Articles Posted in Contracts

by
Joseph and Janice Boyle sued C&N Corporation. C&N held an insurance policy issued by Zurich American Insurance Company requiring that C&N provide notice to Zurich of any lawsuit brought against it. C&N did not notify Zurich about the lawsuit, but the Boyles’ counsel did. Zurich did not defend against the suit. Judgement by default was entered for the Boyles. The Boyles then sued Zurich, asserting the claims of C&N, which had assigned to the Boyles. A superior court judge ruled that Zurich breached its contractual duty to defend C&N. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) an insured’s failure to comply with a notice obligation in an insurance policy does not relieve the insurer of its duties under the policy unless the insurer demonstrates that it suffered prejudice as a result of the breach; and (2) the superior court judge did not err in determining that Zurich committed a breach of its contractual duty to defend C&N, as Zurich failed to show that it was prejudiced as a result of C&N’s failure to comply with the policy’s notice obligation in this case. View "Boyle v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

by
The Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAM), the owner of a construction project, entered into a contract with a designer to prepare the project’s designs. DCAM contracted with Gilbane Building Company to be the construction manager at risk (CMAR). Gilbane subcontracted with Coghlin Electrical Contractors, Inc. to perform electrical work. Coghlin later filed a complaint against Gilbane alleging that Gilbane breached the subcontract by causing Coghlin to incur additional costs resulting from design errors. Gilbane filed a third-party complaint against DCAM, asserting that DCAM breached its contract with Gilbane by refusing to pay Gilbane the amounts claimed by Coghlin. The trial court allowed DCAM’s motion to dismiss the third-party complaint. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s judgment, holding (1) a public owner of a construction management at risk project gives an implied warranty regarding the designer’s plans and specifications, but the scope of liability arising from that implied warranty is limited; (2) the construction management at risk contract in this case did not disclaim the implied warranty; and (3) the contract's indemnification provision did not prohibit Gilbane from filing a third-party complaint against DCAM seeking reimbursement of additional costs under the implied warranty for damages claimed by Coghlin caused by an insufficient or defective design. Remanded View "Coghlin Elec. Contractors, Inc. v. Gilbane Bldg. Co." on Justia Law

by
A franchisee janitorial worker, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated individuals, filed a complaint against System4 LLC, a master franchisor, and NECCS, Inc., a regional subfranchisor, alleging, among other claims, breach of contract, misclassification as independent contractors in their franchise agreements, and rescission of the franchise agreements. The franchise agreements, signed only by Plaintiffs and NEECS, required the franchisees to arbitrate virtually all disputes. Defendants, citing the arbitration clause in the franchise agreement, moved to stay the court proceedings pending arbitration. The judge concluded that because System4 was not a nonsignatory to the agreements, Plaintiffs could proceed to litigate their claims against System4 in court. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that, by reason of equitable estoppel, System4 could compel Plaintiffs to arbitrate their substantive claims in accordance with the arbitration provision in Plaintiffs’ franchise agreements. Remanded. View "Machado v. System4 LLC" on Justia Law

by
The town of Yarmouth entered into a transportation contract with the Bay Colony Railroad Corporation whereby Bay Colony was to transport solid waste from the town’s waste transfer station to a facility in Rochester. The town later notified Bay Colony that it would terminate Bay Colony’s lease of certain rail lines, which meant that Bay Colony would no longer be able to transport the town’s waste by rail. A provision in the contract provided that, in the event the lease of the rail line was terminated, the town would permit Bay Colony to continue to transport the waste by “other modes of transportation.” Bay Colony notified the town that it would continue to transport waste by truck rather than rail. The town, however, began transporting its waste with the railroad operating company that was awarded the rail lease. A jury found that the town had committed a breach of the contract. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the town’s affirmative defense that it was barred by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 160, 70A from allowing Bay Colony to transport its waste by truck failed as a matter of law; (2) a permit issued to the town by the Department of Environmental Protection did not render Bay Colony legally unable to perform the contract after it lost its rail lease; and (3) the contract remained in effect at the time of the town’s breach. View "Bay Colony R.R. Corp. v. Town of Yarmouth" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff sued its Insurer, alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory relief, after the Insurer refused to defend or indemnify Plaintiff in connection with an environmental dispute. A superior court allowed Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on the Insurer’s duty to defend. Plaintiff then amended its complaint to assert a claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11 arising out of the Insurer’s duty to defend. Thereafter, Plaintiff subsequently accepted reimbursement from the Insurer for its expenses in litigating and resolving the environmental matter. Insurer then sought summary judgment on the chapter 93A claim, arguing that its reimbursement of Plaintiff’s expenses precluded a finding that Plaintiff had suffered a loss of money or property, as required to establish a violation of chapter 93A section 11. The trial court denied summary judgment on the chapter 93A claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) chapter 93A does not require a showing of uncompensated loss or a prior judgment establishing the amount of damages as a prerequisite to recovery; and (2) therefore, neither Plaintiff’s acceptance of full reimbursement of its expenses nor the absence of a judgment establishing contract damages precluded Plaintiff from pursuing a claim under chapter 93A. View "Auto Flat Car Crushers, Inc. v. Hanover Ins. Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff purchased a new vehicle from Dealer that was subject to Manufacturer’s limited warranty. Plaintiff later filed a complaint against Manufacturer and Dealer (together, Defendants), alleging that the vehicle was defective and that Defendants failed to repair or remedy the defects under the warranty. Dealer demanded that Manufacturer reimburse Dealer for the attorney’s fees it incurred in defending against Plaintiff’s claims and indemnification for and liability incurred. Plaintiffs claims against Defendants were disposed of through summary judgment and voluntary dismissal. The judge also found that Dealer was not entitled to indemnificationt. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff’s allegations alleged the fault or negligence of both Manufacturer and Dealer, Manufacturer did not have a duty to defend under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93B, 8(a).View "Ferreira v. Chrysler Group LLC" on Justia Law

by
Defendants and Plaintiff executed a purchase and sale agreement under which Defendants agreed to sell real property to Plaintiff. Later, Defendants’ attorney (“Attorney”) falsely told Plaintiffs that Defendants had received a higher offer for the property and to calculate its liquidated damages. Later, due to Attorney’s withholding of information before the closing, the parties were unable to close the sale. Plaintiff filed suit for specific performance. The superior court judge concluded that Defendants anticipatorily repudiated the agreement and that Attorney’s attempt to “scuttle the deal” at closing constituted an actual breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. As a result, the court allowed Plaintiff to choose either compensatory damages, as provided by the agreement, or specific performance. Plaintiff elected to receive compensatory damages. Defendants appealed, contending that they did not commit an actual breach, and therefore, monetary damages were not available. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not err finding of an actual breach by Defendants, and therefore, the judge’s decision offering Plaintiff a choice of remedy was proper.View "K.G.M. Custom Homes, Inc. v. Prosky" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was a performance bond issued by Stanley Black and Decker, Inc. to secure the obligation of an environmental consulting company to perform environmental remediation of contaminated property, a portion of which was owned by Stanley. A.J. Properties, LLC commenced the underlying action against Stanley alleging that it had been assigned the right to recover all funds paid to Stanley under the performance bond. Specifically, A.J. Properties argued that Stanley had assigned the rights to payment when it assigned a mortgage on the property to the Wyman-Gordon Company, which assigned the mortgage to A.J. Properties. A federal district court judge determined that A.J. Properties was entitled to the amounts paid to Stanley under the rule of Quaranto v. Silverman. Stanley appealed, and the court of appeals recommended certification of a question of law to the First Circuit. The First Circuit answered the question as follows: “Where a mortgage and a surety agreement secured an obligation, and both the mortgagor and the surety committed a breach of that obligation prior to a written assignment of the mortgage, the assignee does not necessarily acquire the right against the surety’s receiver for the surety’s breach of its obligation.” View "A.J. Props., LLC v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Service Employees International Union, Local 509 (Union) filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that the Department of Mental Health (DMH) violated the Massachusetts privatization statute by entering into contracts with private entities without adhering to the requirements set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 7, 52-55. The superior court judge allowed DMH’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, which she treated as a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, determining that the Union lacked both direct and associational standing to pursue its claim and, additionally, that the superior court lacked jurisdiction because the Union failed to join necessary parties to the action. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated and set aside the judgment of dismissal, holding (1) the judge did not err in dismissing the complaint on the basis of its failure to name all necessary parties; but (2) the Union had direct standing to seek a declaratory judgment that would invalidate the contracts at issue. Remanded for the limited purpose of allowing the Union to seek leave to amend its complaint by adding all necessary parties. View "Serv. Employees Int’l Union, Local 509 v. Dep’t Mental Health" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, Lightlab Imaging, Inc., filed this action against Defendants, a competitor of Lightlab’s and a supplier, alleging, among other causes of action, breach of contract and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and misappropriation of trade secrets and confidential information. The trial of this action was conducted in multiple phases. The jury returned a verdict in favor of LightLab on issues of liability. At the damages phase, the parties stipulated that LightLab was entitled to nonlost profits damages in the amount of $200,000. Lastly, the trial judge awarded LightLab permanent injunctive relief for trade secrets the jury found had been misappropriated but denied permanent injunctive relief for protection against future appropriation of Lightlab’s trade secrets. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed but ordered the inclusion of the declaration sought by LightLab, holding (1) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in excluding opinion testimony from LightLab’s expert economist on the question of certain future lost profits; (2) the trial judge did not err in declining to issue permanent injunctions to protect Lightlab’s trade secrets; and (3) Lightlab was entitled to a declaration of its contract rights that mirrored the language of the order for summary judgment concerning contract formation. View "Lightlab Imaging, Inc. v. Axsun Techs., Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts