Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision to exclude all evidence of Keystone Insurance Agency's alleged damage under Utah R. Civ. P. 26(d)(4) in Keystone's suit against Inside Insurance, the court's dismissal of all of Keystone's claims with the exception of Keystone's request for declaratory relief, and the court's dismissal of Inside's counterclaims, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. In its complaint, Keystone requested that the district court declare Keystone a member of Inside and sought to inspect certain records. Inside asserted several counterclaims. After the district court entered its judgment the Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Keystone failed to provide Inside with a viable computation of its claimed damages in compliance with Utah R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(C), and therefore, the district court properly excluded Keystone's damages evidence under rule 26(d)(4); (2) the district court properly denied Keystone's motion for reconsideration; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing with prejudice Inside's expulsion counterclaim seeking expulsion of Keystone as a member of Inside pursuant to Utah R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2) and (c). View "Keystone Insurance Agency, LLC v. Inside Insurance, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute stemming from a seller-financed real estate transaction, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court, holding primarily that the district court was not precluded by the mandate rule from determining that the promissory note did not require the buyers to pay any incurred late fee amounts to bring note current because the court construed an ambiguity in the note against the defendants, as drafters, without first considering extrinsic evidence. The buyers purchased the real estate with a promissory note that required them to make an installment payment each month and a final balloon payment. The note applied a ten percent base interest rate on the unpaid principal and established consequences if the buyers missed an installment payment, including a late fee and bump up in the base interest rate until the note was brought current. The buyers made the installment payments but disagreed over the amount owing the final balloon payment, leading to litigation. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a new determination after the court considers relevant extrinsic evidence and held that the district court did not clearly err in determining that extrinsic evidence showed that the parties did not intent the note's late fee to apply to the final payment. View "Brady v. Park" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court declined to overturn a rule established in St. Benedict’s Development Co. v. St. Benedict’s Hospital, 811 P.2d 194 (Utah 1991), in which the Court held that to prevail on a claim for intentional interference with contract the plaintiff must show that the defendant interfered through “improper means,” holding that “improper means” test remains a good rule. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant alleging that Defendant intentionally interfered with Plaintiff’s contracts with its employees. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff failed to provide proof of “improper means” to support its claim. The federal district court concluded that there appears to be no clear, controlling Utah law regarding the interpretation of “improper means” and certified the question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held (1) the element of improper means is firmly established in Utah law and rests upon a firm legal footing, and therefore, this Court declines to overturn St. Benedict’s; (2) the definition of “improper means” provided in Leigh Furniture & Carpet Co. v. Isom, 657 P.2d 293 (Utah 1982), and St. Benedict’s is reaffirmed; and (3) to prove the element of improper means based on an alleged violation of an established industry rule or standard the plaintiff must provide evidence of an objective, industry-wide standard. View "C.R. England v. Swift Transportation Co." on Justia Law

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In this complaint alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty against Van Wagoner & Bradshaw, LLC, an accounting firm, and Coldwell Banker Commercial, the Supreme Court largely affirmed as to the issues raised in cross-petitions for certiorari but reversed and remanded as to the issue as to whether Plaintiff was entitled to a jury instruction on nondisclosure fraud. Reperex, Inc. brought this action after a business it purchased in a deal brokered by Coldwell failed. All of the claims against Coldwell were dismissed before trial. Two of the claims against Bradshaw were dismissed before trial, and the remaining fraud claim went to trial, where Bradshaw prevailed. The court of appeals affirmed as to Bradshaw but reversed as to Coldwell. Coldwell and Reperex filed cross-petitions for certiorari. The Supreme Court held (1) Coldwell could not be held liable despite a nonreliance clause in Coldwell’s contract with Reperex; (2) expert testimony was not required to sustain Reperex’s breach of fiduciary duty claim; (3) Reperex failed to establish a basis for overcoming protections available to Bradshaw under Utah Coe 58-26a-602; but (4) as to the lack of a jury instruction on nondisclosure fraud, the case must be remanded for a determination of whether Bradshaw owed Reperex a duty of disclosure under the common law. View "Reperex, Inc. v. Coldwell Banker Commercial" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the jury’s $2.75 million award for non-economic damages in this legal malpractice and breach of contract case, holding that the case did not qualify as one of the “rare” cases where non-economic damages can be recovered for breach of contract. Plaintiff sued Defendants for legal malpractice, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision after Defendants failed to bring Plaintiff’s claim before the statute of limitations ran. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff on each of the claims, awarding her $750,000 in damages for breach of contract and $2.75 million for the emotional distress Plaintiff suffered as the result of the malpractice. The Supreme Court vacated the non-economic damages award, holding that, under either a breach of contract or breach of fiduciary duty theory, the district court erred in upholding the award for emotional distress damages. The Court also vacated the attorney fees award and held that the district court correctly denied Plaintiff’s litigation expenses. View "Gregory & Swapp, PLLC v. Kranendonk" on Justia Law

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An action is commenced under Utah law not by the filing of a motion for leave to amend but by the filing of a complaint. Many years after filing suit against other defendants a homeowners association sued the general contractor on a construction project. By the time the homeowners association finally filed an amended complaint naming the general contractor the statute of repose had run on six buildings in the project. The general contractor filed motion for summary judgment, asserting that the claims against it were time barred. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the amended complaint related back to the date the motion for leave to amend was filed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the homeowners association’s claims were time barred because no viable complaint was filed within the repose period and the complaint did not relate back to a timely pleading. View "Gables v. Castlewood" on Justia Law

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A party may implicitly waive an antiwaiver clause in a contract through conduct, but there must be clear intent to waive both the underlying contract provision and the antiwaiver clause. Defendant hired Plaintiff to provide snow removal services. The parties’ contract required Plaintiff to maintain a certain amount of insurance coverage. The contract included an antiwaiver clause stating that Defendant’s failure to notice a deficiency in Plaintiff’s insurance coverage could not be construed as a waiver of the insurance provision. When Defendant discovered that Plaintiff had failed to purchase the required insurance, Defendant terminated the contract. Plaintiff brought this action asserting that Defendant had waived its right to terminate the contract because Defendant effectively waived the insurance requirement by making payments to Plaintiff despite its noncompliance. The jury found Defendant liable for breach of contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff produced no evidence of waiver beyond Defendant’s failure to insist on performance of the insurance requirements; and (2) Defendant was within its rights to terminate the contract. View "Mounteer Enterprises, Inc. v. Homeowners Association for Colony at White Pine Canyon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s ruling that Plaintiff, a municipal employee, had forfeited her merit protection status through contract, estoppel, and waiver without reaching the merits of Plaintiff’s claims because she failed to carry her burden of challenging all of the district court’s rulings, each of which was an independent basis for summary judgment. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that Supreme Court precedent allowing a contract in conflict with a statute to survive, provided it does not violate public policy, does not extend to contracts involving government employees. The Supreme Court held that, although it was possible that Plaintiff was correct, Plaintiff was not entitled to relief because she failed to challenge the district court’s ruling that she was equitably estopped from claiming merit status. View "Howick v. Salt Lake City Corp." on Justia Law

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In this action alleging, inter alia, breaches of fiduciary duty and the implied warranty of habitability, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and a directed verdict against The Gables at Sterling Village Homeowner’s Association (the Association) but vacated the district court’s award of attorney fees. The Association filed this action against the property developer who built the Gables at Sterling Village, the builders, and their principles after property owners began to notice problems in the planned unit development. The property owner asserted a counterclaim for indemnification. The district court granted (1) summary judgment against the Association, concluding that the Association lacked contractual privity with the property developer; (2) the property developer’s motion for directed verdict on the Association’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty; and (3) the property developer’s post-trial motion for indemnification of attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment and directed verdict; but (2) the property developer should have tried his indemnification claim rather than raise it by post-trial motion. View "Gables at Sterling Village Homeowners Ass’n v. Castlewood-Sterling Village I, LLC" on Justia Law

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The doctrine of equitable conversion operates to protect a buyer’s interest in the land from the time a land sales contract is capable of being specifically enforced by the buyer. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed the district courts judgment that the seller's creditor was unable to attach a judgment lien to land that the seller had already entered into a real estate purchase contract to sell. In this case, the real estate purchase contract was an executory real estate contract and, as such, it was subject to the equitable conversion doctrine. View "SMS Financial v. CCB, LLC" on Justia Law