Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
by
In Mississippi, Samuel and Sandra Evans appealed the trial court's decision not to set aside a foreclosure sale. They executed a deed of trust for real property in 2003, but defaulted on their payments. Foreclosure proceedings were initiated and the property was purchased at the foreclosure sale by MC&J Investments, LLC. The Evans alleged that they had an oral agreement with the managing member of MC&J Investments to buy the property at the foreclosure sale and then sell it back to them. The trial court found that the bid price paid by MC&J Investments was not so inadequate as to shock the conscience of the court and that no written evidence was provided to support the alleged promise to sell back the property. The Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the trial court's decision, ruling that the oral agreement was barred under the statute of frauds and did not fall under the doctrine of promissory estoppel because there was no evidence that the Evans relied on the alleged promise. Additionally, the court found that the price paid at the foreclosure sale didn't shock the conscience of the court and therefore didn't err in not setting aside the foreclosure sale. View "Evans v. MC & J Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The case in question involved a dispute between Epochal Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Divine Orchids, and LF Encinitas Properties, LLC and Leichtag Foundation, over a commercial lease agreement for a property containing dilapidated commercial greenhouses known to contain asbestos and lead paint. Epochal Enterprises claimed that the defendants failed to disclose the presence of these hazardous substances, which resulted in economic damage when the County of San Diego quarantined the leased premises. A jury found the defendants liable for premises liability and negligence, and awarded Epochal Enterprises damages for lost profits and other past economic loss.However, the trial court granted the defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), based on a limitation of liability clause in the lease agreement that purported to prevent Epochal Enterprises from recovering the economic damages awarded by the jury.The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California, reversed the trial court's judgment. It found that the jury necessarily concluded that the defendants had violated the Health and Safety Code by failing to disclose the existence of asbestos, and that this violation of law rendered the limitation of liability clause invalid under Civil Code section 1668. The court concluded that the limitation of liability clause could not bar Epochal Enterprises from recovering damages for the defendants' statutory violations.The court also affirmed the trial court's denial of the defendants' motion for partial JNOV on the issue of damages, finding that the jury had a reasonable basis for calculating the amount of lost profits. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Epochal Enterprises, Inc. v. LF Encinitas Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Contitech USA, Inc., a division of tire manufacturer Continental AG, contracted with a trucking company, McLaughlin Freight Services, Inc., and its owner, Dan McLaughlin, to deliver rubber between two of its facilities. The fee schedule included a base rate and a higher "rounder" rate, which required pre-approval from Contitech. Over three years, McLaughlin submitted 645 unapproved "rounder" bills to the third-party payments administrator, using fraudulent emails that purported to show pre-approval from Contitech. Contitech discovered the scheme and sued for fraud, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find for Contitech on the fraud and unjust-enrichment counts. The court rejected McLaughlin's argument that Contitech failed to prove proximate cause and damages, noting that under Iowa law, a defrauding defendant cannot claim that its misrepresentations did not cause any damages to the plaintiff. Furthermore, McLaughlin was contractually obligated not to charge rounder rates without pre-approval from Contitech. Thus, a reasonable jury could have found that the difference between the contractual base rate and the actual billed amount was the amount of money McLaughlin received, which in equity and good conscience belonged to Contitech.The court also affirmed the district court's decision to remit Contitech's unjust-enrichment award to $0 and to remit McLaughlin’s damages award to prevent double recovery. The court reasoned that while a party is entitled to proceed on various theories of recovery, it is not entitled to collect multiple awards for the same injury. Furthermore, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting pre-judgment interest to Contitech, and that postjudgment interest is mandatory under 28 U.S.C. § 1961 and should be awarded regardless of whether the district court orders it. View "Contitech USA, Inc. v. McLaughlin Freight Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In April 2008, the Department of the Navy awarded a contract to Strategic Technology Institute, Inc. (STI) to provide various aircraft engineering and support services. The contract incorporated Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.216-7, Allowable Cost and Payment, and FAR 52.242-4, Certification of Final Indirect Costs. STI was required to submit its cost rate proposals for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 by certain deadlines. STI did not submit these proposals until 2014, upon request by the government. After receiving these proposals, the government conducted audits and found that STI's proposals included approximately $1 million in unallowable costs. The government issued a final decision, demanding payment of unallowable costs, penalties, and interests.STI appealed to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, arguing that the government's claim was barred under the six-year statute of limitations under the Contract Disputes Act. The Board rejected STI’s argument and held that the statute of limitations on any government claim for disallowed costs does not begin until the contractor submits the incurred cost proposal and provides sufficient audit records.STI then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The court held that the event that started the clock for the statute of limitations is the submission of STI’s cost rate proposals in September 2014, not STI’s failure to timely submit the proposals. The court held that STI's liability for receiving overpayment was not fixed until STI submitted unallowable costs in the cost proposal. Therefore, the government’s claim could not have accrued until STI submitted its cost rate proposals. The court affirmed the decision of the Board. View "STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE, INC. v. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE " on Justia Law

by
In November 2015, Joseph H. Reeves contracted with Wilson Floor & Wallcovering, Inc. ("Wilson Floor") and its owner, Tom Wilson, to replace the wood flooring in his home. After the work was completed, Reeves found the new flooring to be unlevel and claimed that Wilson Floor and Tom Wilson refused to make further repairs. Reeves filed a complaint against "Tom Wilson" and "Wilson Flooring" in May 2017, alleging negligence, fraudulent suppression, fraudulent inducement, and breach of contract.The Supreme Court of Alabama reviewed the case after the Autauga Circuit Court dismissed Reeves's claims against Wilson Floor due to "lack of service" under Rule 4, Ala. R. Civ. P. Although it was undisputed that Reeves's attempted service on Wilson Floor was ineffective, the Supreme Court of Alabama concluded that Wilson Floor was adequately informed of Reeves's action against it, and hence, the trial court's dismissal of his claims against Wilson Floor was prohibited under Rule 4(i)(2)(C).The Court noted that while Tina Wilson, Tom Wilson's wife, was not Wilson Floor's registered agent, she was one of the company's listed officers and could accept service on its behalf. As Tina had actually received the summons and the complaint, the Court established that Wilson Floor was informed of Reeves's action within time to avoid default. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the trial court's order dismissing Reeves's action against Wilson Floor and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Reeves v. Wilson Floor and Wallcovering, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In South Carolina, Phillip Francis Luke Hughes, on behalf of the estate of his late mother, Jane Hughes, sued Bank of America for fraud, fraudulent concealment, and breach of contract, alleging that the bank charged insurance premiums in connection with a home equity line of credit his parents obtained in 2006, even though they declined the insurance offer. The bank argued that the claims did not survive Jane Hughes's death, were barred by res judicata and the statute of limitations, and that their motion for sanctions was not premature.The Supreme Court of South Carolina held that the claims for fraud and fraudulent concealment survived Jane Hughes's death. However, it also held that all three claims were barred by the res judicata effect of rulings in related federal court litigation. The court affirmed as modified in part and reversed in part the lower court's decision. The court also affirmed the lower court's decision that the sanctions motion was not premature. The court further held that the claim for breach of contract accompanied by a fraudulent act survived Jane Hughes's death, but was also barred by res judicata.As for the statute of limitations issue, the court held that the statute of limitations had expired before the action was commenced and that the plaintiff was precluded from relitigating the equitable tolling issue. The court remanded Bank of America's sanctions motion to the lower court for disposition. View "Hughes v. Bank of America" on Justia Law

by
The case involves Green Plains Trade Group, LLC, who appealed the district court's dismissal of their claim for tortious interference with contract against Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM). Green Plains alleged that ADM unlawfully manipulated the price of ethanol, causing Green Plains to receive less money for the ethanol it sold to third parties. The district court dismissed the case, saying Green Plains hadn't specified the contracts ADM interfered with or shown a breach of contract. Green Plains argued that under Nebraska law, tortious interference doesn't always require a breach and that ADM's actions made its performance under its contracts "more expensive or burdensome."The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court of Appeals found that while the district court was correct to require Green Plains to plead more than general allegations about its contracts, it may have required too much specificity. The Court of Appeals also found that the district court erred in not recognizing section 766A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts as part of Nebraska's law, which allows a plaintiff to bring a successful tortious interference with contract claim even if the contract was not breached. The Court of Appeals held that the district court must apply the law as it believes the highest court of the state would apply it if the case were now before it, and it should not fear adopting the less restrictive approach if it believes the state's highest court would adopt that approach. View "Green Plains Trade Group, LLC v. Archer Daniels Midland Co." on Justia Law

by
In an appeal from a property dispute in Ketchum, Idaho, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed the lower court's judgment, in part, and vacated and remanded the case, in part, for further proceedings. The dispute arose when Trustees Glen Miller and Cynthia Anderson attempted to build a home on a lot they purchased in the Rocking Ranch No. 3 subdivision. The Rocking Ranch No. 3 Property Owners’ Association denied their application to construct the home and asserted several counterclaims to recover unpaid homeowners association (HOA) assessments. The district court granted summary judgment to the Association on Miller and Anderson’s claims and dismissed the Association’s counterclaims. On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Association’s counterclaims, concluding that the Association failed to establish its breach of contract counterclaim because it had not established two elements of the prima facie case: breach of the contract and damages resulting from the breach. The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho also vacated and remanded the district court's award of attorney fees to the Association for further proceedings, finding that the Association was not entitled to recover attorney fees for the counterclaims on which it did not prevail. View "Miller v. Rocking Ranch No. 3" on Justia Law

by
In this case, Richard Mullen and Cheryl Mullen petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to transfer their case to the Walker Circuit Court. The case at hand arises from a dispute between the Mullens and Karl Leo and Fay Leo, who purchased a parcel of property from the Mullens in Walker County. The Leos alleged that the Mullens, unlicensed homebuilders, sold them a residence with multiple latent defects and refused to remedy these defects. The Leos filed a suit against the Mullens in the Jefferson Circuit Court, where the Mullens resided, claiming breach of contract, breach of the implied warranty of habitability, fraud, negligence, and fraudulent suppression.The Mullens sought dismissal or transfer of the case to Walker County, arguing that as the property in question was located there, it was the appropriate venue. The Jefferson Circuit Court, however, denied their motion. The Mullens then petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama, arguing that Walker County was the proper venue due to the location of the property and the Leos' request for equitable relief in their complaint.The Supreme Court of Alabama granted the Mullens' petition for a writ of mandamus. The Court found that the property sold by the Mullens to the Leos in Walker County was the "subject matter" of the action within the meaning of Rule 82(b)(1)(B). Therefore, the Court directed the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order denying the Mullens' motion to transfer the action and to transfer the case to the Walker Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Mullen" on Justia Law

by
In Alabama, RAM-Robertsdale Subdivision Partners, LLC contracted Construction Services LLC, d/b/a MCA Construction, Inc. ("MCA") to build infrastructure for a proposed housing subdivision. The relationship between the two parties deteriorated, leading to a lawsuit by RAM-Robertsdale against MCA for various claims including breach of contract, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation, among others. MCA counterclaimed and also filed third-party claims against Retail Specialists, LLC, a member of RAM-Robertsdale, and Rodney Barstein, a corporate officer for Retail Specialists and RAM-Robertsdale, for breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, and defamation. The RAM defendants moved for summary judgment on MCA's counterclaims and third-party claims, arguing that MCA was not properly licensed when it signed the contract, thus making the contract void for public policy. The circuit court granted the RAM defendants' motion for summary judgment and certified its judgment as final.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Alabama found that the circuit court had exceeded its discretion in certifying its judgment as final under Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., because the claims pending below and those on appeal were closely intertwined, arising from the same contract and the parties' performance under that contract. The Court noted that if the contract was indeed void for public policy, then neither party would be able to enforce it, impacting the remaining claims pending in the circuit court. As the Court found that deciding the issues at this stage would create an intolerable risk of inconsistent results, it dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Construction Services, LLC v. RAM-Robertsdale Subdivision Partners, LLC" on Justia Law