Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

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KOKO Development, LLC, a real estate developer, contracted with Phillips & Jordan, Inc., DW Excavating, Inc., and Thomas Dean & Hoskins, Inc. (TD&H) to develop a 180-acre tract of land in North Dakota. However, the project faced numerous issues, leading KOKO to sue the defendants for breach of contract and negligence. KOKO did not disclose any expert witnesses before the trial, leading the district court to rule that none of its witnesses could give expert testimony. Consequently, the district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that without expert witnesses, KOKO could not establish its claims.The district court's decision was based on the complexity of the issues involved in the case, which required expert testimony. The court found that KOKO's negligence and breach of contract claims required complex infrastructure and engineering analysis, which was beyond the common knowledge or lay comprehension. KOKO appealed the decision, arguing that the district court erred in finding that it did not properly disclose witnesses providing expert testimony and that expert testimony was necessary for the case.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court found that KOKO did not identify the witnesses that would provide expert testimony and did not meet the requirements of Rule 26(a)(2). The court also agreed with the district court that the negligence and breach of contract claims required expert testimony due to the complexity of the issues in the case. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the three witnesses' expert testimony and requiring expert testimony for the negligence and breach of contract claims. View "KOKO Development, LLC v. Phillips & Jordan, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves an insurance claim filed by Christine and Roy Cosme after their insurer, Erie Insurance Exchange, cancelled their automobile insurance policy. The policy listed their son, Broyce Cosme, as a driver. The cancellation was due to a misunderstanding between Broyce and the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which led to the suspension of Broyce's license. The Cosmes were informed that their policy would be cancelled unless they submitted a coverage-exclusion form removing Broyce from the policy. However, due to conflicting advice from their insurance agent at Churilla Insurance, the Cosmes did not submit the form before the deadline. The policy was cancelled, and shortly after, the Cosmes were involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist. Erie denied their claim, stating that their policy was no longer in effect at the time of the accident.The trial court granted a directed verdict in favor of Erie and Churilla, reasoning that the Cosmes brought about their own lack-of-coverage injuries when they failed to sign the exclusion form before the deadline. The court of appeals affirmed this decision, holding that the Cosmes failed to present sufficient evidence to support their claims against Erie and Churilla.The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the trial court's directed verdict for Erie, affirming as to Churilla, and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that at the directed-verdict stage, the court can review whether inferences from the evidence are reasonable, but it cannot weigh conflicting evidence or assess witness credibility. Applying this standard, the court found that the trial court erred in directing the verdict for Erie as the Cosmes’ case-in-chief presented sufficient (though conflicting) evidence to prove Erie breached its contract and violated its duty of good faith. However, the court correctly granted judgment to Churilla because the evidence showed Churilla owed no special duty to the Cosmes to procure insurance or advise on the insurance policy. View "Cosme v. Warfield" on Justia Law

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The case involves Zion Williamson, a former Duke University basketball player, and Prime Sports Marketing, LLC, and its president, Gina Ford. Williamson signed a contract with Prime Sports for marketing representation after his last game at Duke but before being drafted into the NBA. However, Williamson terminated the contract shortly after and signed with a competitor agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Prime Sports argued that Williamson was not a "student-athlete" when he signed the contract, and therefore, he could not benefit from the protections of the North Carolina Uniform Athlete Agents Act, which governs contracts between student-athletes and their agents.The United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina rejected Prime Sports' argument and granted summary judgment to Williamson on Prime's contract and tort claims. The court ruled that Williamson was a "student-athlete" when he signed the contract with Prime Sports, and Prime's failure to comply with the Act's requirements voided the contract.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court agreed that Williamson was a "student-athlete" when he signed the contract and that Prime's failure to comply with the Act's requirements voided the contract. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on Prime's contract and tort claims. View "Williamson v. Prime Sports Marketing, LLC" on Justia Law

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John Doe sued the University of Denver (DU) after he was expelled for allegedly engaging in nonconsensual sexual contact with another student, Jane Roe. Doe claimed that DU breached its contract with him by failing to conduct a "thorough, impartial and fair" investigation into Roe's accusation, as promised in DU's Office of Equal Opportunity Procedures (OEO Procedures). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of DU, and Doe appealed. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part.The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court agreed with the lower courts that the promise in DU's OEO Procedures of a "thorough, impartial and fair" investigation, when considered with the specific investigation requirements listed in those procedures, is enforceable under contract law. The court also agreed that the record does not permit the entry of summary judgment for DU on Doe’s general contract claim or on Doe’s contract claim premised on the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. However, the court disagreed with the lower courts on Doe’s tort claim, holding that DU does not owe its students an extra-contractual duty to exercise reasonable care in adopting and implementing fair procedures related to the investigation and adjudication of sexual-misconduct claims. Therefore, DU is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Doe’s tort claim. View "University of Denver v. Doe" on Justia Law

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The case involves John Doe, a student who was expelled from Loyola University Chicago after the university concluded that he had engaged in non-consensual sexual activity with Jane Roe, another student. Doe sued the university under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and Illinois contract law, alleging that the university discriminates against men.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment in favor of Loyola. Doe appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The appellate court, however, raised questions about the use of pseudonyms by the parties and the mootness of the case, given that Doe had already graduated from another university and the usual remedy of readmission was not applicable.The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the district court to address these issues. The court questioned whether compensatory damages were an option for Doe, and if not, the case may not be justiciable. The court also questioned the use of pseudonyms, stating that while anonymity may be common in Title IX suits, it must be justified in each case. The court noted that the public has a right to know who is using their courts and that a desire to keep embarrassing information secret does not justify anonymity. The court also raised concerns about whether revealing Doe's identity would indirectly reveal Roe's identity. The court concluded that these issues should be addressed by the district court. View "Doe v. Loyola University Chicago" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over oil and gas interests between Spottie, Inc., a Nevada corporation, and several other Nevada corporations and a limited liability company. Spottie alleged that the defendants had wrongfully claimed title to these interests, which were once owned by Edward Davis, who had formed Spottie as a holding company. The defendants countered that they had entered into an agreement with Davis to acquire these interests, and that Davis and Spottie had transferred the disputed interests to one of the defendants via an assignment in 2016.The district court dismissed several of Spottie's claims, leaving only a quiet title claim and a claim for unjust enrichment. After a three-day bench trial, the court ruled in favor of the defendants, finding that the assignment from Davis and Spottie to one of the defendants was valid. The court also found that Spottie had erroneously received revenue from the disputed interests and awarded damages to the defendants.Spottie appealed the decision, arguing that the district court had erred in its ownership determination, its rejection of Spottie's laches defense, its binding of a non-party to the judgment, and its award of attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed in part, concluding that the district court did not err in its ownership determination and its award of attorney fees. However, it reversed in part, finding that the court had erred in awarding costs for non-legal expenses. The case was remanded for the court to recalculate its cost award and to consider the defendants' request for additional attorney fees and legal costs. View "SPOTTIE v. BAIUL-FARINA" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over the ownership of a purebred show dog named Oscar. The parties involved are Oscar's breeder, Elizabeth "Betsy" Shauck, and Dave Jennings and Emily McLeod, who have raised Oscar since he was a puppy. Dave and Emily filed a petition to quiet title to Oscar against Betsy, who counterclaimed for breach of contract, replevin, conversion, for a restraining order and preliminary injunction, and to quiet title. Betsy's preliminary injunction counterclaim asked the district court to prevent Dave and Emily from harboring Oscar and to order his immediate return to her.The district court held a three-day hearing, which was supposed to be on Betsy's request for a preliminary injunction. However, the court expanded the scope of the hearing and made findings of fact and conclusions of law on the merits of all issues pending in the underlying lawsuit, including Oscar's ownership, contract disputes, and damages. Dave and Emily appealed this decision, arguing that the district court denied their due process rights by deciding the case on the merits when it had only set the hearing on Betsy's preliminary injunction.The Kansas Court of Appeals panel held that the district court violated Dave and Emily's due process rights by expanding the scope of the hearing without notice. However, instead of remanding the case, the panel analyzed the parties' ownership interests in Oscar and held that Dave and Betsy co-owned Oscar. Betsy then petitioned the Supreme Court of the State of Kansas for review.The Supreme Court of the State of Kansas affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the panel. The court agreed with the panel that the district court erred by expanding the scope of the hearing on Betsy's request for a preliminary injunction. The court found that the district court's decision to consolidate the hearing on Betsy's request for a preliminary injunction with a trial on the case's merits without informing the parties was a denial of due process and an error of law. The court also agreed with the panel's conclusion that the district court's failure prejudiced Dave and Emily. However, the court held that the panel erred by addressing the case's merits after correctly concluding that the district court erred. The court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jennings v. Shauck" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between the Terrace Hill Society Foundation (THSF) and the Terrace Hill Commission (the Commission) over the ownership and control of a collection of property and historical artifacts displayed at the Governor's official residence, Terrace Hill. THSF filed a petition seeking a declaration that it was the sole owner of the collection and an injunction granting it the right to access, itemize, insure, maintain, and preserve the collection. The Commission and its chairperson, Kristin Hurd, moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that it was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity and that Hurd could not provide the requested relief.The district court denied the motion to dismiss with respect to the Commission, finding that the factual allegations in the petition, when viewed in the light most favorable to THSF, were sufficient to overcome the State's immunity from suit. The court reasoned that the Commission had willingly accepted possession of THSF's property and retained it after the expiration of a 1996 agreement between the parties. However, the court granted the motion to dismiss with respect to Hurd and dismissed the claims against her without prejudice.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the State can impliedly or constructively waive its immunity from suit when it voluntarily creates certain legal relationships that subject it to liability. The court found that THSF's amended petition alleged sufficient facts to plead a voluntary bailment, a legal relationship sounding in contract, which impliedly waived the State's sovereign immunity. The court also affirmed the dismissal of the claims against Hurd without prejudice, rejecting her argument that the claims should have been dismissed with prejudice. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Terrace Hill Society Foundation v. Terrace Hill Commission" on Justia Law

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In April 2013, Brandi Stiles and Abel Gorgita purchased a 2011 Kia Optima, which was manufactured and distributed by Kia Motors America, Inc. At the time of purchase, some of Kia's original warranties were still in effect, including the basic and drivetrain warranties. The car developed serious defects covered by the warranties, including issues with the transmission, electrical system, brakes, engine, suspension, and steering. Despite multiple attempts, Kia was unable to repair the defects. Stiles and Gorgita alleged that Kia failed to replace the car or make restitution as required under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.Kia demurred to the first amended complaint, arguing that the remedies sought under the Song-Beverly Act apply only to new motor vehicles, and the car purchased by Stiles and Gorgita was not a "new motor vehicle" as defined in the Act. The trial court sustained Kia's demurrer, relying on a previous case, Rodriguez v. FCA US, LLC, which held that a used motor vehicle with an unexpired warranty is not a "new motor vehicle" under the Song-Beverly Act.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Six reversed the trial court's decision. The court held that a previously owned motor vehicle purchased with the manufacturer’s new car warranty still in effect is a “new motor vehicle” as defined by the Song-Beverly Act. Therefore, the replace or refund remedy of the Act applies. The court rejected Kia's argument that the Act's definition of a "new motor vehicle" should be limited to vehicles that have never been previously sold to a consumer and come with full express warranties. The court also rejected Kia's argument that Stiles and Gorgita's interpretation of the Act conflicts with its implied warranty provisions. View "Stiles v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of bettors who sued Churchill Downs, Inc., and trainers Robert Baffert and Bob Baffert Racing, Inc., after the horse they bet on, Medina Spirit, was disqualified from the 2021 Kentucky Derby due to a failed post-race drug test. The bettors claimed that they would have won their bets under the new order of finish after Medina Spirit's disqualification. However, under Kentucky law, only the first order of finish marked "official" counts for wagering purposes. The plaintiffs brought claims for negligence, breach of contract, violation of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act, and unjust enrichment.The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, which granted the defendants' motions to dismiss and denied the plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint. The court found that the plaintiffs' claims were based on the theory that they had "unpaid winning wagers," but under Kentucky law, the first official order of finish is final. Therefore, the plaintiffs' wagers were lost, and the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.The case was then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision, agreeing that the plaintiffs' claims were based on the theory that they had "unpaid winning wagers." However, under Kentucky law, the first official order of finish is final for wagering purposes. Therefore, the plaintiffs' wagers were lost, and the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court also found that the proposed amendment to the complaint did not cure this flaw, so the lower court properly denied leave to amend. View "Mattera v. Baffert" on Justia Law