Articles Posted in Contracts

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Lowe’s expanded its retail home improvement stores into Mexico. Lowe’s Mexico contracted with Karum to provide private-label credit card services there. The program failed to meet expectations. Karum sued, claiming breach of contract. Early on, Karum disclosed its summary “damages model,” a 37-page estimate of damages with hundreds of figures contained in charts and graphs. Karum intended to have its Chairman and former CEO Johnson and/or its current CEO and CFO Ouchida present the damages model at trial as lay opinion testimony. Karum never retained a damages expert. Two months before trial, Lowe’s moved to preclude Johnson and Ouchida from testifying as to the damages model because any testimony regarding the model required the specialized knowledge of an expert. The district court granted the motion, finding that Karum had never properly disclosed an expert pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2). Since this was a case-dispositive sanction, the court granted judgment in favor of Lowe’s. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain meaning of Rule 26(a)(2) demands a formal designation for expert disclosures. Although Lowe’s deposed Johnson about the model and knew Karum intended to call him to testify about its content, Lowe’s should not have to assume a particular witness will testify as an expert. View "Karum Holdings LLC v. Lowe's Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Knopick purchased a Jayco recreational vehicle from an independent Iowa dealer for $414,583, taking title through an LLC he alone controlled. Jayco’s two-year limited manufacturer’s warranty disclaims all implied warranties and “does not cover … any RV used for rental or other commercial purposes,” explains that an RV is “used for commercial and/or business purposes if the RV owner or user files a tax form claiming any business or commercial tax benefit related to the RV, or if the RV is purchased, registered or titled in a business name,” and states that performance of repairs excluded from coverage are "goodwill" repairs and do not alter the warranty. Almost immediately, Knopick claims, the RV leaked, smelled of sewage, had paint issues, and contained poorly installed features, including bedspreads screwed into furniture and staples protruding from the carpet. Knopick drove it to Jayco’s Indiana factory for repairs. He later picked up the RV to drive to his Texas home. Concerned about continuing problems, Knopick left it at a Missouri repair facility, from which a Jayco driver took it to Indiana for further repairs. Jayco later had a driver deliver the coach to Knopick in Arkansas. Knopick remained unsatisfied and sued for breach of warranty under state law and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Jayco, finding that Knopick had no rights under the warranty because the RV was purchased by a business entity. View "Knopick v. Jayco, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sutula‐Johnson sold office furniture. In 2010, OfficeMax adopted a compensation plan that paid a commission rate depending on the sale’s profit. Commissions were earned either when a customer paid or 90 days after the customer was invoiced, whichever came first. Sutula‐Johnson negotiated better terms and earned commissions upon invoicing. OfficeMax and Office Depot merged in 2013. Office Depot continued paid Sutula‐Johnson and her colleagues under the terms of the old OfficeMax plan. In July 2014, Office Depot announced a new compensation plan for furniture sales, effective immediately. Sutula‐Johnson claims she did not receive a copy of the new plan for several weeks. The new plan significantly changed how Sutula‐Johnson was paid and reduced her total pay. She initially refused to sign it, complaining about its application to sales already in the works but not yet invoiced. Sutula‐Johnson continued working for Office Depot for more than a year. In 2015 Sutula‐Johnson resigned and sued for breach of contract and violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 ILCS. 115/1. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Office Depot on the breach of contract claims but reversed as to the statutory claims. Sutula‐Johnson accepted the new terms by continuing to work but offered evidence that Office Depot violated the Wage Act by failing to pay her commissions monthly and by failing to pay her commissions earned before she resigned. View "Sutula-Johnson v. Office Depot, Inc." on Justia Law

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Fiorentini is the owner and president of a small technology company. When cancer treatment left him unable to perform his job, he received total disability benefits under a Paul Revere policy. Five years later, after Fiorentini was back at work and exercising full control of the company, Paul Revere notified him that he no longer qualified for the benefits. Fiorentini argued that he still satisfied the policy’s requirements for total disability because, although he could perform most of his job duties, he was unable to do what it takes to generate new business. Paul Revere rejected that argument, encouraging him to apply for “residual disability benefits,” which would have required Fiorentini to show that he was either unable to perform “one or more of the important duties” of his occupation or could only perform his important job duties for “80% of the time normally required to perform them” and that he earned at least 20% less than he did predisability. Fiorentini instead sued for breach of contract. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Paul Revere. The total disability provision does not cover the insured who has a diminished ability to perform his occupation, but rather the insured who is unable to continue it. View "Fiorentini v. Paul Revere Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Simpkins began working for DuPage Housing Authority (DHA) in 2009 under an “Independent Contractor Agreement” for “general labor” to rehabilitate vacant properties to make them suitable for occupants. In 2011, the rehab work slowed and Simpkins began working primarily at Ogden townhome community, for which DHA served as on‐site management. Ogden’s property manager and maintenance supervisor, DHA employees, gave Simpkins instructions and prioritized the order in which he needed to complete tasks. In May 2012, Simpkins and DHA entered into another “Independent Contractor Agreement,” covering “general labor” at Ogden. Simpkins worked full‐time and exclusively for DHA; reported his hours by invoice; and was paid bi‐weekly via check. DHA issued Simpkins 1099‐MISC tax forms, while others received W‐2 forms. Simpkins knew that DHA considered him an independent contractor and repeatedly requested to become an employee. DHA did not provide him with pension, insurance, or other benefits. In 2015, Simpkins was injured in a car accident; his relationship with DHA ended. He filed suit, claiming that DHA had repeatedly failed to pay him overtime and was required to provide him with disability benefits. The district court ruled that Simpkins was not an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act and rejected all of his federal claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding genuine issues of fact as to the control exercised by DHA, questions concerning the origin of tools and material, and ambiguity as to the termination date of the second contract. View "Simpkins v. DuPage Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Pain Center contracted with SSIMED for medical-billing software and related services. In 2006, the parties entered into another contract, for records-management software and related services. In 2013, Pain Center sued SSIMED for breach of contract, breach of warranty, breach of the implied duty of good faith, and four tort claims, all arising out of alleged shortcomings in SSIMED’s software and services. The district judge found the entire suit untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed on all but the claims for breach of contract. The judge applied the four-year statute of limitations under Indiana’s Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), holding that the two agreements are mixed contracts for goods and services, but the goods (i.e., the software) predominate. The Seventh Circuit disagreed. Under Indiana’s “predominant thrust” test for mixed contracts, the agreements in question fall on the “services” side of the line, so the UCC does not apply. The breach-of-contract claims are subject to Indiana’s 10-year statute of limitations for written contracts and are timely. Pain Center licensed SSIMED’s preexisting, standardized software but received monthly billing and IT services for the life of both contracts. View "Pain Center of SE Indiana, LLC v. Origin Healthcare Solutions LLC" on Justia Law

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Kenosha used Comsys as its information-technology department. Comsys had its offices inside City Hall and stored its electronic information on the City’s servers. Their contract automatically renewed from year to year unless terminated, and provided that either party “shall have the right, with or without cause, to terminate the Agreement by written notice delivered to the other party at least twelve (12) calendar months prior to the specified effective date of such termination.” In 2014, hostilities broke out between the parties: a Comsys employee because a city employee with plans to bring the IT department in-house and there were allegations of stolen email and a search of the servers. The City’s Common Council voted to end the contract. The Mayor delivered formal notice days later. The contract ended a year later. Comsys sued, alleging First and Fourth Amendment violations. The district court dismissed several claims on the pleadings and dismissed the Council’s members on the ground of legislative immunity but denied motions for summary judgment on the First and Fourth Amendment claim and official immunity claims by the Mayor, City Administrator, and the City Manager. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to those officials, finding that they did not violate clearly established law and cannot be ordered to pay damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and noting that trying to isolate contract administration from speech may be impossible in this situation. View "Comsys Inc. v. Pacetti" on Justia Law

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Prolite Building Supply bought Ply Gem windows, which it resold to Wisconsin builders. Some homeowners were not satisfied with the windows, which admitted air even when closed. Contractors stopped buying from Prolite, which stopped paying Ply Gem. Prolite and homeowners sued. Ply Gem removed the action to federal court and counter-claimed against Prolite for unpaid bills. Additional parties intervened. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Prolite. The court vacated the judgment on the homeowners’ claims for remand to state court. The service agreement between Prolite and Ply Gem requires Prolite to repair the Ply Gem windows in exchange for a discount and needed parts. There was no breach of that agreement. The homeowners’ claims can be resolved under supplemental jurisdiction only if they “are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy,” 28 U.S.C. 1367(a). The language of the window warranties received by the homeowners and the service agreement did not overlap. Prolite complained that Ply Gem did not do enough to ensure that its customers (the builders) remained willing to purchase Ply Gem windows. The homeowners just wanted to stop drafts and moisture. The nature of the work done differed. View "ProLite Building Supply, LLC v. Ply Gem Windows" on Justia Law

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The initial six-month agreement between LimeCoral and CareerBuilder specified that all graphic designs created for CareerBuilder would constitute the exclusive property of CareerBuilder and said nothing about renewal fees. After six months, LimeCoral continued to prepare media files incorporating custom graphic designs, typically receiving $3,000 for each new design. As there was no longer a written agreement transferring ownership of the copyright, LimeCoral retained ownership and implicitly granted CareerBuilder a license to use the designs. CareerBuilder argued the license was unconditional and irrevocable; LimeCoral claimed it was subject to CareerBuilder’s alleged agreement to pay an annual renewal fee for every design that CareerBuilder continued to use. LimeCoral sued, alleging breach of copyright and breach of an alleged oral agreement to pay an annual renewal. The district court granted CareerBuilder summary judgment, finding that CareerBuilder had an irrevocable, implied license to use LimeCoral’s designs that was not conditioned upon any agreement to pay LimeCoral renewal fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was no evidence that would permit the factfinder to conclude that there was an agreement between LimeCoral and CareerBuilder that LimeCoral would be paid a fee for each renewal, and that the implied license LimeCoral granted to CareerBuilder to use the job brandings was subject to that agreement. View "LimeCoral, Ltd. v. CareerBuilder, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Copyright

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University Park hired Linear as its Village Manager through May 2015, concurrent with the term of its Mayor. In October 2014 the Village extended Linear’s contract for a year. In April 2015 Mayor Covington was reelected. In May, the Board of Trustees decided that Linear would no longer be Village Manager. His contract provides for six months’ severance pay if the Board discharges him for any reason except criminality. The Village argued that the contract’s extension was not lawful and that it owes Linear nothing. The district court agreed and rejected Linear’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, reasoning that 65 ILCS 5/3.1-30-5; 5/8-1-7 prohibit a village manager's contract from lasting beyond the end of a mayor’s term. The Seventh Circuit affirmed on different grounds. State courts should address the Illinois law claims. Linear’s federal claim rests on a mistaken appreciation of the role the Constitution plays in enforcing state-law rights. Linear never had a legitimate claim of entitlement to remain as Village Manager. His contract allowed termination without cause. His entitlement was to receive the contracted-for severance pay. Linear could not have a federal right to a hearing before losing his job; he has at most a right to a hearing to determine his severance pay--a question of Illinois law. View "Linear v. Village of University Park" on Justia Law