to compel arbitration. On remand, following discovery, the district court again denied Merck’s motion and granted the Pediatricians summary judgment, reasoning that the Pediatricians were not bound under an agency theory. The Third Circuit reversed. The PBG membership contract made the PBG a “non-exclusive agent to arrange for the purchase of goods and services,” and the PBG acted on this authority by executing the loyalty contract with Merck that included the arbitration clause. The Pediatricians simultaneously demonstrated intent to create an agency relationship and exercised control over the scope of the PBG’s agency by contract. View "In re: Rotavirus Vaccines Antitrust Litigation v." on Justia Law