Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
Katopothis v. Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance Co.
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
Burns v. Levy
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 In this case, plaintiff believed that she had voluntarily withdrawn from her postgraduate clinical research fellowship, but defendants reported to plaintiff's employer, the US Air Force, that she had been terminated for cause.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
Hensel Phelps Construction Co. v. Cooper Carry Inc.
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
Chenari v. George Washington University
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
GSS Group Ltd. v. Republic of Liberia
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
Banneker Ventures, LLC v. Graham
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
Howard Town Center Developer v. Howard University
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
Stone & Webster, Inc. v. Georgia Power Co.
The 2008 contract for the design and construction of nuclear electrical generating units at a Georgia power plant specifies that it is to be governed by Georgia law. The contractor sought payment after Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements delayed the project and imposed additional costs. The contract calls for mediation. After 60 days, either party may proceed to litigation “in a court of competent jurisdiction,” the parties “agree to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for any legal proceedings.” After mediation the contractor filed its District of Columbia complaint, seeking more than $900 million. The court’s electronic filing log reported “11/01/2012 20:00:01” as the filing time. Georgia Power filed in the Southern District of Georgia, seeking to recover more than $100 million paid under protest and a declaratory judgment. The hard copy of the complaint notes November 1, 2012, 8:00 p.m. as the time of the filing. The district court did not decide who filed first, but determined that the controversy should be adjudicated in Georgia, regardless of which party filed first. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. A clause permitting first-to-file challenges (comparing one lawsuit to another) contemplated that the venue clause was permissive. View "Stone & Webster, Inc. v. Georgia Power Co." on Justia Law
Berry Law v. Kraft Foods Group
Plaintiff, a law firm, appealed the district court's dismissal of its implied-in-fact contract and quasi-contract claims against Kraft. The dispute stemmed from the Firm's advice to Kraft regarding an antitrust claim. The court concluded that the Firm's implied-in-fact contract claim failed because the complaint does not plausibly allege that Kraft was "reasonably notified" that the Firm expected to be paid for any work completed before that point. The Firm's quasi-contract claim failed because the Firm's services were rendered simply in order to gain a business advantage. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Berry Law v. Kraft Foods Group" on Justia Law
3D Global Solutions, Inc. v. MVM, Inc.
This appeal arose out of a contract dispute between 3D and MVM. On appeal, 3D argued that the district court had discretion to award prejudgment interest under Virginia law. As an initial matter, the court accepted, without deciding, the parties' assertion that abuse of discretion is the appropriate standard of review. Applying that standard, the court concluded that 3D's argument that the district court had discretion to award prejudgment interest in this instance failed as a matter of law; there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision to change its earlier ruling after it had a more fulsome opportunity to consider the relevant Virginia law; and the district court did not err in concluding that the parties did not reach an agreement to submit the issue of prejudgment interest to the court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "3D Global Solutions, Inc. v. MVM, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts