Articles Posted in Contracts

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General Motors provides sales incentives to dealers who sell cars to GM employees, retirees, and their family members at a discounted rate. The dealer must collect a signed agreement from the purchaser that establishes his eligibility for the program. In 2014, GM audited one of its Ohio dealers, Sims, and discovered transactions in which Sims had failed to collect the agreement from purchasers within the timeline set by GM in a 2012 dealership bulletin. GM debited Sims’ account $47,493.28 for improper incentive payments. Sims is located near a large GM plant in Lordstown, and the Purchase Program accounts for 80% to 90% of its sales. Sims filed suit alleging breach of contract and violations of the Ohio Dealer Act. The district court granted GM summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The parties’ dealership arrangement permitted the debit and a timely filed Consumer Dealer Agreement constitutes “material documentation” under Section 4517.59(A)(20)(a) of the Ohio Dealer Act. View "Sims Buick-GMC Truck, Inc. v. General Motors, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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For almost 40 years, Honeywell (or its predecessors) operated a manufacturing plant in Fostoria, Ohio. Many union workers, including Watkins and Ulicny, spent most of their working years at the plant. They retired at a time when Honeywell promised in a collective-bargaining agreement that it would pay for their health insurance. When the final agreement expired in 2011, Honeywell did not renew it. It sold the plant and, later, stopped paying for its retirees’ healthcare. Those retirees filed suit. The district court found that Honeywell’s promise to pay for healthcare ended when the agreement expired and dismissed the suit. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The agreement promises healthcare “for the duration of this Agreement,” and “this promise means exactly that: Honeywell’s obligation to pay for its Fostoria retirees’ healthcare ended when the agreement expired.” View "Watkins v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are homeowners in centrally-planned neighborhoods in Thompson’s Station, Tennessee. The developers established and controlled owners’ associations for the neighborhoods but have transferred that control to third-party entities not controlled by either the developers or homeowners. While under the developers’ control, the associations each entered into agreements granting Crystal the right to provide telecommunications services to the neighborhoods for 25 years, with an option for Crystal to unilaterally renew for an additional 25 years. The Agreements make Crystal the exclusive agent for homeowners in procuring services from outside providers. Homeowners must pay the associations a monthly assessment fee, which the associations use to pay Crystal, regardless of whether the homeowner uses Crystal's service, and must pay Crystal $1,500 for the cost of constructing telecommunications infrastructure. Crystal uses service easements within the neighborhoods. Crystal had no prior experience in telecommunications-services and contracts with another provider, DirecTV, and charges homeowners a premium above the rate negotiated with DirecTV. Crystal does not provide services outside of the neighborhoods. The plaintiffs claimed that the Agreements constituted self-dealing, unjust enrichment, unconscionability, unlawful tying, and unlawful exclusivity. The Sixth Circuit reversed dismissal, in part, finding plaintiffs’ allegations plausible on their face with respect to the tying claim, but affirmed dismissal of the exclusivity claim. View "Cates v. Crystal Clear Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Giasson and RCO were working together to secure a contract to make airline seats for a jet manufacturer. According to Giasson, RCO cut it out of the deal. Giasson sued RCO for breach of contract. During discovery, in anticipation of settlement talks, Giasson submitted interrogatories to RCO requesting pricing and sales information for the seats RCO would be selling. RCO responded, indicating that some answers were “speculative and subject to change.” The parties settled the dispute in 2010; the district court entered a consent order of dismissal. RCO agreed to pay Giasson a running royalty for 10 years. In 2014, Giasson became aware that RCO was charging higher gross sales prices for two types of seats than the fixed prices the parties agreed to. Giasson inferred that RCO misrepresented seat pricing information during settlement talks. Giasson brought filed a new lawsuit. Claims of breach of contract, specific performance, and silent fraud were immediately dismissed. After discovery, the court dismissed Giasson’s claim of fraud in the inducement, noting that RCO never represented the future prices of aircraft seats would remain static. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Relief under FRCP 60(d)(1), the “savings clause,” is “available only to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice.” Giasson’s allegations do not satisfy that demanding standard. View "Giasson Aerospace Science Inc. v. RCO Engineering Inc." on Justia Law

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The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed by the Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) and Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) provided that if an employee believed that they were discriminated against, that employee could file a grievance with JCBE; if the employee subsequently filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the grievance proceedings would be held in abeyance. Watford filed a grievance on the day she was terminated (October 13, 2010) and those proceedings are still in abeyance. Watford sued, alleging that JCBE and JCTA retaliated against her for filing an EEOC charge. The district court awarded the defendants summary judgment, The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the judgment inconsistent with prior holdings that “an adverse action against [an] employee because the employee had pursued the statutorily protected activity of filing a charge with the EEOC” is “clearly” retaliation. The CBA is retaliatory on its face. View "Watford v. Jefferson County Public Schools" on Justia Law

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The Oak Ridge, Tennessee uranium-enrichment facilities for the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to build the first atomic bomb, have been inactive since the mid-1980s. The Department of Energy has worked to clean up the hazardous waste and hired Bechtel, a global engineering and construction firm. Bechtel hired Eagle to help decontaminate the complex, which required the demolition of buildings and equipment across the 2,200-acre complex and removal of radioactive nuclear waste, followed by decontamination of the soil and groundwater to make the site safe for redevelopment. Eagle’s work proved significantly more challenging and expensive than either party anticipated. Their contract allowed Bechtel to make changes; if those changes caused Eagle’s costs to increase, Bechtel was to make equitable adjustments in price and time for performance. Eight years after completing its work, Eagle filed suit, seeking compensation for its extra work and for excess waste that Eagle removed. The district court awarded Eagle the full amount of each request, plus interest and attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the award of damages and attorney’s fees, but remanded so that the court can recalculate the interest to which Eagle is entitled under the Tennessee Prompt Pay Act. View "Eagle Supply & Manufacturing L.P. v. Bechtel Jacobs Co." on Justia Law

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Hemlock and Sachsen manufacture components of solar-power products. They entered into a series of long-term supply agreements (LTAs), by which Hemlock in Michigan would supply Sachsen in Germany with set quantities of polycrystalline silicon (polysilicon) at fixed prices from 2006-2019. The market price of polysilicon was initially well above the LTA price, but the market price plummeted after the Chinese government began subsidizing its national production of polysilicon. The parties reached a temporary agreement to lower the LTA price in 2011. When that agreement expired, Hemlock demanded that Sachsen pay the original LTA price for 2012. Sachsen refused. Hemlock sued for breach of contract. The district court granted Hemlock summary judgment and awarded nearly $800 million in damages and prejudgment interest. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court: properly struck Sachsen’s antitrust defense because enforcing the take-or-pay provision does not require the parties to engage in the precise conduct that is allegedly unlawful; properly struck Sachsen’s defense that the LTAs illegally tied Sachsen’s predominant demand for polysilicon to a single seller in violation of E.U. antitrust law; properly concluded that Sachsen’s affirmative defenses of commercial impracticability and frustration of purpose lack merit; and properly awarded the full amount of the remaining contract price as liquidated damages, despite Sachsen’s argument that the award was an unreasonable penalty. View "Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, LLC v. SolarWorld Industries Sachsen GMBH" on Justia Law

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Gerboc used the Wish Marketplace website to buy portable speakers for $27. Sellers on Wish can include a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, which appears (crossed-out) on a product’s “detail page.” Gerboc saw “$300” next to the speakers’ purchase price. Gerboc believed the crossed-out price was a promise of a 90% markdown but the speakers allegedly never sold for $300. Gerboc decided that he never received the promised discount and filed suit on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated buyers. Arguing that Wish’s price visuals are deceptive, he alleged breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, and violations of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (OCSPA). ContextLogic removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). Gerboc abandoned his contract claim; the court dismissed his unjust enrichment, fraud, and class OCSPA claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Gerboc did not establish unjust enrichment; he got what he paid for. Nor did he establish the notice element of an OCSPA claim: The consumer must show either that the Ohio Attorney General had already “declared [the seller’s practice] to be deceptive or unconscionable” or that an Ohio court had already “determined [the practice] . . . violate[s] [the OCSPA]” before the seller engaged in it. View "Gerboc v. ContextLogic, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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A tree fell on Kaitlyn and Joshua. Kaitlyn died. She was pregnant. Doctors delivered the baby, but he died an hour later. Joshua survived with serious injuries. A state jury found the Somerset Housing Authority liable and awarded $3,736,278. The Authority belonged to the Kentucky Housing Authorities Self-Insurance Fund, which provided a policy with Evanston. Evanston sought a declaratory judgment limiting its liability under the Fund’s policy to $1 million. Meanwhile, through mediation of the state court case, Evanston agreed to pay the “policy limits” in return for an agreement to dismiss the state court action and release the Authority from further liability. Evanston claimed that $1 million was the coverage cap; the defendants claimed it was $2 to $4 million. The district court determined that there was complete diversity and ruled for Evanston on the merits. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court properly aligned the parties given their respective interests in the primary dispute at the time of filing, so that diversity jurisdiction was not destroyed. The policy obligates Evanston to provide a maximum of $1 million of coverage per “occurrence,” with an aggregate limit of $2 million for more than one occurrence. The contract defines “occurrence” as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.” When one tree falls at one time, that is one occurrence and one accident. View "Evanston Insurance Co. v. Housing Authority of Somerset" on Justia Law

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Lincoln Park’s dire financial condition led Michigan officials to place the city under the purview of an Emergency Manager pursuant to the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act, Mich. Comp. Laws 141.1541. Emergency Manager Coulter, with the approval of Michigan’s Treasurer, issued 10 orders that temporarily replaced Lincoln Park retiree health-care benefits with monthly stipends that retirees could use to purchase individual health-care coverage. Retirees filed sui under 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting violations of the Contracts Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Takings Clause. The district court rejected the Treasurer’s motion to dismiss, arguing qualified immunity and Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The court held, as a matter of first impression, that an alleged Contracts Clause violation cannot give rise to a cause of action under section 1983. With respect to other constitutional claims, the claimed property right derives from contract; a state contract action would be sufficient to safeguard the retirees’ contractual property rights. Because the state contract action is available as a remedy for any uncompensated taking the challenges to the constitutionality of Coulter’s orders are not ripe for resolution. As the claims fail on the merits, there is no need to evaluate the alleged immunity defenses. View "Kaminski v. Coulter" on Justia Law