Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court
Harman v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc.
The Administrators of the estates of two individuals killed in a single-engine airplane crash filed wrongful death actions against Honeywell International, Inc., the manufacturer of the plane’s autopilot system, alleging that Honeywell breached of the warranty of merchantability. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Honeywell. The Administrators appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erroneously admitted hearsay statements in testimony regarding an accident investigation report prepared by the Mooney Airplane Company describing its investigation of the crash, and their admission was not harmless error; and (2) the circuit court abused its discretion in admitting certain opinion testimony and in allowing Honeywell’s counsel to make certain statements during closing argument. View "Harman v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
Squire v. Va. Housing Dev. Auth.
To purchase her home, Kim King executed a promissory note to Virginia Housing Development Authority (“VHDA”) that was secured by a deed of trust. When King lost her full-time job, she arranged for a special forbearance agreement with VHDA. The VHDA eventually foreclosed on King’s loan, and King’s home was sold. King filed a complaint against VHDA and Evans & Bryant, PLC (“Evans”), as substitute trustee, alleging, among other things, that (1) certain federal regulations prevented VHDA from foreclosing until she was three months in arrears and VHDA had a face-to-face meeting with her, and (2) VHDA breached the deed of trust by foreclosing before it fulfilled these requirements and Evans breached its fiduciary duty by foreclosing when neither of the requirements had been met. The trial court sustained Defendants’ demurrers. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the trial court (1) erred in sustaining the demurrers regarding the failure to hold a face-to-face meeting prior to foreclosure; and (2) did not err in sustaining demurrers against King’s allegation of breach of contract regarding the forbearance agreement and against King's requests for declaratory judgment, rescission, and to quiet title. View "Squire v. Va. Housing Dev. Auth." on Justia Law
Norfolk S. Ry. v. E.A. Breeden, Inc.
In 1940, property owners (Yanceys) and the predecessor to Norfolk Southern Railway Company (together, Norfolk) entered into an agreement (Agreement) whereby Norfolk agreed to construct and maintain a private grade grossing over its railroad tracks. In 1996, E.A. Breeden, Inc. acquired part of the Yancey estate and leased a house upon this track to Todd Ditton and his wife. Ditton was injured when his vehicle was struck by a Norfolk train at the crossing. Ditton filed an action against Norfolk, and the parties settled. In 2006, Norfolk filed an action against Breeden seeking to recover the settlement amount based on an indemnity clause in the Agreement. The circuit court ruled that Norfolk was not entitled to indemnification or contribution from Breeden because Ditton was a successor in interest under the terms of the Agreement and his use of the crossing was independent of Breeden. Subsequently, Norfolk removed the private crossing, and Breeden sought a permanent injunction requiring Norfolk to replace and maintain the crossing. The circuit court granted the request for injunctive relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding there was no material breach by Breeden and in granting the injunction. View "Norfolk S. Ry. v. E.A. Breeden, Inc." on Justia Law
Robinson-Huntley v. G.W. Carver Mut. Homes Ass’n
In 1989, Plaintiff inherited an interest in a real estate cooperative (“the Association”). Plaintiff became a member of the cooperative and executed a mutual ownership contract with the Association in which Plaintiff acquired a possessory interest in a dwelling (“unit”). A paragraph of the contract (“the Provide and Pay Provision”) required the association to "provide and pay for the property" except that Plaintiff shall make “minor interior repairs.” In 2011, Plaintiff began experiencing plumbing problems in her unit. After the Association refused to replace Plaintiff’s pipes, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that the Provide and Pay Provision obligated the Association to replace the pipes. The circuit court concluded that the Provide and Pay Provision did not obligate the Association to replace the pipes and declined to award Plaintiff attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by (1) finding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the parties intended the Association to make the repairs Plaintiff sought; and (2) declining to award Plaintiff attorneys’ fees. View "Robinson-Huntley v. G.W. Carver Mut. Homes Ass'n" on Justia Law
Dean v. Morris
Shirley Gregg Dean (Shirley) and Marion Casey Dean (Casey) married in 1978. Shirley died in 1999. At the time, Shirley’s daughters (the sisters) decided not to probate their mother’s estate, basing their decision on their belief that Shirley had an oral contract with Casey for him to provide for them in his will. After Casey died in 2010, the sisters sued Casey’s estate for breach of an oral contract between Casey and Shirley. The trial court granted judgment in favor of the sisters, concluding that they carried their burden of proving that there was an oral agreement between Casey and Shirley to leave one-third of Casey’s estate to Shirley’s children if Shirley predeceased Casey. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court ruling that a contract existed between Shirley and Casey, holding that the record lacked clear and convincing evidence as to the terms of the agreement between Casey and Shirley. View "Dean v. Morris" on Justia Law
Assurance Data, Inc. v. Malyevac
Malyevac and ADI entered into an agreement under which Malyevac sold ADI's computer products and services to its customers. The agreement contained noncompete, non-solicitation, non-disclosure, and return of confidential information provisions. A few months after entering into the agreement, Malyevac resigned. ADI filed a complaint, alleging that Malyevac was violating the agreement by performing work and services and selling products in direct competition with ADI, by engaging in other prohibited activities, and by failing to return confidential information. Malyevac claimed that the provisions were overbroad and unenforceable. The trial court sustained a demurrer without granting ADI leave to amend its complaint. The Virginia Supreme Court reversed, holding that the merits of the claim cannot be determined on a motion for dismissal. View "Assurance Data, Inc. v. Malyevac" on Justia Law
Ayers v. Shaffer
Plaintiffs are the estranged great grandchildren of Elsie and legatees to one half of her residuary estate under a will dated 2004 and admitted to probate following Elsie's death in 2010. The defendants are Audrey, Elsie's sister and legatee to the remaining half of her residuary estate, and Elsie’s former neighbors, Toni, Bruce, and Mike. Elsie's will nominated Toni as executrix; Toni and Audrey took possession of significant assets from Elsie during Elsie’s life. Toni and Bruce began providing assistance to Elsie and her husband in 2004 under a contract providing that Toni and Bruce would be paid $500 per week and would receive $8000 for assistance given in the past. The agreement provided that Toni and Bruce would be paid from her estate, rather than during her lifetime. The trial court found that that Toni, while acting as an agent under the power of attorney, did not arrange for Elsie’s assets to pass at death to the defendant, that the assets in question were retitled by Elsie personally. The Virginia Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Toni was in a confidential relationship with Elsie and the burden was on the defendants to rebut the presumption that the transactions were the result of undue influence. View "Ayers v. Shaffer" on Justia Law
Raley v. Haider
In 2008 and 2009, Dr. Raley was employed by Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, PLLC (MISI), a medical practice owned and managed by Haider. Raley claimed MISI had failed to pay him all the money he earned and filed suit in 2010, claiming breach of contract and breach of implied contract against MISI. In Count II, Raley sued MISI as well as Haider, alleging that Haider wrongfully distributed money from MISI to himself, depleting MISI of funds in violation of Code § 13.1-1035, which governs distributions made by Virginia LLCs. The trial court agreed that Raley, who was not a member of MISI, could not bring a cause of action under Code § 13.1-1035, and dismissed Raley’s Count II claim. Raley was awarded $395,428.70 plus interest against MISI., but has been unable to collect the judgment. He filed a garnishment proceeding, naming Haider as the garnishee. Raley also filed a second complaint against Haider, Minimally Invasive Pain Institute, PLLC (MIPI) and Wise, LLC (Wise). The cases were consolidated. The trial court dismissed all counts, based upon the dismissal with prejudice of Count II of the original case. The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed in part, holding that res judicata does not bar claims against MIPI and Wise and Raley’s Count I or garnishment claims against Haider, but does bar other claims against Haider. View "Raley v. Haider" on Justia Law
The Falls Church v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.
The parties to this complex dispute were Plaintiffs, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia (the Diocese) and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (TEC), and Defendants, seven local congregations, including The Falls Church (collectively, the CANA congregations), Appellant in the present case. After The Falls Church disaffiliated from TEC, Plaintiffs filed complaints asserting that all personal and real property held by the CANA congregations was actually held in trust for TEC and the Diocese. The trial court found that Plaintiffs carried their burden of proving they had contractual and propriety interests in the church property at issue and granted relief to Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs had a proprietary interest in the properties, and therefore, a constructive denominational trust should be imposed in the properties; (2) the trial court correctly ordered Appellant to convey the property to Plaintiffs; and (3) the trial court erred in its disposition of personal property acquired by Appellant after the vote to disaffiliate. View "The Falls Church v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S." on Justia Law
The Doctors Co. v. Women’s Healthcare Assocs.
The Doctors Company (TDC), a professional liability insurance company, sought a determination that its coverage of policyholder Women's Healthcare Associates (WHA) did not apply to a pending breach of contract action relating to WHA's participation in the Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Act (the Birth Injury Fund). The Davidson family filed the underlying breach of contract action against WHA, alleging that they entered into an express contract with WHA partly in reliance on WHA's participation in the Birth Injury Fund, and WHA materially breached the contract by failing to pay into the fund as represented to the Davidsons. The circuit court ruled against TDC and in favor of WHA and the Davidsons, finding that the policy covered the claim alleged by the Davidsons in their complaint against WHA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the underlying action was covered by the insurance policy; and (2) therefore, TDC must both defend and indemnify WHA in the underling breach of contract action. View "The Doctors Co. v. Women's Healthcare Assocs." on Justia Law