Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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After a helicopter owned by PHI was required to make an emergency landing in the Gulf of Mexico when its Rolls-Royce-manufactured engine failed, PHI filed suit against Rolls-Royce, Apical, and OHS. The emergency flotation system manufactured by Apical and serviced by OHS partially deflated after the landing and caused the helicopter to turn over in the water, resulting in a total loss due to salt water incursion. The jury found Apical liable for the loss of the helicopter. The Fifth Circuit held that the magistrate judge's pretrial exclusion of all evidence regarding the engine failure and verdict form rulings were in error, because, under Louisiana law, Rolls-Royce is a potential solidary obligor along with Apical. Furthermore, a finding of solidary liability would result in a reduction of damages award against Apical due to Rolls-Royce's earlier settlement with PHI. Accordingly, the court vacated the trial court's judgment and remanded for trial on the issue of solidary liability. View "PHI, Inc. v. Apical Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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PNR appealed the district court's judgment in favor of BNSF in a contract dispute between the two railroad companies. The Fifth Circuit held that the first issue raised by PNR was determinative of the appeal, and that the handling-carrier relationship established by the 1993 Agreement between the parties is terminable at will under Illinois law and that PNR consequently had a right to terminate the relationship unilaterally upon reasonable notice to BNSF. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and rendered judgment in favor of PNR. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Panhandle Northern Railroad, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's adverse judgment against Universal Truckload following a jury trial, holding that Universal Truckload failed to demonstrate reversible error. The court held that the district court correctly denied the judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) asking the court to reverse the jury's finding that Dalton was entitled to $5.7 million in reliance damages under promissory estoppel; the district court correctly concluded that the $1.9 million breach of contract damages in Universal Truckload's favor should be offset because the debt arose from reliance on Universal Truckload's promise; and the district court correctly determined that neither H&P nor Hess was liable for the shipping charges Universal Truckload incurred. View "Universal Truckload, Inc. v. Dalton Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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In this breach of contract action, the parties dispute the district court's damages award. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that Bank of the West was not entitled to contractual liquidated damages, but vacated the district court's alternative damages award and remanded for recalculation. Although the court agreed with the district court that the liquidated damages provision of the parties' contract was unenforceable because it contravened the Louisiana Lease of Movables Act, the court held that the district court erred by basing its alternative damages calculation on the expectations of the lessor's assignee, Bank of the West, rather than those of the original lessor, Summit Funding Group. View "Bank of the West v. Prince" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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After plaintiff, an employee of Centaur, was injured while offloading a generator from a crew boat to a barge, he filed suit against the owner and operator of the boat (River Ventures) and Centaur for vessel negligence under general maritime law and the Jones Act. River Ventures cross-claimed against Centaur for contractual indemnity, and the district court granted summary judgment to Centaur. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court misapplied In re Larry Doiron, Inc., 879 F.3d 568 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 2033 (2018), and erroneously concluded that the Dock Contract at issue was non-maritime. The court held that Doiron's two-part test applied as written to all mixed-services contracts: in order to be maritime, a contract must be for services to facilitate activity on navigable waters and must provide, or the parties must expect, that a vessel will play a substantial role in the completion of the contract. Applying the Doiron test, the court held that the Dock Contract at issue required services to be performed to facilitate the loading, offloading, and transportation of coal and petroleum coke via vessels on navigable waters. Furthermore, Doiron's second prong was satisfied where the Dock Contract made clear that the parties expected DB-582 to play a significant role in the completion of the work. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Barrios v. Centaur, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Orkin and dismissal of their numerous claims under Louisiana law. Plaintiffs had contracted with Orkin to protect their property from termites, but later discovered that their home had become infested with Formosan termites. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment and dismissing plaintiffs' claim that Orkin was contractually liable for the cost of repairing the damage to their home caused by Formosan termites; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Orkin on plaintiffs' Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act and Louisiana Insurance Code claims; and the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' detrimental reliance claim. However, the district court erred by dismissing plaintiffs' claim that Orkin was negligent or grossly negligent in directing and approving installation of a moisture barrier under their home. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Cenac v. Orkin, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Texas answered two certified questions, holding that the time for determining the existence and amount of unpaid commission due under Tex. Bus. & Com. Code section 54.001(1) is the time the jury or trial court determines the liability of the defendant, whether at trial or through another dispositive trial-court process such as a summary judgment; and that a plaintiff may recover attorney's fees and costs under section 54.004(2) even if the plaintiff does not receive treble damages, if the factfinder determines that the fees and costs were reasonably incurred under the circumstances. The Fifth Circuit held that CPTS was not entitled to treble damages, and the district court was thus correct to grant summary judgment to Horsburgh on the treble damages claim. In this case, there were no unpaid commissions due at the time of judgment, because Horsburgh had already paid all of its outstanding commissions, plus interest. The court also held that CPTS was eligible for attorney's fees simply by virtue of Horsburgh's breach. Therefore, the district court correctly concluded that CPTS was not entitled to treble damages, but erred by granting summary judgment to Horsburgh without awarding CPTS reasonable attorney's fees and costs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "JCB, Inc. v. The Horsburgh & Scott Co." on Justia Law

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This contract-interpretation case arose when Diane Weaver's then-husband Larry Hickey suffered a diving incident and the couple received a structured settlement. Years after the couple divorced, Larry passed away. At issue was whether the settlement agreements gave Larry the right to replace Weaver as beneficiary of an annuity. As a preliminary matter, the court held that it had preliminary jurisdiction because the parties were diverse throughout the action. On the merits, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of defendants based on the settlement agreements because these documents, read as a cohesive, contextual, harmonious whole, granted Larry the unilateral right to change the beneficiary. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Weaver v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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Baker Hughes filed suit against UE for breach of contract and express and implied warranties after a containerized air booster compressor manufactured by UE ruptured and injured a Baker Hughes contractor. The express warranty pertinent to the claims at issue was contained in section 28 of the LOGIC Terms. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of UE, holding that this was a claim of breach of warranty, not breach of contract; the express warranty for defects correction expired, taking with it Baker Hughes's remedy for the defective booster; the implied warranties were displaced by Section 28's express warranty and by Section 4.3's complete allocation of responsibility for the boosters' design to Baker Hughes; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding monetary sanctions against Baker Hughes in light of its delay in shipping the valve at issue. View "Baker Hughes Process & Pipeline Services, LLC v. UE Compression, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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After plaintiff disputed discounts applied by MultiPlan under his agreement with PHCS to charges for services he provided to patients that were covered by workers' compensation insurance, he filed suit against PHCS and Multiplan. Plaintiff's claims for civil conspiracy and breach of contract proceeded to trial and were subsequently dismissed after the district court granted defendants' motions for judgment as a matter of law. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff failed to show that the district court erred in determining that plaintiff did not establish an underlying "unlawful purpose" or unlawful activity on which to base his civil conspiracy claim. However, the court held that a reasonable jury could find based on the evidence presented that defendants breached the parties' agreement, and thus the district court erred in granting defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law as to the breach of contract claim. The court upheld the district court's ruling prohibiting additional evidence on punitive damages and the issue of punitive damage from reaching the jury. Finally, the court concluded that the district court's ruling prohibiting Attorney Gordon from participating in trial on plaintiff's behalf did not provide grounds for disturbing any of its judgments. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "MultiPlan, Inc. v. Holland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts