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

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Colulmbia City seeks to compel IMA to arbitrate a dispute involving unreimbursed medical fees. The parties are connected by a series of intermediary agreements within a preferred provider organization (PPO) network that allows patients in covered health plans to receive medical services from participating hospitals at discounted rates, and one of these agreements contains an arbitration clause. It is undisputed that IMA is not a party or signatory to the Hospital Agreement that contains the arbitration clause.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Columbia Hospital's motion to compel arbitration. Applying Texas law, the court concluded that the district court correctly applied this circuit's precedent that knowledge of the agreement requires knowledge of the contract's basic terms. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in concluding, based on the record before it, that IMA lacked the requisite knowledge of the Hospital Agreement and its basic terms to be compelled to arbitrate under direct benefits estoppel. Alternatively, the court declined, contrary to Columbia Health's assertions, to construe the series of contracts between IMA, PPOplus, HealthSmart and Columbia Hospital as a unified contract. View "IMA, Inc. v. Columbia Hospital Medical City" on Justia Law

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After a federal jury found that 3 Star Properties fraudulently sold SED Holdings millions in loans and awarded SED over $14 million in damages, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the liability judgment against 3 Star but concluded that the damages award was excessive, remanding for remittitur of the award.The court concluded that res judicata does not bar SED's claims and the district court did not err by denying the Hyland Defendants' motion for JMOL on that basis. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court correctly denied the Hyland Defendants’ renewed JMOL as to the fraudulent transfer claim; the district court properly denied their new trial motion as to the conspiracy claim; and the district court did not commit reversible error in instructing the jury on the fraudulent transfer claim and did not abuse its discretion by declining to ask the jury whether subsequent transfers out of the escrow account were fraudulent, when those transfers were not at issue.The court remanded for remittitur and instructed the district court to subtract at least the following three identifiable amounts from the jury award: (1) the double-counted $2 million; (2) the $4 million in lost profits; and (3) the $551,578.17 already recovered from the Biltmore II settlement (in total, $6,551,578.17). The court concluded that no evidence supports the jury conclusion that Home Servicing breached the Servicing Agreement with SED Holdings and thus a new trial is warranted. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment as to SED’s breach of contract claim against Home Servicing and remanded for a new trial. In regard to SED's cross appeal against Nations Law firm, the court concluded that the SED has not shown a fact dispute as to Nations' "full knowledge of all material facts" and the district court did not err by granting summary judgment to Nations. View "SED Holdings, LLC v. TM Prop Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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In this long-running contract dispute, at issue is whether the parties are entitled to fee awards. The Fifth Circuit concluded that IWS is entitled to some fees under the Texas Theft Liability Act (TTLA) and remanded for a determination of the proper amount. The court clarified that the mandate of Transverse II did not depart from Texas law governing fee segregation, and fees incurred defending the TTLA claim do not become unrecoverable simply because they may have furthered another nonrecoverable claim as well.The court also concluded that, because the Supply Contract itself does not authorize attorneys' fees, under Iowa law, the district court lacked a basis on which to award Transverse attorney's fees for IWS's breach of this agreement. In this case, IWS has made the showing necessary to prevail under plain-error review, and thus the court reversed the fee award to Transverse on the Supply-Contract claim. Finally, the court rejected Transverse's contention that the district court erred by failing to recognize it as the prevailing party on the Non-Disclosure Agreement claim and refusing to award Transverse the related fees. The court explained that Transverse did not prevail, substantially or otherwise, on this claim and thus there was no error on the district court's part. View "Transverse, LLC v. Iowa Wireless Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff treated children in the pediatric intensive care unit of a hospital owned by VHS under his professional services agreement with PICCS, which itself operated under a separate coverage agreement with VHS. After PICCS terminated plaintiff, he filed suit alleging claims of race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The district court granted summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims against VHS.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's partial final judgment, concluding that plaintiff's Title VII claim fails for lack of an employment relationship with VHS under either integrated-enterprise or joint-employment theories. The court also concluded that plaintiff's section 1981 claim fails because he cannot identify an impaired contractual right enforceable against VHS. In this case, plaintiff failed to show any contractual right enforceable against VHS under his physician agreement. View "Perry v. VHS San Antonio Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hall filed various contract, statutory, and common-law claims against Old Republic in federal district court for failing to indemnify Hall under its title insurance policies. The district court concluded that, although the unpaid Penta pre-policy-date work is a defect under Covered Risk 2 and an encumbrance under Covered Risk 10, coverage is precluded by Exclusions 3(a) and 3(d), which bar claims for liens and work performed after the policy date. The district court found that Hall had not raised a genuine dispute of material fact that Penta's liens were for unpaid work before the policy date, and granted Old Republic's motion for summary judgment and denied Hall's motion for partial summary judgment.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the insuring clauses do not cover Hall's Penta lien losses. The court explained that any doubt about whether Covered Risks 2 and 10 could possibly be read to cover the Penta lien losses at issue here is removed by the fact that the parties also signed standard ALTA Form 32-06. In so doing, the parties specifically contracted to eliminate one coverage provision of the standard-form insurance policy—Covered Risk 11(a). Even assuming arguendo that the 32-06 endorsements and the Covered Risks conflict or result in an ambiguity about whether the Penta lien losses are covered, the court explained that it is the more general provisions that suggest that there may be coverage (under Hall's theory), while the more specific provisions instruct that there is no such coverage. Under basic principles of contract interpretation, the specific controls the general. Therefore, the court need not review the district court's conclusions regarding Exclusions 3(a) and 3(d) to affirm the judgment.The court also affirmed the district court's grant of Old Republic's motion for summary judgment on Hall's bad-faith and Texas Insurance Code claims. The court explained that, because Hall is not entitled to indemnification for the Penta lien losses, Hall cannot show that Old Republic acted in bad faith in denying its claim. Furthermore, because Hall alleges no other harm apart from the Penta lien losses, Hall cannot demonstrate that Old Republic caused it any harm in violating the Texas Insurance Code—assuming arguendo that the Texas Insurance Code applies, and that Old Republic ran afoul of its provisions. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's grant of Old Republic's motion for summary judgment on Hall's independent-counsel (or duty-to-defend) claim. View "Hall CA-NV, LLC v. Old Republic National Title Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Exeter and Exeter's parent company, Enzo, in an action brought by plaintiff, a former employee, for breach of contract, fraud, and quantum meruit. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a continuance and plaintiff abandoned his remaining arguments challenging the exclusion of his evidence.The court also concluded that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's contract claim, based on the Profits Interest Units Agreement, failed as a matter of law; the district court correctly concluded that, absent evidence of a valid severance agreement, plaintiff's breach of contract claim fails as a matter of law; the district court properly adjudicated plaintiff's fraud claims as a matter of law; and the district court correctly determined that plaintiff's conduct in connection with the transactions before the district court was inequitable, precluding any equitable remedy.The court noted that three-quarters of the record in this case was sealed from the public and that the public's right of access to judicial proceedings is fundamental. The court urged litigants and the court's judicial colleagues to zealously guard the public's right of access to judicial records. View "Binh Hoa Le v. Exeter Finance Corp." on Justia Law

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WickFire filed suit against Media, alleging a violation of section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, tortious interference with existing contracts, tortious interference with prospective economic relationships, and civil conspiracy. In this appeal, Media challenged the jury verdict in favor of WickFire.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court had jurisdiction over WickFire's Lanham Act claim and thus pendent jurisdiction over each of WickFire's state law tort claims. On the merits, the court concluded that any argument that WickFire offered insufficient evidence regarding the section 43(a) claim is moot where the jury found that there were no damages and thus WickFire cannot be a prevailing party under the Act. The court also concluded that WickFire's tortious interference with contractual relations claim failed as a matter of law. However, because the evidence of damages is insufficient as a matter of law, the court reversed the judgment as to the tortious interference with prospective business relations claim. Because each of WickFire's underlying claims failed, the court reversed the judgment as to the civil conspiracy claim. Finally, the court concluded that TriMax is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on WickFire's justification defense. Accordingly, the court denied TriMax's motion to dismiss; reversed as to WickFire's tortious interference claims and its civil conspiracy claim; and affirmed in all other respects. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "WickFire, LLC v. Woodruff" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff prevailed on her procedural due process and breach of contract claims against TSC, the trial court vacated the jury's verdict on the breach of contract claims and reduced the damages award on her procedural due process claim to $1.The Fifth Circuit held that TSC is entitled to neither sovereign immunity under the United States Constitution nor governmental immunity under state law. In this case, the Texas Legislature abrogated TSC's governmental immunity such that plaintiff could bring state law breach of contract claims against TSC. Therefore, the argument that the Texas Legislature attempted to limit federal jurisdiction over these claims is unavailing. The court also held that it was not required to address TSC's alternative arguments and declined to do so. The court reversed the dismissal of plaintiff's breach of contract claims, reinstated the jury's verdict on those claims, and remanded for the district court to consider TSC's alternative arguments regarding whether sufficient evidence supports plaintiff's breach of contract claims. The court affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law on the due process violation damages and reduction of the jury's award of $12,500,000 to the nominal amount of $1. The court reversed the district court's vacatur of the portion of the attorneys' fees award based on the breach of contract claims and remanded for the district court to address TSC's alternative arguments regarding those claims and to determine whether plaintiff is entitled to attorneys' fees and in what amount. View "Tercero v. Texas Southmost College District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a prolific inventor in the field of lighting technology, licensed his intellectual property exclusively to High End Systems in 2007. High End became a wholly owned subsidiary of Barco several years later. After Barco decided to sell High End to a third party in 2017, plaintiff filed suit alleging claims against Barco including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud by nondisclosure arising out of the events leading up to the sale of High End.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim to pierce the corporate veil. In this case, to hold Barco liable for High End's alleged breach of contract, plaintiff must show that Barco (the then-shareholder) used High End (the corporation) to (1) "perpetrate an actual fraud" (2) primarily for Barco's "direct personal benefit." The court concluded that the evidence, when viewed as a whole, does not raise a fact issue regarding Barco's dishonest purpose or intent to deceive plaintiff in entering into the Barco Sublicense. The court explained that piercing the corporate veil is not a cumulative remedy for creditors of corporate or other legal entities in Texas; that theory does not make owners of such entities codefendants for every breach of contract case. Rather, it is a remedy to be used when the actions of the entity's owner amounting to "actual fraud" have rendered the entity unable to pay its debts. The court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud by nondisclosure. The court agreed with the district court that there was no evidence of a fiduciary relationship between plaintiff and Barco. View "Belliveau v. Barco, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the University terminated her employment as the head coach of the women's basketball team, plaintiff filed suit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as state-law claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and invasion of privacy.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to the breach of contract and Title IX claims. The court concluded that judgment in favor of plaintiff on the breach of contract claim was proper where a reasonable jury could have concluded that plaintiff's management of funds did not give the University cause to terminate her employment. Furthermore, the University was not entitled to a new trial on plaintiff's breach of contract claim. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to provide the requested jury instruction and any error on the district court's part was harmless. In regard to the Title IX claim, the court concluded that denial of plaintiff's jury instruction was not an abuse of discretion or grounds for a new trial. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to the privacy claim and concluded that it failed as a matter of law. The court explained that the facts disclosed by the University were of legitimate concern to the public and the district court clearly erred in concluding otherwise. View "Taylor-Travis v. Jackson State University" on Justia Law