Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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At the motion-to-dismiss stage, dismissal on statute-of-limitations grounds is permissible only if a plaintiff's claims are conclusively time-barred on the face of the complaint. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's determination that Capitol Services' lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations because Capitol Services was on "inquiry notice" of defendant's alleged interference with its contract long before the limitations period expired. The record was inconclusive as to whether Capitol Services had knowledge of Vesta's role prior to August 28, 2014, three years before this suit against Vesta was filed. Therefore, when during that intervening period Capitol Services had inquiry notice of Vesta's potential role was an open factual question that could not be resolved at this time in the proceedings. Finally, Vesta's collateral estoppel claim failed because critical elements of collateral estoppel have not been established. View "Capitol Services Management v. Vesta Corp." on Justia Law

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MEBA filed suit against Liberty, alleging that its contract with Liberty required the parties to submit the underlying dispute to arbitration. The district court ruled in favor of MEBA and granted judgment on the pleadings, compelling arbitration. The DC Circuit affirmed and held that the district court had jurisdiction over MEBA's claim under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (LMRA), which provides federal jurisdiction over suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization. In this case, MEBA's claims regarding the arbitrability of the dispute clearly fell within the district court's statutory jurisdiction. The court rejected Liberty's argument under the Garmon preemption doctrine, and held that federal courts retain jurisdiction over hybrid claims raising both contractual and representational issues. Finally, although jurisdiction was proper here, the court reversed and remanded because material facts remained in dispute regarding the existence of an applicable arbitration clause. View "District No. 1 v. Liberty Maritime Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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Commonwealth filed suit against two land surveyors, KCI and WMC, alleging breach of contract and negligence claims in connection with four allegedly defective surveys that the two entities delivered to ICG, a non-party to this litigation. Commonwealth alleged that KCI's and WMC's surveys failed to notice the full size of a twelve-inch encroachment, which ICG discovered on its property. The district court dismissed the complaint based on the three year statute of limitations. The DC Circuit reversed as to the first three counts of the complaint because the district court erred in dismissing them on statute of limitations grounds without applying the discovery rule. In this case, at the motion to dismiss stage, the court could not conclusively say that Commonwealth and ICG failed to exercise reasonable diligence in attempting to discover the encroachment's full size. Furthermore, it was premature to reject the possibility that Commonwealth's claims in counts one, two, and three did not accrue, at the earliest, until ICG discovered that the encroachment was twelve inches. View "Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co. v. KCI Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The DC Circuit vacated its previous opinion and substituted the following opinion. Homeowners filed suit against their insurance company for breach of contract when the company refused to cover flood damage to homeowners' residence. Homeowners also filed suit against their cleaning-and-restoration company for failing to adequately remedy the damage and prevent mold. The district court granted summary judgment for the insurance company and transferred the remaining claim to the district court based on lack of personal jurisdiction. The DC Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the transfer order. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, holding that homeowners' claim against the insurance company failed under Delaware law where there was no dispute that homeowners were away from their beach home for over 72 hours, which under the clear terms of the policy means the flooding occurred while the house was "unoccupied." View "Katopothis v. Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging breach of contract, defamation, and tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. In this case, plaintiff believed that she had voluntarily withdrawn from her postgraduate clinical research fellowship, but defendants reported to plaintiff's employer, the US Air Force, that she had been terminated for cause. The DC Circuit held that, because there was a genuine factual dispute as to whether defendants gave plaintiff's employer false information, the district court incorrectly granted summary judgment on the defamation claims. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded as to those claims. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the remaining claims. View "Burns v. Levy" on Justia Law

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Hensel Phelps filed suit alleging breach of contract and indemnification claims against Marriott for, among other things, failing to meet the applicable standard of care and by failing to design the Project in accordance with applicable fire codes. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Cooper Carry, holding that the statute of limitations has run on Hensel Phelp's breach of contract claim, and the terms of the indemnification clause did not cover first party claims. View "Hensel Phelps Construction Co. v. Cooper Carry Inc." on Justia Law

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Chenari, a third-year George Washington University medical student, took a test published by the National Board of Medical Examiners. Before the exam, the proctor read aloud the instructions from NBME’s official manual, including that students must complete the exam in two and a half hours and that “[n]o additional time [would] be allowed for transferring answers” to the answer sheet. Chenari also received a copy of “Exam Guidelines,” containing a similar warning. When the proctor called time, Chenari discovered that he had failed to transfer 20-30 answers to his answer sheet, “panicked,” and continued to transfer answers. The proctor requested that he stop; he continued. When the proctor tried to take the exam, Chenari put his hand over it and continued entering answers, taking an additional 90-120 seconds. The proctor and another student reported Chenari. Pursuant to University procedures, an Honor Code Council subcommittee investigated and recommended dismissal for academic dishonesty. The Medical Student Evaluation Committee unanimously recommended Chenari’s dismissal. The Medical School Dean met with Chenari and upheld that recommendation. Chenari unsuccessfully appealed to the Provost, arguing that his conduct lacked “an element of deceit” like “cheat[ing]” or “l[ying].” The D.C. Circuit affirmed dismissal of Chenari’s suit, which alleged breach of contract and discrimination based on his disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), 29 U.S.C. 794(a), and 42 U.S.C. 12132. The court noted that Chenari never sought accommodation of his claimed disability under the school’s established procedures. View "Chenari v. George Washington University" on Justia Law

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GSS appealed the district court’s dismissal of its second attempt to confirm a $44 million arbitral award entered against the Port Authority for breach of a construction contract. GSS first tried to confirm the award, but the district court found that it had no personal jurisdiction over the Port Authority. Then GSS filed its second petition, also naming the Republic of Liberia, which owns the Port Authority, as respondents. The district court again dismissed GSS’s petition, finding that issue preclusion barred relitigating its personal jurisdiction over the Port Authority and that GSS failed to demonstrate that Liberia was liable for the Port Authority’s alleged breach. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claims against Liberia for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1330 et seq.; affirmed the district court's dismissal of GSS's petition against the Port Authority on sovereign immunities grounds; and concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing GSS's petition before allowing jurisdictional discovery. View "GSS Group Ltd. v. Republic of Liberia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a real estate developer, alleged that WMATA signed a contractually binding Term Sheet preliminarily selecting plaintiff to develop property above a Metrorail station and giving plaintiff the exclusive right to negotiate a final development agreement. Plaintiff filed suit raising claims related to its allegation that one of WMATA's Board Members, Jim Graham, abused his position and his seat on the Council of the District of Columbia to work behind the scenes with one of plaintiff’s rival bidders to derail WMATA's negotiations with plaintiff. The court concluded that plaintiff adequately stated both contract claims for breach of the exclusivity provision and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Further, plaintiff adequately stated its claim of tortious interference and conspiracy against plaintiff's rival bidder. The court reversed as to these claims. The court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s claim for fraud against WMATA because it is barred by sovereign immunity. The court held that Graham failed to bear his burden to establish the scope of his official duties and to situate his conduct within its outer perimeter. Therefore, the court vacated the district court’s dismissal and remanded for the district court to consider in the first instance which of Graham’s other actions fell beyond the outer perimeter of his official duties and whether those actions that did fall beyond the outer perimeter, taken together, state claims against Graham for tortious interference and civil conspiracy. The court vacated the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Graham and remanded for further consideration. View "Banneker Ventures, LLC v. Graham" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts
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Developer filed suit against the University after the University terminated the lease agreement between the parties because Developer failed to make a rental payment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the University. The court vacated and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that there is a genuine dispute whether a rental payment was due on May 30, 2013, and therefore whether the University was entitled to terminate the lease and to collect damages. View "Howard Town Center Developer v. Howard University" on Justia Law