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

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Stergiadis, Dimas, and Theo formed 1600 South LLC, executed an operating agreement, purchased land on which to build a fruit market, and began construction. The 2008 recession stopped construction and eventually led to the LLC’s 2009 dissolution. The partners disagreed about whether they impliedly agreed to equalize their capital contributions. The operating agreement provided that the three each held a one-third membership interest in the LLC; each member agreed to make an initial capital contribution on the date of execution but the amount was left blank. In 2008 Stergiadis sued Dimas in state court seeking to equalize the capital contributions. Dimas filed for bankruptcy, triggering the automatic stay. Dimas ultimately filed seven such petitions and received a discharge in 2016. The U.S. Trustee moved to reopen the bankruptcy to recover the value of an undisclosed property. The bankruptcy court agreed. Stergiadis filed a proof of claim in Dimas’s reopened bankruptcy seeking the same amount he was seeking in state court. The partners disputed the amounts of their respective contributions.The bankruptcy court allowed Stergiadis’s claim, awarding $618,974, finding that the members had an implied equalization agreement. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the LLC’s operating agreement precluded an implied equalization contract. The bankruptcy court properly relied on extrinsic evidence in finding such a contract. View "Dimas v. Stergiadis" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Moore, an Indiana-based insurance broker, advised Mathis, an Alabama surgeon, to replace his Standard disability insurance policy with a MetLife disability-insurance policy with higher limits that had occupational disability coverage, like the Standard policy. The MetLife policy did not actually provide occupational disability coverage but provided total disability coverage only if Mathis was not gainfully employed and provided residual disability coverage only under various limitations. Mathis became disabled in 2017. Neck and arm problems prevented him from performing some of his duties. He underwent surgery but could no longer work at his usual level; his income decreased. He left his practice in March 2018 and began working for a device manufacturer in a nonsurgical capacity. MetLife paid Mathis residual disability benefits, April-August 2017, then determined he was not entitled to residual disability benefits. The policy lapsed.Mathis sued Moore and Source Brokerage for negligent procurement and brought a breach of contract claim against MetLife. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims, applying Alabama law, rather than Indiana law. Mathis’s contributory negligence in failing to read the new policy and the Alabama statute of limitations barred the negligence claims. The court rejected the contract claim because Mathis failed to comply with his contractual obligation to submit proof of loss for any period after September 2017. View "Mathis v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co" on Justia Law

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Healthcare revenue cycle management contractors manage billing and behind-the-scenes aspects of patient care, from pre-registering patients to reviewing and approving documentation upon release. Reid Hospital contracted with Dell, a revenue cycle management contractor. Their contract limited both sides’ damages in a breach of contract action in the absence of willful misconduct or gross negligence. Dell sold much of its portfolio to Conifer in 2012 while Dell was still losing money on the Reid contract. Conifer began reducing staff and neglecting duties; there was a slowdown throughout the revenue-management cycle and in processing patients’ discharge forms, leading to longer hospital stays that third-party payors refused to reimburse fully. After two years, Reid took its revenue operation back in-house. Reid's consultant found significant errors in Conifer’s work. Reid sued for breach of contract, claiming that Conifer’s actions caused the hospital to lose tens of millions of dollars. The court granted Conifer summary judgment, reading the contract as defining all claims for lost revenue as claims for “consequential damages,” prohibited absent “willful misconduct.”The Seventh Circuit reversed. Even if lost revenue is often considered consequential, this was a contract for revenue collection services and did not define all lost revenue as an indirect result of any breach. Lost revenue would have been the direct and expected result of Conifer’s failure to collect and process that revenue as required under the contract. The parties did not intend to insulate Conifer entirely from damages. View "Reid Hospital and Health Care, Inc. v. Conifer Revenue Cycle Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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Onfido provides biometric identification software that is incorporated into its customers’ products and mobile apps for verifying users’ identities. Onfido partnered with OfferUp—an online consumer marketplace—to verify users’ identities. Sosa verified his identity with OfferUp using the technology provided by Onfido—the app’s TruYou feature. To complete the verification process, Sosa uploaded a photograph of his driver’s license and a photograph of his face. Sosa alleges that Onfido then used biometric identification technology without his consent to extract his biometric identifiers and compare the two photographs.Sosa brought class action claims against Onfido under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Onfido moved to stay the case and to compel individual arbitration based on an arbitration provision in OfferUp’s Terms of Service. The district court rejected each of Onfido’s nonparty contract enforcement theories and denied Onfido’s motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Onfido failed to establish that there was an outcome-determinative difference between Illinois and Washington law, and the district court properly applied Illinois law—the law of the forum state—to determine that Onfido failed to establish that it was a third-party beneficiary of the Terms of Service or that it could otherwise enforce the contract’s arbitration provision either as an agent of OfferUp or on equitable estoppel grounds. View "Sosa v. Onfido, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Zylstras purchased their RV from a non-party dealership for $91,559.15. A one-year warranty covered portions of the RV manufactured by DRV. “Written notice of defects subject to warranty coverage must be given to the selling dealer or DRV … within 30 days after the defect is discovered.” The owner is required to take the RV to the selling dealer or factory for repair. Each DRV vehicle is custom-built for the purchaser. The Zylstras took the vehicle in for punch-list items and for warranty repairs. During a subsequent long trip, Zylstra discovered that the black waste tank valve was leaking and that sewage had been leaking into the insulation throughout the RV's underbelly. He could not find a DRV authorized dealer but an independent mobile technician came and completed the repair. After the leak, the Zylstras stopped using the RV out of concern for their health. They contend that it is not, and never has been, fit for its ordinary purpose of recreational use.They filed a complaint alleging breach of express and implied warranty, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), and violation of state consumer protection laws. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of DRV. Even in the light most favorable to the Zylstras, DRV never had a reasonable opportunity to repair the defects as required under the warranty. View "Zylstra v. DRV, LLC" on Justia Law

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Meinders offers chiropractic services. United provides or administers insurance plans nationwide. In 2006, Meinders became a “participating provider” with United to expand his customer base; he signed a provider agreement with ACN. which provided administrative and network management services for chiropractors, and had a preexisting master services agreement with United. The agreement allowed ACN, “in its sole discretion,” to “assign its rights, duties or obligations” under the agreement.“ The agreement stated that if a dispute arose, either party “may” submit the issue “to arbitration” and any arbitration decision would be “final and binding.”Meinders submitted claims for United-insured patients directly to United; United paid those claims. Those claims were submitted on United forms and if an explanation of benefits was requested, United provided it. Meinders confirmed a patient’s eligibility either through United’s website or through a United phone number. ACN became a wholly-owned subsidiary of United.In 2013, United sent a fax to Meinders, who believed that United had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and filed suit. After remands, the district court held that “United … assumed the material obligations of ACN …, a wholly-owned subsidiary of United, under the Provider Agreement, which authorizes United to enforce the arbitration clause.” The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Dr. Robert L. Meinders, D.C., Ltd. v. United HealthCare Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two trees fell on Christopherson’s home, months apart, resulting in its total destruction. The village ordered demolition. Christopherson’s insurer, ASI, had advanced living expenses but did not provide the requested demolition payment by the village's deadline, so Christopherson razed the house himself. He did not provide invoices for the demolition or for his own labor. Christopherson sued, alleging bad-faith denial of policy benefits and informed ASI that, excluding personal property losses and additional living expenses yet to be determined, Christopherson’s losses were $143,384: the $135,000 dwelling coverage limit, $6,884 for demolition, and $1,500 for tree removal. ASI indicated that it would pay that amount, noting that it had not yet received any notice of claims for personal property.The court granted ASI a discovery protective order with respect to the bad faith claim, reasoning that Christopherson could not establish any underlying breach of the policies. ASI had already paid the full limits of his 2018–19 policy, Christopherson’s claims under his 2017–18 policy, and his additional living expenses under both policies. ASI obtained summary judgment. Christopherson had not presented evidence of costs actually incurred but not paid by ASI and could not show a breach; he had nearly exhausted the limits under both policies.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the case should be remanded to state court. Christopherson’s arguments ignore policy provisions that the insured must first incur the expenses and then provide the insurer with documentation before the insurer is obliged to pay. View "Christopherson v. American Strategic Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Rexing sought a ruling that Rexing was excused from its obligations to purchase eggs under its contract with Rembrandt. Rembrandt filed a counterclaim seeking damages for Rexing’s repudiation of the contract, attorneys’ fees, and interest. Following discovery, the district court granted Rembrandt summary judgment on liability but concluded that there were genuine issues of triable fact as to damages. A jury awarded Rembrandt $1,268,481 for losses on eggs it had resold and another $193,752 for losses on eggs that it was not able to resell. The court determined that the interest term in the parties’ agreement was usurious, so that Rembrandt was not entitled to contractual interest or attorneys’ fees.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the damages award. The district court properly concluded that the resale remedy under Iowa’s version of the Uniform Commercial Code, Iowa Code 554.2706, was the appropriate mechanism for calculating Rembrandt’s damages and Rexing waived its arguments challenging the award by not presenting them to the district court in a post-verdict motion. Reversing in part, the court held that the parties’ agreement fell within the “Business Credit Exception” to Iowa’s usury statute, Iowa Code 535.5(2)(a)(5), and remanded the denial of Rembrandt’s request for interest and fees. View "Rexing Quality Eggs v. Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1987, Central purchased certain Soo assets, including LST rail lines. Soo agreed to retain liability and indemnify Central for “all claims for environmental matters relating to ownership of the Assets or the operation of LST that are asserted” within 10 years of closing, after which Central would assume all liability and indemnify Soo. Years later, contamination was discovered in a former Ashland industrial area, now Kreher Park, which contains a railroad right-of-way purchased by Central under the Agreement. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) identified an old factory as the likely source; its owner, Northern, named as a potentially responsible party (PRP), undertook to shift responsibility to the railroads. Central kept Soo apprised of the situation. Central sent notification to Soo in 1997 that it was seeking indemnification for environmental matters, including at Kreher Park. Soo did not agree to indemnify or defend.In 2002, the EPA designated the area as a Superfund site (CERCLA, 42 U.S.C. 9601). In 2011, the EPA issued PRP notices to Central, Soo, Northern, and others. Northern sued Central, Soo, and the city for its cleanup expenses. The EPA cited evidence that the railroads engaged in activities contributing to the contamination. The railroads settled the EPA and Northern claims for $10.5 million.In breach of contract litigation between the railroads, the district court granted Soo summary judgment, finding that no claim had been asserted during the claim period. Central then argued that it should not be responsible for the portion of the environmental claims attributable to operations and land not purchased by Central. The court rejected the argument and awarded Soo $10,799,427, prejudgment interest, and $1,776,764 for attorneys’ fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. No “claim” was asserted against the railroads during the Agreement’s claim period; Northern never threatened litigation and the WDNR did not take any action that imposed any legal duties or impending legal peril on either railroad. The operation of the railroad business, not just the ownership of the assets, was identified by the EPA as contributing to the contamination; the claims are within the scope of the indemnification clause. View "Wisconsin Central LTD v. Soo Line Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The underlying class action alleged that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) unlawfully denied hearing-impaired inmates “the assistance they need to communicate effectively and participate in IDOC programs and services.” A 2018 Settlement required IDOC to screen inmates for hearing problems, refer inmates in need to a licensed audiologist for a more thorough audiological evaluation, maintain records of inmates’ evaluations, and provide inmates with care according to the results of their evaluations. For about a year after the court approved the Settlement, IDOC incorrectly referred about 700 inmates to licensed hearing instrument dispensers (LHIDs)—hearing-aid salesmen—instead of audiologists for evaluations. IDOC discontinued the practice in July 2019, based on an out-of-court agreement.In 2020, Plaintiffs moved to enforce the Settlement arguing that IDOC is not ensuring that the audiological evaluations are completed within a reasonable time period and sought attorney fees for the investigation and resolution of the LHID violations. The district court concluded that IDOC was in substantial non-compliance with the Settlement through the LHID violations,, ordered IDOC to pay about $54,000 in attorney fees, and held that the Settlement requires IDOC to ensure the audiological evaluations are completed within a reasonable timeframe, which it defined as 90 days after a referral. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to attorneys’ fees. The district court incorrectly determined that IDOC was obligated to ensure that its inmates receive audiological evaluations within a set timeframe; the Settlement contains no such requirement. View "Holmes v. Godinez" on Justia Law