Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts

By
In 2014, Lend Lease, the construction manager of the Chicago River Point Tower Project, hired Cives as a subcontractor. Cives hired Midwest Steel. Midwest had, years before, hired AES to supply Midwest with additional workers, who were co‐employed by Midwest and AES. Lend Lease entered into a “contractor-controlled insurance program” with Starr Liability with a $500,000 deductible. All subcontractors were to join in the policy. AES had, several years earlier, obtained workers’ compensation for its workers from TIC, so that injured AES‐Midwest workers could obtain workers’ compensation from either Starr (or Lend Lease under the deductible) or TIC. Four ironworkers, jointly employed by Midwest and AES and performing work for Midwest were injured on the job and sought workers’ compensation. The claims exceeded $500,000, so Lend Lease had to pay its full deductible. Starr paid the remaining claims. Lend Lease filed suit against TIC, AES’s insurer, and AES, seeking reimbursement of the $500,000. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Lend Lease made a deal with Starr and is bound by it. The court rejected an argument that AES has been unjustly enriched; AES was not obligated to purchase an insurance policy that would cover Lend Lease's deductible. View "Lend Lease (US) Construction, Inc. v. Administrative Employer Services, Inc." on Justia Law

By
In 2013, the U.S. Soccer Team Players Association disapproved the US Soccer Federation’s proposed tequila poster advertisement, which contained player images. The Federation issued a notice, declaring that the collective bargaining agreement/uniform player agreement (CBA/UPA) did not require Players Association approval for use of player likenesses for six or more players in print creative advertisements by sponsors. The Players Association filed a grievance and demanded arbitration, arguing that the CBA/UPA did require approval, based on the past practice of the parties. The arbitrator issued an award in favor of the Players Association. The district court confirmed the award. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The contractual provisions are clear and unambiguous, establishing that the parties contemplated and anticipated the use of player likenesses for six players or more and agreed only to “request, but not require” a sponsor contribution to the applicable player pool for advertisements of the type at issue. No other terms that contradict this “request, but not require” condition. View "United States Soccer Fed'n Inc. v. United States Nat'l Soccer Ass'n" on Justia Law

By
Following the liquidation of Pine Top Insurance, some of its receivables were assigned to PTRIL, a Delaware LLC with its principal place of business in New York. One of those receivables was owed by Nissan, a Japanese insurance company that transacted business in the U.S. Transfercom, a United Kingdom insurance company had assumed that obligation. PTRIL filed suit in state court alleging breach of contract against Transfercom and seeking recovery under reinsurance treaties entered into by Transfercom’s predecessor and Pine Top in 1981 and 1982. Transfercom removed the litigation to federal court. PTRIL moved to remand, contending that Transfercom had waived its right to remove the case in the reinsurance treaties. Those treaties contain service of suit clauses, stating: In the event of the failure of the Reinsurer hereon to pay any amount claimed to be due hereunder, the Reinsurer hereon, at the request of the Company, will submit to the jurisdiction of any Court of competent jurisdiction within the United States. The district court found that under the plain language, PTRIL reserved the exclusive authority to select jurisdiction and venue; Transfercom waived its right to remove the case to federal court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed: to allow removal would be to ignore the contract’s plain and ordinary meanin View "Pine Top Receivables of Ill. v. Transfercom, Ltd." on Justia Law

By
Rabinak worked full‐time as a business representative for the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and, incidental to that position, served on the Council’s Executive Board. He received quarterly payments of $2,500 for his service on the Board, paid by checks separate from those for Rabinak’s weekly salary. When he retired, Rabinak qualified for a pension from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Pension Fund, governed by ERISA. The compensation amount upon which the Fund calculated his annual retirement benefit did not include the $10,000 he had received each year from the Council. The Fund’s appeals committee denied an appeal. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plan’s definition of compensation includes only “salary,” and the $2,500 quarterly payments for Board service were paid separately from Rabinak’s weekly salary payments and coded differently as well. The conclusion that the payments at issue were not salary payments under his particular plan was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Rabinak v. United Bhd. of Carpenters Pension Fund" on Justia Law
By
Posted in: and
Updated:

By
In 2011 Bankers leased Chicago office space from CBRE. Another tenant, Groupon, needed more office space. CBRE asked Bankers to sublease to Groupon and relocate. Bankers and CBRE signed a Listing Agreement, including terms required by 225 ILCS 454/15-5(a), 15-75. Bankers told CBRE that it wanted to net $7 million from its deals with Groupon and the lessor of the replacement space. CBRE presented Bankers with cost-benefit analyses (CBAs), comparing the costs of leasing new space with the benefits of subleasing the old space to Groupon. A May 2011 CBA showed a net savings of $6.9 million to Bankers from relocating to East Wacker Drive. Bankers responded by subleasing to Groupon and leasing that space. CBRE’s calculation was inaccurate. It omitted Bankers’ promise to give Groupon a $3.1 million tenant improvement allowance. Had Bankers known it would profit by only $3.8 million, it would have rejected the deal; CBRE would not have obtained $4.5 million in commissions. In an arbitration proceeding, the panel issued three “final decisions,” all favoring CBRE, and awarded costs. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The panel exceeded its authority. It was authorized to interpret the contract (Listing Agreement), which did not include the CBAs or a disclaimer contained in the CBAs. View "Bankers Life & Cas/ Ins. Co. v. CBRE, Inc." on Justia Law

By
Berg was a long‐time pit broker at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In 1991 and 1994, Berg bought disability‐income insurance policies. In 2005, he started to experience a tremor in his arms and hands, which interfered with his ability to write quickly and legibly. In 2007, the tremor forced him to leave his job. In 2010, a neurologist diagnosed Berg with an “essential tremor.” Berg applied for total disability benefits. Although the insurers approved Berg’s claim, they designated his disability onset date as February 2010, rather than September 2007. In 2012, Unum discontinued Berg’s total‐disability benefits, asserting that he was eligible only for residual‐disability benefits because when he applied, his regular occupation was “unemployed person.” The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. The Seventh Circuit reversed, rejecting an argument that, until he saw a physician in 2010, Berg did not meet the policy’s definition: “Total Disability means that the Insured can not [sic] do the substantial and material duties of his or her regular job,” that “[t]he cause of the total disability must be an injury or a sickness,” and that “[t]he injury or sickness must be one which requires and receives regular care by a Physician.” The clause does not contain a temporal element. View "Berg v. New York Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law

By
In 2009, Hoffman executed a $1.5 million tax‐increment finance (TIF) note for a development project by Fyre Lake Ventures, backed by a TIF bond, a mechanism for local governments to finance real estate development. Hoffman was not personally liable on the loan. In 2010, Fyre signed a $9 million loan, with the same lender; Hoffman acted as a co‐guarantor for $900,000. Separately, Hoffman borrowed $157,300 from the lender with his wife; the note was secured by mortgages on three lots in a Milan, Illinois housing development. By October 2011, all of the loans were in default. After negotiations, the FDIC (as receiver for the lender) and the Hoffmans signed a settlement agreement. In exchange for titles to the Milan lots, the Hoffmans were released of their obligations. Less than three months later, the FDIC sued Hoffman and other guarantors of the Fyre loan, $900,000 of which he personally guaranteed. The district judge found the settlement agreement ambiguous and concluded that parole evidence supported the bank’s interpretation of the settlement: Hoffman was only released from his obligation on the $157,300 loan. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, interpreting the agreement's general language in light of the specific language referring to the smaller loan. View "Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Hoffman" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
Caudill, the owner of a real estate brokerage, sued Keller Williams for breach of a 2001 franchise contract. Caudill's position as Regional Director of Keller Williams was terminated in 2010; her franchise was terminated in 2011. The suit settled with an agreement including a prohibition against disclosure of its terms, except to tax professionals, insurance carriers, and government agencies; those recipients had to promise to keep them in confidence. Any violation entitled the victim to damages of $10,000. Months later, Keller Williams issued an FDD (Franchise Disclosure Document) to about 2000 existing or potential franchisees and other parties, describing Caudill’s lawsuit in detail. The FDD was not required by the Federal Trade Commission under 16 C.F.R. 436.2(a). Caudill sought $20 million (2000 x $10,000) in damages. The district judge rejected her claim, noting that under Texas law a liquidated damages clause is enforceable only if “the harm caused by the breach is incapable or difficult of estimation and … the [specified] amount of liquidated damages is a reasonable forecast of just compensation.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. It is unreasonable to suppose, without evidence, that the dissemination of the FDD caused Caudill a $20 million loss. Although the burden of proving that a liquidated damages clause is actually a penalty clause is on the defendant, Keller Williams established that there was no basis for the requested damages. View "Caudill v. Keller Williams Realty, Inc." on Justia Law

By
In 2013, Panther, a marketing and brand management company, signed a contract with IndyCar, to purchase access to coveted space in the “Fan Village” at IndyCar racing events, an area where sponsors set up displays to attract fans. The Army National Guard had been Panther’s team sponsor, 2008-2013. After it signed the 2013 contract, Panther learned that another team, RLL, intended to provide the Guard with Fan Village space. Believing that RLL had conspired with IndyCar and the Docupak agency to persuade the Guard to sponsor RLL instead of Panther, Panther brought suit in state court against RLL, Docupak, IndyCar, and active‐duty Guard member Metzler, who acted as the liaison between the Guard and Panther. The defendants removed the case to federal court, where the United States was substituted as a party for Metzler, 28 U.S.C. 2679(d); Panther filed an amended complaint that did not name either Metzler or the United States. The district court dismissed the complaint against RLL, IndyCar, and Docupak and found the United States’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction moot. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded for dismissal for lack of jurisdiction; the basis for federal jurisdiction disappeared when Panther amended its complaint. View "Panther Brands, LLC v. Indy Racing League, LLC" on Justia Law

By
NAMC, which buys, services, and sells residential mortgages, and GSF, a residential mortgage lender that also sells mortgages, entered into an Agreement whereby GSF would sell loans to NAMC. To use the Fannie Mae Desktop Originator System (DO), which evaluates potential mortgagors under Fannie Mae’s eligibility standards, GSF needed a sponsoring lender. GSF had several sponsors from 2006 until 2011; one was NAMC. Every time GSF downloaded a report it paid Fannie Mae a $15 fee and the sponsoring lender had to pay Fannie Mae between $20 and $28. GSF was not aware that the sponsoring lender also had to pay a fee. In 2008 NAMC terminated its Agreement with GSF, but failed to notify GSF to stop using it as a sponsoring lender. NAMC was billed by Fannie Mae for almost $278,000 for GSF’s use of the system, 2008-2011. The district judge granted summary judgment in favor of GSF in a suit charging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and unjust enrichment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. “NAMC is a sophisticated enterprise... its failure to cancel its sponsorship of GSF when it severed all its other relations to that company was an inexplicable blunder for which it has only itself to blame.” View "Nationwide Advantage Mortgage Co. v. GSF Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law
By
Posted in: and
Updated: