Articles Posted in Contracts

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In 2009, Jacquelyn Jacks bought a manufactured home from CMH Homes, Inc., on an installment plan. The purchase was financed through CMH Homes under a manufactured home retail installment contract. The contract contained an arbitration agreement, which provides that all disputes arising from, or relating to, the contract would be resolved by binding arbitration. By its terms, the agreement also covered all co-signors and guarantors, and any occupants of the manufactured Home (as intended beneficiaries of the arbitration agreement. Jacks moved into the home with her husband and their children. Five years later, the Jacks family sued CMH Homes, CMH Manufacturing, and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (not a party to this appeal). They claimed: (1) CMH negligently installed and repaired the manufactured home’s water system, which caused toxic mold to grow; (2) the manufactured home was unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the control of CMH; (3) the manufactured home was not fit for habitation. Jacks also sought to rescind her purchase of the manufactured home, along with her agreement to pay Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance the indebtedness incurred to purchase the home. The CMH defendants removed the case from state to federal court and moved to compel arbitration and stay the court proceedings. The district court granted the motion to compel as to the claims of Jacks, but denied the motion as to the remaining plaintiffs who were not parties to the installment contract. Defendants had argued that Jacks’ husband and their children were likewise bound by the arbitration agreement, even though they never signed the contract. The district court held that “the single sentence in the Arbitration Agreement generically referencing ‘any occupants of the Manufactured Home (as intended beneficiaries of this Arbitration Agreement)’ was not sufficient to make the nonsignatory plaintiffs third party beneficiaries of the Arbitration Agreement and subject to being compelled to arbitration. The district court also rejected Defendants’ contention that the nonsignatory plaintiffs were “bound to arbitrate their claims” under “the doctrine of equitable estoppel.” Defendants timely appealed the district court’s partial denial of their motion to stay and to compel arbitration. The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error in the district court’s judgment and affirmed it. View "Jacks v. CMH Homes" on Justia Law

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The parties to this suit agreed they had a contract, but disputed prices. The district court granted summary judgment to CSI Calendaring, Inc. On appeal the parties raised a number of arguments about whose view of the price should prevail. They disagreed about whether they already had agreed on the price before issuance of the January quote at issue, whether the January quote modified any prior agreement, and whether Obermeyer Hydro Accessories, Inc. was bound by CSI’s view of the pricing because Obermeyer paid a number of invoices over several months that reflected that view. In the Tenth Circuit's view, there were unresolved factual disputes that precluded judgment for either party, and therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Obermeyer Hydro v. CSI Calendering" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Plaintiff-Appellant Suture Express, Inc. appeals from the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Cardinal Health 200, LLC (“Cardinal”) and Owens & Minor Distribution, Inc. (“O&M”) under Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Section 3 of the Clayton Act, and the Kansas Restraint of Trade Act (“KRTA”). Suture Express, Cardinal, and O&M compete in the national broadline medical-and-surgical (“med-surg”) supply and distribution market. After Suture Express entered the "suture-endo" market and steadily grew its market share, Cardinal and O&M responded by instituting bundling packages in their contracts. Suture Express sued Cardinal and O&M, alleging that their bundling arrangements constituted an illegal tying practice in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. The court held that Suture Express’s federal claims failed as a matter of law because it could not establish that either Cardinal or O&M individually possessed sufficient market power in the other-med-surg market that would permit it to restrain trade in the suture-endo market. Even were this not the case, however, the court also held that: (1) Suture Express could not establish antitrust injury because it had not shown that competition itself had been harmed; and (2) Cardinal and O&M cited sufficient procompetitive justifications for the bundling arrangement to overcome any harm caused by any anticompetitive effects resulting from the bundle. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Suture Express, the Tenth Circuit did not think the company could survive summary judgment under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, Section 3 of the Clayton Act, or the Kansas Restraint of Trade Act. "There simply is not enough probative evidence by which a reasonable jury could find that Cardinal’s and O&M’s bundling arrangement unreasonably restrained trade in violation of federal or state antitrust law." View "Suture Express v. Owens & Minor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jared Trent Cowen’s 2000 Peterbilt 379, a commercial truck, was in need of repair. To cover the cost, Cowen borrowed money from Defendant WD Equipment, which is owned and managed by Defendant Aaron Williams, in exchange for a lien on the truck and the promise of repayment. After the Peterbilt broke down again only a few weeks after the repairs, it was towed to a local repair company, which estimated that fixing the truck again would cost more than Cowen could afford. Because his Peterbilt was in the shop, Cowen could not make installment payments to WD Equipment. So, in early August, 2013, Cowen began taking steps to refinance the loan. Williams gave Cowen several, contradictory responses as to how much Cowen would need to pay to settle the debt, and he accelerated the payoff date several times, before ultimately setting a deadline. Around the same time, Cowen defaulted on another loan secured by another one of his trucks, a 2006 Kenworth T600. This loan was owed to Defendant Bert Dring, the father-in-law of Williams, who held a purchase-money security interest in the truck. Dring lured Cowen under false pretenses to his place of business to repossess the Kenworth. Cowen filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code on the day of the deadline for paying off the Peterbilt, and which was within the ten-day cure period for the Kenworth. He notified Defendants of the filing and requested the immediate return of both trucks. But Defendants refused. Cowen moved the bankruptcy court for orders to show cause why Defendants should not be held in contempt for willful violations of the automatic stay. The bankruptcy court granted the motions and ordered Defendants to “immediately turn over” the trucks to Cowen. When Defendants did not comply with the bankruptcy court’s turnover order, Cowen filed an adversary proceeding for violations of the automatic stay. A few months later, the bankruptcy court dismissed the underlying bankruptcy case because, without the trucks, Cowen had no regular income, which rendered him ineligible for Chapter 13 relief. However, the bankruptcy court expressly retained jurisdiction over the adversary proceeding. During the adversary proceeding, Defendants again asserted that Cowen’s rights in the trucks had been properly terminated by Defendants before the bankruptcy petition was filed, and so they could not have violated the automatic stay. The court disagreed, and Defendants timely appealed this decision to the district court, which reversed on the calculation of damages but otherwise affirmed the bankruptcy court’s order. Defendants then appealed to the Tenth Circuit, arguing, among other things, that the bankruptcy court exceeded its jurisdiction, that it lacked constitutional authority to enter a final judgment in this adversary proceeding, and that the bankruptcy court misinterpreted section 362 (the automatic stay provision). The Tenth Circuit agreed, reversed and remanded. View "WD Equipment v. Cowen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Contracts

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LeGrand Belnap, M.D., was a surgeon at the Salt Lake Regional Medical Center (“SLRMC”). Dr. Belnap and SLRMC entered into a Management Services Agreement under which he would provide consulting services to help SLRMC develop a new surgical center. The Agreement contained an arbitration provision, including an agreement to arbitrate questions of arbitrability. SLRMC subsequently disciplined Dr. Belnap for alleged misconduct and then reversed course and vacated the discipline. As a result, Dr. Belnap brought various claims against SLRMC, its alleged parent company, and several of its individual employees. These Defendants moved to compel arbitration on the basis of the arbitration provision in the Agreement. The district court determined that most of the claims fell outside the scope of the Agreement, and granted in part and denied in part the motion. Defendants appealed the portions of the district court’s order denying their motion to stay litigation and to compel arbitration, arguing: (1) because the parties agreed to arbitrate arbitrability, the district court erred when it failed to submit all questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator; and (2) even if the parties did not agree to arbitrate arbitrability, the district court erred when it found that any of Dr. Belnap’s claims fell outside the scope of the Agreement, despite also finding that the Agreement’s dispute-resolution provision was broad. The Tenth Circuit found that by incorporating the JAMS Rules into the Agreement, Dr. Belnap and SLRMC evidenced a clear and unmistakable intent to delegate questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator. Nevertheless, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court reached the right outcome regarding Dr. Belnap’s first claim against SLRMC (compelling that claim to arbitration) and upheld that portion of its order. The Court felt “constrained,” however, to reverse the order as to the remainder of the SLRMC claims. The Court remanded, instructing the court to compel all of Dr. Belnap’s claims against SLRMC to arbitration. With respect to Defendants wh did not sign the Agreement, the Court held they were not entitled to enforce the arbitration provision of the Agreement. Thus, the Court affirmed the district court’s order in this respect. View "Belnap v. Iasis Healthcare" on Justia Law

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Defendants-Appellants Ultegra Financial, its CEO Muhammad Howard, (collectively Ultegra Defendants) and Clive Funding, Inc., appealed a district court’s order denying their motion to compel arbitration. In 2013, Ragab entered into business relationship with the Ultegra Defendants. The parties had six agreements. The agreements contained conflicting arbitration provisions; the conflicts involved: (1) which rules would govern, (2) how the arbitrator would be selected, (3) the notice required to arbitrate, and (4) who would be entitled to attorneys’ fees and on what showing. In 2015, Ragab sued the Ultegra Defendants for misrepresentation and for violating several consumer credit repair statutes. The district court found that Ragab’s claims fell within the scope of all six agreements. The Ultegra Defendants moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied the motion to compel, concluding that there was no actual agreement to arbitrate as there was no meeting of the minds as to how claims that implicated the numerous agreements would be arbitrated. The Ultegra Defendants appealed that finding, and seeing no reversible error in the judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Ragab v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Terrill Graf, bought his fiancee a van for her 50th birthday. Celebrating the birthday and new purchase, Graf drank liquor and then gathered four friends in the van. Plaintiff Wendy Peden was one of those friends. She says that she expected Graf only to show off the van and to photograph the group. But Graf drove away with his friends in the van, crashing it, and causing serious injuries to Peden. She obtained $240,000 in insurance benefits. But Peden claimed more under her insurance policy for underinsured-motorist benefits. The insurer (State Farm) initially denied the claim, but ultimately paid her an additional $350,000, the maximum amount that she could receive under the underinsured-motorist coverage. Peden sued State Farm under Colorado’s common law and statutory law, claiming an unreasonable denial or delay in paying benefits. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review was whether a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that State Farm unreasonably denied or delayed payment of benefits. The district court answered “no.” But the Tenth Circuit disagreed after careful consideration of the facts of this case, and reversed the grant of summary judgment to State Farm. The denial of Peden’s motion for partial summary judgment was vacated, and the entire matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Peden v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins Co" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellee Century Surety Company (“Century”) issued a commercial lines policy to Defendant-Appellant Shayona Investment, LLC covering commercial property and business income coverage. Shayona submitted claims, Century paid them, and then Century sought a declaratory judgment in the district court as to whether the claims were fraudulent. At trial, the jury found in favor of Century, awarding it both the amount the company paid Shayona under the policy and the sum it spent investigating the claims. Shayona appealed, arguing that the standard of proof the court instructed the jury to use was wrong. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of judgment on the verdict. View "Century Surety Co. v. Shayona Investment" on Justia Law

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This case centered on a dispute between SOLIDFX, LLC, a software development company, and Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing that developed aviation terminal charts. SOLIDFX sued Jeppesen, asserting antitrust, breach-of-contract, and tort claims. The district court granted partial summary judgment on the antitrust claims, but the remaining claims proceeded to trial. A jury ultimately found in favor of SOLIDFX and awarded damages in excess of $43 million. Jeppesen appealed, challenging only the district court’s ruling that SOLIDFX could recover lost profits on its contract claims. SOLIDFX cross-appealed the district court’s summary judgment order in favor of Jeppesen on the antitrust claims. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the License Agreement at issue here unambiguously precluded the recovery of lost profits, irrespective of whether they were direct or consequential damages. But the Court also determined that, even if the agreement could be read to allow the recovery of direct lost profits, the lost profits awarded by the jury here were consequential damages and therefore not recoverable. Because the Court held that SOLIDFX was contractually precluded from recovering the amounts awarded for lost profits, it did not reach the question of whether SOLIDFX proved those lost profits with reasonable certainty, nor did it address the admissibility of expert testimony offered by SOLIDFX to establish the amount of its lost profits. Finally, the Court agreed with the district court that Jeppesen was entitled to summary judgment on SOLIDFX’s antitrust claims. View "Solidfx v. Jeppesen Sanderson" on Justia Law

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Vehicle Market Research, Inc. (VMR) sued Mitchell International, Inc. (Mitchell) to recover royalties Mitchell allegedly owed pursuant to a software licensing agreement. The jury returned a verdict for Mitchell, and VMR appealed. VMR argued: (1) the district court erred by allowing Mitchell, contrary to the law of the case doctrine, to cross-examine VMR’s sole shareholder on the value of VMR as he stated in his personal bankruptcy; and (2) the district court erred in omitting part of VMR’s proposed jury instruction on Rule 30(b)(6) witnesses. Finding no error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Vehicle Market Research v. Mitchell International" on Justia Law