Articles Posted in Contracts

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Husband and wife paid $83,475 for a new Volvo T8, plus $2,700 for a charging station. Volvo’s advertisements claimed that the T8’s battery range was 25 miles. In practice their T8 averaged a eight-10 miles of battery‐only driving. Husband filed suit, asserting a class of others similarly situated under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), and received a letter from Volvo that offered “a full refund upon return of the vehicle if you are not satisfied with it for any reason” and to “arrange to pick up your vehicle.” The next day Volvo moved to dismiss husband’s suit on the theory that he lacked standing because only his wife was on the car’s title. Before the court ruled on the motion, his wife was added to the complaint. Volvo moved to dismiss, contending that she lacked standing because its letter had offered complete relief before she filed suit. The district judge agreed and dismissed. The Seventh Circuit reversed, seeing “no reason why the timing of the offer has such a powerful effect. Offers do not bind recipients until they are accepted. An unaccepted pre‐litigation offer does not deprive a plaintiff of her day in court. View "Laurens v. Volvo Cars of North America, LLC" on Justia Law

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Novae issued Cunningham an insurance policy. While insured by Novae, Cunningham entered into an agreement with AP to provide claims-handling services. In 2004 AP sued Cunningham in Texas state court, alleging misrepresentation and negligently-handled claims, resulting in unwarranted or underpriced policy renewals. While that litigation was ongoing, AP filed for bankruptcy. Novae then denied Cunningham’s request for coverage and remained largely uninvolved in the state litigation because the policy did not obligate it to defend. In 2012 Cunningham and AP’s bankruptcy trustee entered into a settlement, including a stipulation to the entry of a $5.12 million judgment against Cunningham; an assignment to AP of Cunningham’s purported right to recover against Novae; and a covenant not to execute on the judgment against Cunningham. The settlement stated that Illinois law would govern its interpretation. The Texas court entered judgment in accordance with the settlement. APs bankruptcy trustee then sued Novae in Illinois, asserting the assigned rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Novae. In Texas “assignments of choses in action that tend to increase and distort litigation” violate public policy and are invalid. The type of settlement at issue is collusive and distorts the adversarial process. View "Hendricks v. Novae Corporate Underwriting, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Wine & Canvas (W&C) hosts “painting nights.” Patrons, following a teacher’s instructions, create a painting while enjoying wine. W&C operated in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Oklahoma City. Muylle signed a license agreement, moved to San Francisco, and opened a W&C operation. W&C’s executives were present and taught the first class, worked with Muylle to approve paintings for use, gave Muylle company email addresses, and advertised the San Francisco operation on the W&C website. Disagreements arose. Muylle gave notice to terminate the agreement, changed the business name to “Art Uncorked,” and ceased using the W&C name and marks. W&C alleged trademark infringement, 15 U.S.C. 1051. Muylle’s counterclaims invoked California franchise law, federal trademark cancellation. and Indiana abuse of process law. Plaintiffs failed to meet discovery deadlines, despite being sanctioned three times. The Seventh Circuit affirmed: dismissal of the California law counterclaims; W&C's summary judgment on Muylle’s trademark cancellation counterclaim; Muylle's summary judgment on trademark dilution, sale of counterfeit items, unfair competition, bad faith, tortious conduct, abuse of process, breach of contract, fraud, and a claim under the Indiana Crime Victims Act; and Muylle's partial summary judgment on trademark infringement. Through November 18, 2011, W&C impliedly consented to Muylle’s using the marks. On claims of trademark infringement and false designation of origin (for any use after November 18, 2011), and Muylle’s abuse of process counterclaim, the court affirmed awards to Muylle of $270,000 on his counterclaim and $175,882.68 in fees. View "Wine & Canvas Development, LLC v. Muylle" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Haley and others filed a putative class action against Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork, claiming that windows purchased from Kolbe were defective and had allowed air and water to leak into (and damage) the plaintiffs’ homes. Kolbe tendered the defense of the defective-product claims to several insurance companies. Two companies—United States Fire Insurance and Fireman’s Fund—obtained permission to intervene in the case. United States Fire successfully moved for summary judgment, arguing that a 2016 decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court (Pharmacal) absolved the insurers of their duty to defend Kolbe in the underlying suit. The court sua sponte awarded judgment to Fireman’s Fund. The Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment that the insurance companies had no duty to defend. The “Pharmacal” analysis does not apply because the homeowners sought compensation for the repair or replacement of individual elements of a larger structure. This kind of particularized demand was not at issue in Pharmacal, which applied an "integrated structure" analysis. Whether the walls and other elements of the plaintiffs’ homes constitute Kolbe’s “product,” such that coverage for any damage to those materials is extinguished by a policy exclusion is ambiguous. View "Haley v. Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co." on Justia Law

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From 1977-1984 Banco reinsured 2% of the Insurer’s business. The Insurer stopped writing policies in 1985, went into receivership in 1986, and began liquidating in 1987. Through 1993 the liquidator complied with contractual provisions requiring balances to be calculated quarterly and statements sent. If the Insurer owed reinsurers net balances for the previous quarter, it paid them; if the reinsurers owed the Insurer, bills were sent. In 1993, the liquidator stopped sending checks or bills without explanation. In 2008, the liquidator notified Banco that Banco was owed $225,000 as the net on 1993-1999 business. For periods before 1993, the Insurer was owed $2.5 million. In 2010, Banco protested the bill as untimely. Pine bought the Insurer’s receivables and, in 2012, sued Banco. Litigation about procedural issues, arising from the fact that Banco is wholly owned by Uruguay, consumed several years. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, holding that Pine’s claim is untimely. Each contract required scheduled netting of claims and payment of the balance. Claims against Banco accrued no later than 1993. The contracts specify application of Illinois law, which allowed 10 years (until 2003) to sue on contracts. A statute concerning insurance liquidation, 215 ILCS 5/206, does not permit a liquidator to wait until the end to net the firm’s debits and credits. View "Pine Top Receivables of Illinois, LLC v. Banco de Seguros del Estado" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Scheurer applied to work at Richelieu which outsourced its staffing needs to Remedy, a temporary staffing agency. The application form she signed with Remedy for placement with Richelieu contained an arbitration agreement. She was assigned to work for Richelieu, but that assignment ended after some months. About a year later, Remedy placed Scheurer with Fromm. Scheurer alleges that while working at Fromm, her supervisor sexually harassed her and that Fromm took no serious action to address the sexual harassment and instead fired her. Fromm tried to arrange a work situation that would have separated Scheurer from the supervisor, but when that proved “impossible,” Fromm asked Remedy to assign Scheurer to another client. Scheurer filed suit against Fromm, but not Remedy, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 2000e‐2(a)(1) & 2000e‐3(a). Fromm argued that arbitration should be compelled under the contract law principle of equitable estoppel and because Fromm was a third‐party beneficiary of the Remedy agreement. The district court denied Fromm’s motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was no basis for finding that Fromm relied on Scheurer’s arbitration agreement since Fromm did not even know about it and Fromm was not a third‐party beneficiary of Remedy’s agreement with Scheurer. View "Scheurer v. Fromm Family Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

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Tate, sells ingredients to the food and beverage industry. Glatt sells processing equipment to the food industry. In 2008 the two entered a contract: Glatt would, for $7,042,022, design and build a three-story food-manufacturing machine (granulator) for Tate’s Sycamore, Illinois operation. The following year, with the granulator running, it caught fire and was seriously damaged. A flammable corn product that gave off flammable dust was being processed at the time. More than three years later Tate sued, claiming that the fire had resulted from defects in the granulator—either failure to install a fire-suppression system or defects in filters essential to filtering the flammable dust from the machine's exhaust. Tate sought damages of $7,784,767 for property damage, repair costs, and lost profits. Its insurer paid $2,743,248, and joined the litigation. Glatt counterclaimed for the unpaid balance on the contract. A magistrate ruled that a contract provision, forbidding the recovery of “special damages,” prohibited Tate from recovering lost profits. A jury awarded the insurer $853,254, but Tate and Glatt nothing. The parties’ contract entitled a prevailing party to “reasonable legal and other professional fees and expenses.” The judge awarded Tate $785,422.50, and its insurer $213,313.50, in attorneys’ fees plus expenses of $356,075.96. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to evidentiary rulings. View "Tate & Lyle Americas LLC v. Glatt Air Techniques Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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A newly-constructed multi‐story condominium building suffered water damage, allegedly caused by the painting subcontractor, National, failing to apply an adequate coat of sealant to the exterior. In Illinois state court, the condominium association sued the general contractor, developer, and subcontractors. The defendants tendered the defense to Westfield, National’s insurer, Westfield filed a federal action seeking a declaration that it owed no duty to defend in the underlying action. The district court determined that the complaint triggered Westfield’s duty to defend. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment, rejecting an argument that failure to apply an adequate amount of paint cannot be considered an “accident” that would constitute a covered “occurrence” under the policy. Westfield also argued that because the damage is to the building itself, which was a new construction and not an existing structure, the association has not demonstrated that there was property damage that is subject to its policy. The policy defines “occurrence” to include the “continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same harmful conditions,” so the allegation that National acted negligently was sufficient under Illinois law to constitute an “occurrence.” National’s actions allegedly damaged parts of the building that were outside of the scope of its work, so the complaint alleges potentially covered property damage sufficient to invoke the duty to defend. View "Westfield Insurance Co. v. National Decorating Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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Gary Jet began operating as a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at the Authority's Gary/Chicago International Airport in 1991. The 2006 “Minimum Standards,” regulations governing FBOs, contained a 1.5% charge on gross revenue for commercial FBO services beginning in 2001, “pending the expiration of existing leases which do not incorporate these terms.” Gary Jet’s lease did not contain this provision. During negotiations for a new lease, the parties agreed that Gary Jet would instead pay “supplemental rent” of 10% of certain fees. A January 2007 “First Amended Lease” with a 39-year term, required Gary Jet to pay base rent plus supplemental rent and stated Gary Jet “shall abide by” the Minimum Standards, except when they conflict with the 2007 Lease. The lease stated that the Minimum Standards “shall be … made applicable to” subsequent lease agreements. In 2013, Gary Jet sued for breach of contract. The parties entered settled in 2014. Gary Jet agreed that New Minimum Standards controlled any conflict with its lease. A 2014 revised lease stated that the Minimum Standards controlled any conflicts. The initial draft of new Minimum Standards did not require Gary Jet to pay a percentage of gross revenue. In 2015, the Authority stated that it intended require that each FBO pay a percentage of gross revenues. Gary Jet objected, but the Authority approved the New Minimum Standards with the provision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of Gary Jet’s suit under the Contracts Clause. Gary Jet cannot plausibly demonstrate that it is without a remedy for any violation of its contractual rights, which is essential to a Contracts-Clause claim. View "Gary Jet Center, Inc. v. AFCO AvPORTS Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork, alleging that Kolbe sold them defective windows that leak and rot. Plaintiffs brought common-law and statutory claims for breach of express and implied warranties, negligent design and manufacturing of the windows, negligent or fraudulent misrepresentations as to the condition of the windows, and unjust enrichment. The district court granted partial summary judgment in Kolbe’s favor on a number of claims, excluded plaintiffs’ experts, denied class certification, and found that plaintiffs’ individual claims could not survive without expert support. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs forfeited their arguments with respect to their experts’ qualifications under “Daubert.” Individual plaintiffs failed to establish that Kolbe’s alleged misrepresentation somehow caused them loss, given that their builders only used Kolbe windows. Though internal emails, service-request forms, and photos of rotting or leaking windows may suggest problems with Kolbe windows, that evidence did not link the problems to an underlying design defect, as opposed to other, external factors such as construction flaws or climate issues. View "Haley v. Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co.," on Justia Law