Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Pakistan International Airlines (“PIA”) failed to transport the body of N.B. to Pakistan for burial due to a miscommunication by employees of Swissport USA, PIA’s cargo loading agent. N.B.’s family members sued PIA and Swissport in New York state court under state law; PIA removed the action to the district court. Following cross-motions for summary judgment and an evidentiary hearing, the district court held that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Montreal Convention and dismissed the suit. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the Montreal Convention, which preempts state-law claims arising from delayed cargo, does not apply because human remains are not “cargo” for purposes of the Montreal Convention and because their particular claims are not for “delay.”   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that human remains are cargo for purposes of the Montreal Convention; and on the facts found by the district court, the claims arise from delay. The claims are therefore preempted by the Montreal Convention. The court further wrote that it was Plaintiffs who cut off PIA’s ability to perform under the terms of the waybill. That decision was understandable given the need to bury N.B. quickly, and it cannot be doubted that Plaintiffs found themselves in a hard situation. But their only recourse against PIA and Swissport was a claim under the Montreal Convention, a claim which they have consistently declined to assert. View "Badar v. Swissport USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC (JCA), a law firm practicing out of Ridgeland, Mississippi, filed suit against Shad White, in his official capacity as auditor for the state of Mississippi, seeking to recover damages for services rendered and for the reimbursement of costs and expenses owed to a public relations firm. A circuit court found that, because discovery had not been completed in the case, genuine issues of material fact remained. Thus, it denied the office of the state auditor’s (OSA) motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. Because JCA failed to submit evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact that the employment contract complied with statutory requirements, and because JCA’s alternative claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment. View "White v. Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC" on Justia Law

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Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company (“Farm Bureau”) issued a term life insurance policy to S.M. S.M.’s husband, Plaintiff, who was the policy’s primary beneficiary. Farm Bureau received a notification from the Post Office indicating that S.M.’s address had changed. Farm Bureau sent its semiannual bill to S.M. at her South Carolina address, informing her that her payment was due on November 23, 2016. S.M. did not pay the bill. Plaintiff sued Farm Bureau in federal district court, seeking the policy’s coverage amount as well as excess damages for alleged unfair and deceptive trade practices on the part of Farm Bureau. He argued that Farm Bureau had not complied with a statutory notice requirement prior to canceling the insurance policy for nonpayment and he was therefore entitled to the policy’s benefits. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the district court granted summary judgment to Farm Bureau.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed finding that Farm Bureau complied with the statute’s notice requirement. The court wrote that a literal interpretation of the statute’s language—referring to a notice being sent to the “last known post-office address in this State”—would not put S.M. on notice at all. Rather it would have Farm Bureau send “notice” to an address where it knows she no longer resides. Additionally, there is substance in Farm Bureau’s argument that a rigidly literal reading of the words “in this State” would require insurers to implement burdensome and nonsensical notice policies. View "Robert Whitmire v. Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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The City of Los Angeles (City) entered into a contract with defendant and respondent PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC (PWC) to modernize the billing system for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). PWC filed a motion for sanctions under Code of Civil Procedure sections 2023.010 and 2023.030 of the Civil Discovery Act nine months after the case was dismissed with prejudice, seeking monetary sanctions for egregious misuse of the discovery process while the litigation was pending. The trial court awarded $2.5 million in sanctions. On appeal from the postjudgment order, in response to a letter from this court inviting additional briefing pursuant to Government Code section 68081, the sanctioned party contends the Discovery Act does not authorize the trial court to award monetary sanctions under section 2023.030 alone or together with section 2023.010.   The Second Appellate District reversed the postjudgment order and remanded the matter for the trial court to enter a new and different order on the issue of monetary sanctions based on discovery provisions authorizing the imposition of sanctions in this case. The court explained that although the trial court had jurisdiction to entertain PWC’s motion for sanctions and discretion to find it was timely filed, the order awarding sanctions must be reversed and remanded to allow the trial court to award PWC’s reasonable expenses incurred as a result of sanctionable conduct under provisions of the Discovery Act other than sections 2023.010 and 2023.030. View "City of L.A. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), sought reversal of a Court of Appeals decision affirming the partial summary judgment rulings that an “all risk” insurance policy did not provide coverage for certain losses. At issue in WSDOT’s petition for review was whether the loss of use or functionality of the insured property constituted “physical loss” or “physical damage” that triggered coverage. STP’s petition asked whether the insurance policy excluded coverage for damage to the insured property caused by alleged design defects and whether the policy covers delay losses. This case arose out of a major construction project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. In 2011, STP contracted with WSDOT to construct a tunnel to replace the viaduct. The project started in July 2013. A tunnel boring machine (TBM) used in the project stopped working in December 2013, and did not resume until December 2015. The project was unable to continue during the two-year period while the TBM was disassembled, removed, and repaired. STP and WSDOT tendered insurance claims under the Policy. Great Lakes denied coverage, and STP and WSDOT sued the insurers, alleging wrongful denial of their claims. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, finding that even if it interpreted “direct physical loss or damage” to include loss of use, no coverage under Section 1 is triggered because the alleged loss of use was not caused by a physical condition impacting the insured property. View "Seattle Tunnel Partners v. Great Lakes Reinsurance (UK) PLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the summary judgment entered by the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in favor of Warrensville Heights in this real property dispute, holding that the agreement between the parties in this case was valid and enforceable.The Beachwood City School District Board of Education sought approval from the state board of education for a transfer of territory it annexed in 1990 to the Beachwood City School District. The Warrensville Heights City School District Board of Education, whose district the annexed territory was a part of, objected. In 1997, Beachwood and Warrensville Heights agreed that the territory would not transfer to the Beachwood City School District but that the districts would share the tax revenue generated from real property located within the territory. The court of common pleas granted summary judgment for Warrensville Heights, concluding that the parties' agreement was not valid. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the 1997 agreement required neither approval nor a fiscal certificate and therefore was valid and enforceable. View "Beachwood City School District Bd. of Education v. Warrensville Heights City School District Bd. of Education" on Justia Law

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The State of North Dakota, ex rel. the North Dakota Board of University and School Lands, and the Office of the Commissioner of University and School Lands, a/k/a the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands appealed a judgment dismissing its claim against Newfield Exploration Company relating to the underpayment of gas royalties. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that the district court concluded the State did not establish a legal obligation owed by Newfield. However, the State pled N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1 in its counterclaim, which the court recognized at trial. Because the State satisfied both the pleading and the proof requirements of N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1, the Supreme Court held the district court erred in concluding the State did not prove Newfield owed it a legal obligation to pay additional royalties. Rather, as the well operator, Newfield owed the State an obligation under N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1 to pay royalties according to the State’s leases. The court failed to recognize Newfield’s legal obligations as a well operator under N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1. The Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in dismissing the State's counterclaim; therefore, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for findings related to the State's damages and Newfield's affirmative defenses. View "Newfield Exploration Company, et al. v. North Dakota, et al." on Justia Law

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The Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority is a public corporation created to handle wastewater treatment for municipalities in northwest Arkansas. After a series of pipeline failures, the Authority sued the pipeline contractor and its surety, alleging deficient construction. The Authority sued outside the time periods specified in the relevant statutes of limitations and repose, but asserted that the time did not run against its claims, because the Authority was suing as a public entity seeking to vindicate public rights. The district court concluded that the rights the Authority sought to enforce were merely proprietary and that its claims were therefore time-barred.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the relevant proprietary interests are not transformed into public rights just because the Authority spent public money to repair the pipeline. Every action by a public entity impacts the public fisc to some degree. But if financial implications alone were enough to invoke nullum tempus, then the public-rights exception would swallow the general rule that statutes of limitations and repose run against municipal entities. Here, the damages sought would replenish the public entity’s coffers, but the relief would not vindicate a distinct public right. The Authority therefore cannot invoke nullum tempus to avoid the statutes of limitations or repose. View "NW AR Conservation Authority v. Crossland Heavy Contractors" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees the Section 8 low-income housing assistance program, 42 U.S.C. 1437f. New Lansing renewed its Section 8 contract with Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority in 2014 for a 20-year term. In 2019, at the contractual time for its fifth-year rent adjustment, New Lansing submitted a rent comparability study (RCS) to assist CM Authority in determining the new contract rents. Following the 2017 HUD Section 8 Guidebook, CM Authority forwarded New Lansing’s RCS to HUD, which obtained an independent RCS. Based on the independent RCS undertaken pursuant to HUD’s Guidebook requirements, the Housing Authority lowered New Lansing’s contract rents amount.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of New Lansing’s suit for breach of contract. The Renewal Contract requires only that the Housing Authority “make any adjustments in the monthly contract rents, as reasonably determined by the contract administrator in accordance with HUD requirements, necessary to set the contract rents for all unit sizes at comparable market rents.” HUD has authority to prescribe how to determine comparable market rents, the Renewal Contract adopted those requirements, and thus the Housing Authority was required to follow those HUD methods. The Housing Authority did not act unreasonably by following the requirements in the 2017 HUD guidance. View "New Lansing Gardens Housing Limited Partnership v. Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing this ERISA action for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that no contract bound the parties, holding that the presence of a live contract goes to the merits of this action, not the district court's jurisdiction to hear it.A group of employee benefits funds sued Defendant in a federal district court alleging breach of contract for late contributions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Defendant responded that no contract existed and that the presence of a live contract was a jurisdictional prerequisite to Plaintiffs' ERISA suit, meaning that the claim should have been brought under the National Labor Relations Act and that the National Labor Relations Board had exclusive jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' grievances. The district court dismissed the suit without prejudice, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the presence of a live contract is not an essential jurisdictional fact in an action brought under section 515 of ERISA. Rather, the presence of a live contract goes to the merits of Plaintiffs' ERISA claim. View "Operating Engineers' Local 324 Fringe Benefits Funds v. Rieth-Riley Construction Co." on Justia Law