Articles Posted in Contracts

by
In 2009, Bancorp, which provides checking and savings accounts to individuals, purchased a bankers’ professional liability insurance policy from Federal. The policy stated: [Federal] shall pay, on behalf of an Insured, Loss on account of any Claim first made against such Insured during the Policy Period … for a Wrongful Act committed by an Insured or any person for whose acts the Insured is legally liable while performing Professional Services, including failure to perform Professional Services" but that Federal “shall not be liable for Loss on account of any Claim … based upon, arising from, or in consequence of any fees or charges” (Exclusion 3(n)). The 2010 Swift Complaint sought damages for Bancorp's "unfair and unconscionable assessment and collection of excessive overdraft fees.” Swift sought to represent a class of all U.S. BancorpSouth customers who "incurred an overdraft fee as a result of BancorpSouth’s practice of re-sequencing debit card transactions from highest to lowest.” In 2016, Bancorp agreed to pay $24 million to resolve all the claims, $8.4 million of which was for attorney’s fees, plus $500,000 in class administrative costs. Federal denied coverage. The Seventh Circuit agreed that Exclusion 3(n) excluded from coverage losses arising from fees and affirmed the dismissal of breach of contract claims and a bad faith claim. View "BancorpSouth Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Doug Miller and his son signed a broad noncompetition agreement when Doug sold his fuel-additives business, E.T., in 2011. Doug sold his other company, Petroleum Solutions, to Kuhns about a year later. E.T.’s new owners sued the Millers for breaching the noncompete by providing assistance to Kuhns as he learned the Petroleum Solutions business. The Millers claimed the noncompete was overbroad and unenforceable and that their assistance to Kuhns came at a time when Petroleum Solutions was E.T.’s distributor, not its competitor. When E.T. severed its relationship with Petroleum Solutions in 2012, Doug told Kuhns that the noncompetition agreement prevented further help and ceased assisting him. On summary judgment, the district judge held that the noncompetition agreement was enforceable but the Millers did not breach it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the contract was not overbroad, but that the Millers did not breach it. A company’s distributor is not its competitor, so the Millers’ assistance to Kuhns in 2012 was "fair game." The contract, read reasonably, did not require Doug to break his preexisting lease with Kuhns. View "E.T. Products, LLC v. D.E. Miller Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

by
Rooftops sells tickets to view Cubs games and other events at Wrigley Field from the roofs of buildings it controls. Chicago has an ordinance allowing the rooftop businesses. Before the 2002 season, the Cubs installed a windscreen above the outfield bleachers, obstructing the views from rooftop businesses and sued Rooftops, claiming misappropriation of Cubs’ property by charging fees to watch games.The parties settled by entering into the License Agreement running through 2023. Rooftops agreed to pay the Cubs 17% of their gross revenues in exchange for views into Wrigley Field. The Agreement contemplated Wrigley Field's expansion. In 2013, the Cubs released a mock‐up of its proposed renovation, showing that rooftop businesses would be largely blocked by the construction. The city approved the plan over objections. Rooftops claimed that Cubs’ representatives used the threat of blocking views and other “strong-arm tactics” as leverage to force a sale, and sued, alleging: attempted monopolization; false and misleading commercial representations, defamation, false light, and breach of the non‐disparagement provision; and breach of contract. The court denied Rooftops’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The Seventh CIrcuit affirmed its dismissal of monopolization claims because Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption applies; Rooftops failed to establish a plausible relevant market; and the Cubs cannot be limited by antitrust law from distributing their own product. The contract's plain language did not limit expansions to Wrigley Field's seating capacity. View "Right Field Rooftops, LLC v. Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, LLC" on Justia Law

by
From 2006-2012 Packerland deceived at least one of its customers about the protein content of its Whey Protein Concentrate. Land O’Lakes purchased Packerland’s protein concentrate for use in making foods for calves and other young animals. Buyers infer protein levels from measuring nitrogen: a seller can add another nitrogen-rich substance to produce higher scores. The Ratajczaks, who owned Packerland, started adding urea to its protein concentrate. in 2006. Land O’Lakes suspected that the concentrate was high in nonprotein nitrogen but could not learn why; the Ratajczaks made excuses that Land O’Lakes accepted. The Ratajczaks sold Packerland in 2012. The new owner kept them as employees; they kept adding urea until the buyer learned what the truth. The Ratajczaks lost their jobs and settled for about $10 million before the buyer filed a complaint. Land O’Lakes stopped buying Packerland’s product and asserted claims of breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Packerland’s insurers refused to defend or indemnify it or the Ratajczaks; the Ratajczaks’ personal insurer refused to indemnify them for their settlement with Packerland’s buyer. The district court dismissed Land O’Lakes’s suit and ruled in favor of the insurers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Land O’Lakes’ claim to treble damages under RICO and state-law and the Ratajczaks’ claims that Packerland’s insurers and their own insurers had to defend and indemnify them. View "Land O'Lakes, Inc. v. Ratajczak" on Justia Law

by
In 2010, Mohr and Volvo entered into a heavy truck dealership agreement. In 2012, Volvo sought a declaratory judgment that it was entitled to terminate Mohr’s dealership because Mohr had misrepresented that it would build a new long‐term facility for the dealership. Mohr complained that Volvo had violated Indiana’s Franchise Disclosure and Deceptive Franchise Practices Acts by promising to award Mohr a Mack Truck dealership franchise, which would have justified Mohr’s investment in the new facility. Volvo gave the Mack franchise to another company. Mohr also accused Volvo of providing more favorable concessions on truck pricing to other franchise dealerships through its Retail Sales Assistance program. The district court granted summary judgment, holding that the integration clause in the dealer agreement barred the new‐facility claim and the Mack franchise claim. Following a trial on the unfair discrimination claim, a jury awarded Mohr $6.5 million. The Seventh Circuit reversed the award for the unfair discrimination claim and affirmed the summary judgment rulings. The court stated that these were sophisticated parties, bound by the integration clause and that Mohr did not establish unfair discrimination with respect to price concessions. View "Andy Mohr Truck Center, Inc. v. Volvo Trucks North America" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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