Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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Mark Hiepler, as the trustee of the Orville G. Hiepler and Florence L. Hiepler Family Trust (“Trust”), appealed a judgment ordering him to transfer certain Trust property to Bill Seerup, and appealed an order denying his motion to dismiss. In April 2007, Orville and Florence Hiepler deeded 150 net mineral acres in Williams County to Seerup in exchange for $15,609. The mineral deed did not refer to the Trust or Orville and Florence Hiepler’s role as co-trustees. When the deed was executed, Orville individually owned only 7.3636 mineral acres. The remaining 142.6 mineral acres were owned by the Trust. Nine days after receiving the mineral deed from Orville and Florence Hiepler, Seerup conveyed 135 mineral acres to Hurley Oil Properties, Inc. In 2014, Dale Exploration, LLC, filed suit to quiet title to the 150 net mineral acres conveyed in the mineral deed from Orville and Florence Hiepler to Seerup. Seerup and Hurley Oil also brought a claim for breach of contract against Orville and Florence Hiepler, individually and as co-trustees, requesting specific performance or, alternatively, money damages if specific performance was not ordered. In 2017, the district court dismissed Dale Exploration’s claims on summary judgment, finding there was no evidence that Dale Exploration had an interest in the property. A bench trial was held on the remaining issues. The court found the Hieplers own the mineral interests in fee simple as trustees, not as individuals. The court also found the Hieplers breached the mineral deed to Seerup and the proper remedy was damages, not specific performance. The court awarded damages in the amount of $20,147.96. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed that judgment and remanded for further proceedings on whether money damages were adequate in light of specific performance. Orville died after the Supreme Court's judgment and mandate were issued. Orville and Mark responded to a proposed order drafted by Seerup and Hurley Oil, arguing the pleasings did not adequately assert specific performance. Specific performance of the mineral deed was ultimately granted. Mark Hiepler argues the district court erred in ordering him to convey the property to Seerup because the court did not have jurisdiction to enter a judgment against the Trust, the claims abated upon Orville Hiepler’s death, and he could not be substituted as a party for Orville Hiepler. Finding no error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dale Exploration, et al. v. Hiepler, et al." on Justia Law

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A "subtle" question concerning entitlement to attorney fees raised by this appeal was one of first impression for the Court of Appeal. In a separate lawsuit filed at Superior Court, plaintiffs obtained a judgment for breach of contract, including an award of attorney fees, against certain entities not parties to the present suit. Plaintiffs filed the present enforcement action against defendants, seeking to hold them liable on the judgment as alter egos of the judgment debtors. Plaintiffs lost against one of the defendants, Steve Saleen (Steve). Steve moved for attorney fees under the contract; the court granted the motion and plaintiffs appeals. Plaintiffs contended this was not an action on the contract and, therefore, fees were unavailable under Civil Code section 1717. Instead, it was an enforcement action. They cited caselaw for the proposition that a judgment on the contract subsumes and extinguishes contractual rights. On the other hand, had plaintiffs included Steve as a defendant in the Superior Court suit, making the exact same alter ego allegations they made to the Court of Appeal, undoubtedly Steve would have been entitled to contractual attorney fees under the doctrine of reciprocity established by Civil Code section 1717 and Reynolds Metals Co. v. Alperson, 25 Cal.3d 124 (1979), even though he was not a signatory on the contract. The Court of Appeal concluded the timing of an alter ego claim (either pre- or postjudgment) was too arbitrary a consideration on which to base the right to attorney fees. "When a judgment creditor attempts to add a party to a breach of contract judgment that includes a contractual fee award, the suit is essentially 'on the contract' for purposes of Civil Code section 1717." The Court therefore agreed with Steve and affirmed judgment. View "MSY Trading Inc. v. Saleen Automotive, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kevin Crook appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Allstate Indemnity Company ("Allstate Indemnity"), Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate Insurance"), and The Barker Agency (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the defendants"). Crook owns lake-front property in Tuscaloosa County. The property consists of a house, a bathhouse, a garage, a deck, and a boat dock. In 2006, Crook, through The Barker Agency, obtained property insurance on the house and other structures from Allstate Indemnity. Allstate Indemnity issued a policy to Crook ("the policy") and provided uninterrupted insurance coverage of Crook's house from 2006 through 2015. On February 12, 2015, Allstate Indemnity conducted an inspection of the property for underwriting purposes. After the inspection, on February 23, 2015, The Barker Agency sent Crook a letter with the results, finding no "issues that impact [Crook's] current coverage, and you do not need to do anything further. ...our inspection... focused only on identifying certain types of hazards or conditions that might impact your future insurance coverage. It may not have identified some other hazards of conditions on your property." In April 2015, a storm damaged the deck and the boat dock. Ultimately, Crook sued defendants for breach of contract, bad-faith failure to pay a claim, negligent/wanton procurement of insurance, and estoppel, all relating to the policy's coverage of the storm damage. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants and affirmed. View "Crook v. Allstate Indemnity Company, et al." on Justia Law

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In appeal no. 1180355, Donald Porter, Marc Porter, Porter Capital Corporation, Porter Bridge Loan Company, Inc., Lowerline Corporation, CapitalPartners Leasing, Inc., and CapitalPartners Leasing, LLC (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the Porter defendants"), appealed a judgment entered in favor of Byron Porter Williamson in his action seeking specific performance of a shareholders agreement that Williamson had entered into with Donald and Marc ("the agreement"). In appeal no. 1180634, Williamson cross-appealed the same judgment seeking prejudgment interest on the full amount of the judgment. The question presented for the Alabama Supreme Court's review was whether the trial court exceeded the scope of Williamson's request for specific performance of the agreement by awarding Williamson a monetary sum representing the value of his interest in the Porter companies based on a valuation process that differed from the valuation process set forth in the agreement. The Porter defendants did not challenge the trial court's determination that Williamson's retirement was a "triggering event" under the agreement that required the Porter defendants to "acquire" Williamson's shares under paragraph 9 of the agreement. They argued only that the trial court awarded relief beyond the scope of a request for specific performance of the agreement. The Supreme Court concurred the trial court's determination of share value used an evaluation process inconsistent with the agreement. The cross-appeal was dismissed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Porter, et al. v. Williamson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court that Petitioners pay $7,000 from a supersedeas bond over losing the underlying appeal and ordering Petitioners to pay $114,280 from the bond, holding that the court of appeals erred in calculating the amount. When Petitioners were ousted from land upon which their cattle grazed, they brought this action challenging the ouster. The trial court granted summary judgment in part for Respondents then, after a trial, rendered judgment that Petitioners take nothing. The trial court allowed Petitioners to suspend the judgment by posting a supersedeas bond, which meant Petitioners could keep their cattle on the leased land during the appeal. The trial court ruled that Respondent was entitled to $7,000 from the bond. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Respondent should recover $114,280 from the bond, basing its calculation on the expense Petitioners would have incurred if the judgment had not been superseded. At issue was how "loss or damage" is calculated on release of a supersedeas bond under Tex. R. App. 24.2(a)(3). The Supreme Court reinstated the trial court's order, holding that the proper measure is the actual loss Respondent suffered because the judgment was superseded. View "Haedge v. Central Texas Cattlemen's Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In this cattle-feeding dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals overturning the trial court's denial of Appellees' post-judgment motion to compel arbitration, holding that a party does not forfeit its right to challenge a ruling on appeal from a final judgment simply by choosing not to pursue an interlocutory appeal of that ruling. Appellants brought this action alleging fraud, unjust enrichment, and other claims. Appellees moved to dismiss the suit and compel arbitration, arguing that the claims were subject to the agreement's arbitration clause. The trial court denied the motion, and Appellees did not challenge the court's ruling through an interlocutory appeal. After the trial court rendered judgment Appellees appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied their motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals reversed and remanded with instructions that the trial court order the parties to arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals had jurisdiction to consider the trial court's denial of Appellees' motion to compel arbitration; and (2) on the merits, the court of appeals did not err in ordering arbitration. View "Bonsmara Natural Beef Co. v. Hart of Texas Cattle Feeders, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this contract and tort action brought by the buyers of a business pursuant to a written purchase agreement the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment for the sellers and dismissing the sellers' agents, holding that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion. Buyers bought a business from Sellers pursuant to a written purchase agreement. Buyers later bought this action against Sellers and their agents. Sellers counterclaimed for amounts owing under promissory notes. The Supreme Court dismissed the agents under Neb. Ct. R. Pldg. 6-1112(b)(6) and entered summary judgment for Sellers on all claims and counterclaims. The court then denied Sellers' motion for attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) undisputed facts supported the summary judgments for Sellers; (2) the complaint stated no claim against the agent; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying attorney fees to Sellers. View "Nathan v. McDermott" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from settlement negotiations between Plaintiff and Defendants relating to a dispute about water and mold damage to Plaintiff's condominium the Supreme Court remanded this case with instruction that the circuit court hold an evidentiary hearing to address issues of fact as to the terms and existence of a purported settlement agreement between the parties. At the close of a settlement conference, the circuit court and the parties acknowledged that the parties had reached a settlement. Plaintiff, however, refused to sign the settlement documents and proceeded to represent herself pro se. Defendants filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that the parties had entered into a binding settlement agreement but that the proposed written settlement agreement contained terms beyond those agreed to at the settlement conference. Therefore, the court struck those terms and created a revised settlement agreement. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that because genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the parties reached a valid settlement agreement and as to which terms the parties agreed to at the settlement conference, the circuit court should have granted Plaintiff's motion for an evidentiary hearing to resolve those issues. View "McKenna v. Association of Apartment Owners of Elima Lani" on Justia Law

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The Private Attorney General Act (Labor Code 2698) allows an employee, as a proxy for state enforcement agencies, to sue an employer on behalf of herself and other aggrieved employees for Labor Code violations. When the parties have an arbitration agreement, California law blocks the employer from enforcing that agreement with respect to representative PAGA claims for civil penalties; the agreement may be enforceable with respect to other claims, including claims for victim-specific relief (like unpaid wages). Lime rents electric scooters. Olabi entered into an agreement to locate, recharge, and redeploy Lime's scooters. The agreement required the parties to arbitrate “any and all disputes,” including Olabi’s classification as an independent contractor but contained an exception for PAGA representative actions. Olabi sued, alleging Lime intentionally misclassified him and others as independent contractors, resulting in Labor Code violations; he included claims under the Unfair Competition Law and PAGA. Lime petitioned to compel arbitration, arguing Olabi was required to arbitrate independent contractor classification disputes and that the PAGA exception did not cover the unfair competition claim or the PAGA claim to the extent that Olabi sought victim-specific relief. Olabi voluntarily dismissed his unfair competition claim and disavowed any claim for victim-specific relief. The trial court denied Lime’s petition and granted Olabi leave to amend. The court of appeal affirmed. The language of the arbitration agreement broadly excludes PAGA actions View "Olabi v. Neutron Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a prior appeal, the Court of Appeal vacated a default judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Airs Aromatics, LLC (Airs), concluding the trial court was without jurisdiction to award damages in excess of that demanded in Airs's complaint for breach of contract. The Court gave Airs the option on remand to proceed with a new default prove-up hearing seeking up to $25,000 in damages, or amend the complaint to state the full amount of damages sought. Selecting the first option, Airs received a default judgment awarding it $25,000 in damages, $33,849 in prejudgment interest, and $614 in costs. After the trial court denied its set-aside motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 663a, defendant CBL Data Recovery Technologies, Inc. (CBL) appealed the second default judgment, contending that Airs's failure to serve it with the default prove-up papers or a substitution of counsel form invalidated the judgment. In addition, CBL challenged the amount of damages awarded and the prejudgment interest award. Rejecting each of these contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Airs Aromatics, LLC v. CBL Data Recovery Tech. Inc." on Justia Law