Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Roy Elizondo and dismissing this action brought by Cadence Bank, N.A. for breach of a deposit agreement, breach of warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and common-law torts, holding that the lower courts erred.In response to a stranger's email for legal assistance, Elizondo, an attorney, deposited a cashier's check in his bank account then wired most of the funds to an overseas account. The check was dishonored, and the bank charged the transfer back to Elizondo, as allowed by the UCC and the parties' deposit agreement. When Elizondo refused to pay the overdrawn funds Cadence brought this action. The trial court granted summary judgment for Elizondo, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the wire-transfer form failed to create the contractual duty urged by Elizondo. View "Cadence Bank, N.A. v. Elizondo" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that a consequential-damages exclusion is enforceable in a contract for the sale of goods. The court concluded that the contract is clear that Viracon is not liable for consequential damages and found Far East's arguments to the contrary unpersuasive. In this case, the consequential-damages exclusion provision is not unconscionable under Minn. Stat. Sec. 336.2-719(3), and the alleged failure of the contract’s exclusive remedy has no effect on the enforceability of the consequential-damages exclusion. To the extent Far East’s indemnity claim survives the consequential-damages exclusion, it fails because there is no express contract obligating Viracon to reimburse it for the liability of the character involved. Finally, the court denied leave to amend. View "Far East Aluminium Works Co., Ltd. v. Viracon, Inc." on Justia Law

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For 20 years, the vendor (SDM) provided food services at Drexel University in Philadelphia. In 2014 the university announced that it would competitively bid the contract for on-campus dining. The same vendor ultimately won that competition but about two years into the contract’s 10-year duration, the vendor sued the university for fraud, multiple breaches of contract, and alternatively for unjust enrichment. The university responded with fraud and breach-of-contract counterclaims. Only a few of the vendor’s breach-of-contract claims and portions of the university’s breach-of-contract claim survived summary judgment. The parties referred the remaining claims and counterclaims to arbitration and jointly moved to dismiss them. The district court granted that motion and entered final judgment, which the parties appealed, primarily to dispute the summary judgment ruling.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in Drexel’s favor on SDM’s unjust enrichment and punitive damages claims, summary judgment in SDM’s favor on Drexel’s fraudulent inducement claim, and the district court’s decision to deny Drexel’s motion to strike declarations by SDM witnesses under the sham affidavit rule. The court vacated an order granting summary judgment to Drexel on SDM’s claims for fraudulent inducement, breach of contract for failure to renegotiate in good faith, and breach of a supplemental agreement for the Fall 2016 Semester. The surviving claims were remanded to the district court. View "SodexoMAGIC LLC v. Drexel University" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court requiring the parties to arbitrate their dispute in this case, holding that the district court erred in compelling arbitration.In 2000, Air-Con signed a written distribution agreement with Daikin Industries, LTD to be an authorized distributor in Puerto Rico of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. The agreement contained an arbitration provision requiring the parties to arbitrate any disputes in Japan. Also in 2000, Air-Con established a distribution relationship with Daikin Applied Latin America, LLC, Daikin Industries' subsidiary. In 2018, Air-Con filed suit against Daikin Applied seeking injunctive relief and damages under Puerto Rico's Dealer Protection Act. After the case was removed to federal court Daikin Applied filed a motion to compel arbitration, arguing that the written agreement between Air-Con and Daikin Industries governed Daikin Applied's relationship with Air-Con. The district court agreed with Daikin Applied. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Air-Con agreed to arbitrate the claims at issue in this case. View "Air-Con, Inc. v. Daikin Applied Latin America, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lakeside, a Michigan corporation, fabricates stone countertops in Michigan. Cambria a Minnesota LLC, is a nationwide manufacturer of countertop products. Lakeside buys “solid surface products” from manufacturers like Cambria. In 2011, the two companies executed a Business Partner Agreement (BPA) including a Credit Agreement, a Security Agreement, Order Terms and Conditions, Lifetime Limited Warranty, and a Business Operating Requirements Manual Acknowledgment Form. The BPA’s choice-of-law provision and forum-selection clause, in a single paragraph, state: This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota. Any proceeding involving this Agreement and/or any claims or disputes relating to the agreements and transactions between the parties shall be in the ... State of Minnesota. Pursuant to the BPA, Lakeside opened a fabrication facility in 2017. Discussions about Lakeside becoming Cambria’s sole Michigan fabricator led to Lakeside terminating the relationship.Lakeside filed suit in the Western District of Michigan, alleging breach of contract, violations of the Michigan Franchise Investment Law (MFIL), UCC violations, and promissory estoppel. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, finding the forum-selection clause unenforceable. MFIL’s prohibition on forum-selection clauses is a strong Michigan public policy and enforcing the forum-selection clause here would clearly contravene that policy. The MFIL claim is not Lakeside’s only claim, and the choice-of-law provision may be applied, as appropriate, to claims within its scope. View "Lakeside Surfaces, Inc. v. Cambria Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Plaintiffs on all counts in this commercial dispute, holding that the trial court failed properly to instruct the jury regarding the legal effects of the parties' contract in this case and the proper means of calculating damages.Plaintiffs brought this action alleging promissory estoppel, negligent misrepresentation, tortious interference with business expectancies, and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Con. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq., and seeking damages, injunctive relief, and attorney fees and costs. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs on all counts. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find Defendants liable; but (2) the trial court abused its discretion in issuing the injunction at issue, and the injunction was unenforceable. View "Kent Literary Club of Wesleyan University v. Wesleyan University" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to Agrifund on the conversion claim Agrifund brought against Heartland. The court concluded that Heartland failed to exercise reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing, and Heartland does not qualify as a holder in due course. In this case, it would have taken minimal effort for Heartland to confirm, whether with the borrowers or with Agrifund, that Agrifund had been fully recompensed before accepting the payment at issue.The court also concluded that the Subrogation Agreement did not bind Heartland to the terms of the Note; the 14% contractual interest rate does not apply to the damages award; and the district court properly awarded pre-judgment interest at the rate required by Iowa law and post-judgment interest at the federal rate. Finally, the court concluded that Heartland is not liable for attorney fees as set forth in the Note, and there is no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision to deny Agrifund's request for attorney fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's award of damages and attorney fees. View "Agrifund, LLC v. Heartland Co-op" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the economic loss doctrine applies when a fraud claim seeks recovery of only economic losses and is premised solely on nondisclosures or misrepresentations about the quality of goods that are the subject of a contract between sophisticated commercial parties.Plaintiff sued Defendants alleging breach of express and implied warranties, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and a Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) claim. The trial court granted Defendants summary judgment on the breach of contract, breach of warranty, and negligent misrepresentation claims. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff on the fraud and TCPA claims and awarded compensatory and punitive damages. The trial court entered judgment on the jury's verdicts and awarded Plaintiff attorney's fees. On appeal, the court of appeals ruled in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff, concluding that the economic loss doctrine barred the fraud claim and that the claim under the TCPA was barred as a matter of law. The Supreme Court set aside Plaintiff's award of attorney's fees and costs based on the TCPA and otherwise affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff's TCPA claim failed as a matter of law, the award of attorney's fees and costs under the TCPA could not stand. View "Milan Supply Chain Solutions, Inc. v. Navistar, Inc." on Justia Law

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Zen-Noh purchased grain shipments. Sellers were required to prepay barge freight and deliver the product to Zen-Noh’s terminal but were not required to use any specific delivery company. Ingram, a carrier, issued the sellers negotiable bills of lading, defining the relationships of the consignor (company arranging shipment), the consignee (to receive delivery), and the carrier. Printed on each bill was an agreement to "Terms” and a link to the Terms on Ingram’s website. Those Terms purport to bind any entity that has an ownership interest in the goods and included a forum selection provision selecting the Middle District of Tennessee.Ingram updated its Terms and alleges that it notified Zen-Noh through an email to CGB, which it believed was “closely connected with Zen-Noh,” often acting on Zen-Noh's behalf in dealings related to grain transportation. Weeks after the email, Zen-Noh sent Ingram an email complaining about invoices for which it did not believe it was liable. Ingram replied with a link to the Terms. Zen-Noh answered that it was “not party to the barge affreightment contract as received in your previous email.” The grains had been received by Zen-Noh, which has paid Ingram penalties related to delayed loading or unloading but has declined to pay Ingram's expenses involving ‘fleeting,’ ‘wharfage,’ and ‘shifting.’” Ingram filed suit in the Middle District of Tennessee. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Zen-Noh was neither a party to nor consented to Ingram’s contract and is not bound to the contract’s forum selection clause; the district court did not have jurisdiction over Zen-Noh. View "Ingram Barge Co., LLC v. Zen-Noh Grain Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2010, after decades of cooperation in selling their hardware and software, HP and Oracle had a disagreement over Oracle’s decision to hire HP’s former CEO. The companies negotiated a confidential settlement agreement, including a “reaffirmation clause,” stating each company’s commitment to their strategic relationship and support of their shared customer base. Six months later, Oracle announced it would discontinue software development on one of HP’s server platforms.The trial judge held that the reaffirmation clause requires Oracle to continue to offer its product suite on certain HP server platforms until HP discontinues their sale. A jury subsequently found that Oracle had breached both the express terms of the settlement agreement and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; it awarded HP $3.014 billion in damages. The court denied HP’s request for prejudgment interest. The court of appeal affirmed. The reaffirmation clause requires Oracle to continue to offer its product suite on certain HP server platforms. The trial court did not err in submitting to the jury the breach of contract and implied covenant claims. The court rejected Oracle’s argument that the judgment must be reversed based on violations of its constitutional right to petition and because HP’s expert’s testimony on damages was impermissibly speculative under California law and should have been excluded. View "Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Oracle Corp." on Justia Law