Articles Posted in Business Law

by
An indemnification agreement need not be in writing, and an agent's authority to enter into an indemnification agreement need not be in writing. Jim Leach (“Leach”) and Elizabeth Leach appealed a district court judgment awarding money damages to SNAPS Holding Company after ruling they breached a stock purchase agreement with SNAPS. SNAPS cross-appealed the dismissal of its breach of contract claims against Leach. Leach was the chief operating officer and majority shareholder of IDA of Moorhead Inc. Leach negotiated with Sanjay Patel, president and CEO of SNAPS, to sell IDA to SNAPS. During negotiations the parties discussed the effect of an employee lawsuit on the potential sale. The parties agreed SNAPS would be responsible for the first $100,000 of expenses associated with the lawsuit, and Jim Leach and IDA would be responsible for that portion exceeding $100,000. At a shareholders and board of directors meeting, the IDA shareholders and board of directors authorized the sale of IDA's stock to SNAPS for $1,180,000. A district court ruled IDA wrongfully terminated the employee and Leach breached a fiduciary duty. Leach and the selling shareholders of IDA refused to pay the employee lawsuit judgment. The employee filed the judgment against Leach in Arizona, and subsequently assigned the judgment to SNAPS and IDA. Leach objected to the filing of the judgment against him in Arizona. An Arizona court ruled SNAPS and IDA could not enforce the judgment against Leach in Arizona. The court concluded SNAPS exercised total control over the management and activities of IDA and was the alter ego of IDA. The Arizona court concluded both Arizona and North Dakota law prohibited contribution between intentional joint tortfeasors; therefore, allowing IDA to obtain contribution from Leach, its co-intentional joint tortfeasor, was prohibited in Arizona. SNAPS sued Leach and the other former IDA shareholders after they failed to pay the employee judgment. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the proceeding in Arizona relating to the filing of the employee judgment and SNAPS' lawsuit in North Dakota relating to the stock purchase agreement were based on different factual circumstances, and as such, not barred by res judicata. The Court reversed and remanded that part of the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Jim Leach that found otherwise. The Court also reversed and remanded that part of the judgment dismissing SNAPS' claims against Jim Leach. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "SNAPS Holding Company v. Leach" on Justia Law

by
Rick Snider and Janan Snider, doing business as RJ Snider Construction ("Snider"), appealed the grant of summary judgment, forfeiting a construction lien against the property that formerly housed the Dickinson Elks Lodge later owned by private investors, the Dickinson Elks Building, LLC ("DEB"), and prohibiting Snider from recording additional liens against the property without performing additional work. The North Dakota Supreme Court was not convinced that perfecting a lien amounted to creating a lien, as argued by the Sniders. As such, the Court concluded that when a Court declares a lien is deemed forfeited or satisfied, the right to the lien for the construction services or materials provided is deemed forfeited, not just the document recording the lien and establishing its priority. The district court correctly interpreted N.D.C.C. 35-27-25 in concluding the statute barred Snider from recording another construction lien against DEB's property for the same work. The district court also correctly concluded Snider forfeited its construction lien created and attached as a matter of law under N.D.C.C. sections 35-27-02 and 35-27-03 when it failed to comply with DEB's demand to enforce the lien. View "Snider v. Dickinson Elks Building, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Stephen Larson appealed when his case against Midland Hospital Supply, Inc. ("Midland"), Midland ProHealth, Inc. ("ProHealth") and Richard Larson was dismissed. Midland was a North Dakota corporation engaged in the wholesale, resale distribution and sale of medical supplies until dissolved in 2007. The Larson family owned all of the shares of the corporation. Richard Larson was the majority shareholder and the president of the company and his brother, Stephen Larson, and their two sisters were minority shareholders. The company had a buy-sell agreement requiring any shareholder desiring to sell, transfer or encumber their shares to first offer them to the other shareholders on a pro-rata basis. If the shareholders did not purchase the offered shares, the company could redeem them. If the company or shareholders did not purchase the shares, they could be sold to any party. In May 1999 Richard sent the minority shareholders a letter indicating the company wanted to purchase their shares by July 1999. The two sisters agreed to sell their shares. Stephen declined the offer. Richard personally purchased the sisters' shares, increasing his ownership interest in the company. In 1994 Richard Larson set up ProHealth, a retail company selling medical supplies, of which Richard was the president and sole shareholder. ProHealth purchased approximately half of its inventory from Midland. It had an outstanding accounts receivable with Midland by 2001. By the end of 2006 ProHealth owed Midland approximately $1,600,000. In August 2007, the full amount of the accounts receivable was paid. Interest on the receivable was paid in August 2008. Stephen sued for breach of fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, negligence, breach of shareholder buy-sell agreement, misappropriation, conspiracy, conversion, action for accounting and unjust enrichment. The summons and complaint were served in June 2013, and the action was filed in September 2014. The trial court held that Stephen's case against Midland and his brother was barred by statute of limitations. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the statute of limitations barred Stephen's claims related to his ownership interest in Midland and the district court did not err finding he was paid for his interest in Midland. View "Larson v. Midland Hospital Supply, Inc." on Justia Law

by
26th Street Hospitality, LLP appealed a district court's order granting a motion to compel arbitration; order lifting a stay in the proceedings, confirming the arbitration award, and awarding post-judgment interest; and final judgment. The Partnership argued the district court erred in ordering arbitration because the court was required to determine the validity of the contract before arbitration could be ordered and not all of the claims and parties were subject to arbitration. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "26th Street Hospitality v. Real Builders" on Justia Law

by
Cheetah Properties 1, LLC and Panther Pressure Testers, Inc. entered into a commercial lease agreement with an initial term that commenced on April 15, 2014, and ended on December 31, 2014. On January 19, 2015, Cheetah brought an eviction action to recover possession of the property. In the complaint, Cheetah sought damages for: (1) delinquent charges for late payment of rent owed up to December 31, 2014; (2) for Panther's willful holdover "in an amount double the yearly value of the Premises for the time of Defendant[']s withholding" under N.D.C.C. 32-03-28; and (3) for any physical damage to the property caused by Panther vacating the premises. Cheetah also sought an award of reasonable attorneys' fees under the lease. Panther vacated the property by January 31, 2015. The district court returned lawful possession of the property to Cheetah and awarded it $22,000 for January 2015 rent and $8,200 for delinquent rent and fees under the lease. The district court declined to impose double damages under N.D.C.C. 32-03-28 based on its finding that Panther's holding over was not willful. After the district court entered its order for judgment, Cheetah moved for an award of reasonable attorneys' fees under the lease. The district court denied Cheetah's request for fees. Cheetah appealed the district court's judgment and the order denying an award of reasonable attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment concluding Cheetah was not entitled to an award of double damages under N.D.C.C. 32-03-28, but reversed the denial of attorneys' fees. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Cheetah Properties 1, LLC v. Panther Pressure Testers, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Linh Duc Duong, doing business as Classy Nails, appealed after a bench trial awarded Welch Construction & Excavating, LLC, $30,825, plus interest, for the balance due on a construction contract. Welch Construction sued Duong, alleging the parties contracted for Welch Construction to remodel a vacant retail space in Kirkwood Mall into a Classy Nails salon for $92,225. Welch Construction alleged it completed the work and Duong failed to pay the balance of $30,825 due under the contract. Duong answered and counterclaimed, denying he owed an outstanding balance under the contract and alleging Welch Construction breached the contract by failing to remodel the retail space in a timely and workmanlike manner according to his specifications. Duong claimed he was entitled to a setoff against any balance owed under the contract for his damages caused by Welch Construction's failure to complete the work before Thanksgiving 2013 and failure to construct the salon according to his specifications. Duong sought lost profits and damages for repairing the work according to his specifications. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not clearly err in finding: (1) the parties did not orally contract for a specific completion date for the construction project; (2) Welch Construction did not unreasonably delay completion of the project; and (3) Duong failed to establish his damages for costs to repair and lost profits for Welch Construction's claimed failure to complete the project according to his specifications. View "Welch Construction & Excavating, LLC v. Duong" on Justia Law

by
APM, a property management company, sought a builders risk insurance policy from TCI Insurance Agency, Inc. to cover an apartment building under construction in Fargo. Jay Alsop, APM's president, discussed insurance policies with TCI's agent Devin Gaard. One policy in particular, from Philadelphia Insurance Company, covered lost rent and other "soft costs," such as interest. Alsop also received a quote from a different insurance agency for another policy from Travelers Insurance Company, which was cheaper than the Philadelphia policy. The Travelers policy did not have coverage for lost rent and soft costs. Alsop informed Gaard about the Travelers policy and requested Gaard to procure the policy as it was quoted by the other agency, without change. A fire at the construction site delayed the opening of the apartment building for five months. APM filed a claim under the insurance policy for damages caused by the fire, including lost rent and interest charges. Travelers paid part of the claim, but denied the claim for lost rent and interest because the policy did not provide coverage for those costs. APM sued TCI, alleging TCI and Gaard were negligent for failing to offer APM a policy endorsement that provided additional coverage for lost rent and soft costs. TCI denied liability and moved for summary judgment, claiming that APM did not request the additional coverage for lost rent and soft costs and that TCI and Gaard were not required to offer the additional coverage to APM. The district court granted TCI's motion, concluding APM failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Gaard breached his duty to APM. The court also concluded Gaard's duty was not enhanced because APM failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact indicating a special relationship existed between APM and TCI. On appeal, APM argued the district court erred in deciding there were no genuine issues of material fact as to whether: (1) Gaard breached his duty to APM; and (2) a special relationship existed between APM and TCI. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to TCI. View "APM, LLP v. TCI Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2007, Thomas and Mari Grabanski and John and Dawn Keeley formed Keeley Grabanski Land Partnership for the purpose of purchasing land in Texas. In 2008 the Grabanskis and Keeleys formed G & K Farms for the purpose of farming the Texas land. G & K was insured under the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program ("SURE"), which was administered by the Farm Service Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. In 2007 and 2008 Choice Financial Group made a series of loans totaling more than $6.75 million to the Grabanskis and the Keeleys on behalf of G & K. Choice entered into a number of security agreements with G & K and its principals to secure the debt. In 2008 PHI Financial Services, Inc. loaned $6.6 million to G & K, the Grabanskis and their various other business entities. PHI entered into security agreements with the debtors which included a provision granting it a security interest in certain "General Intangibles." The Grabanskis and their business entities eventually defaulted on their loans. Johnston Law Office, P.C. represented the Grabanskis in personal bankruptcy proceedings initiated in 2010, and represented them and their business entities during the following two years in numerous lawsuits stemming from the bankruptcy. In March 2011, PHI obtained a judgment against the Grabanskis and G & K in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota. G & K received a SURE payment from the federal government for 2009 crop losses. The Grabanskis did not deposit the disaster payment in G & K's North Dakota bank account with Choice because Johnston advised them that Choice would offset the funds against G & K's debt to Choice. Instead, G & K deposited the SURE payment in a new Texas bank account. The Grabanskis then transferred a portion of the SURE payment from the Texas bank account to Johnston's law office trust account through two transactions: one to pay Johnston's attorney fees, and the other for Tom Grabanski's father, Merlyn Grabanski, to indemnify him for monies paid on behalf of G & K the previous year. PHI brought this action against Johnston seeking to recover additional monies based on theories of conversion and fraudulent transfer. PHI later added Choice as a defendant to determine priority of the competing security interests. The district court granted summary judgment ruling PHI's security interest had priority over the security interest held by Choice. Following a bench trial the court ruled the money transferred to Tom Grabanski's father was a fraudulent transfer and PHI was entitled to recover that amount from Johnston. The court also found that a $150,000 payment was fraudulent, but found G & K received reasonably equivalent value for the transfer. The court allowed Johnston to retain $35,000 of the remaining funds, which the court found equaled the value of legal services provided to G & K, but voided the remaining $115,000. A judgment with interest totaling $167,203.24 was entered in favor of PHI. Johnston argued on appeal that the district court erred in holding it liable for any part of the $170,400 the law firm received from G & K's Texas bank account. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the award of prejudgment interest and remanded for recalculation. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "PHI Financial Services, Inc. v. Johnston Law Office, P.C." on Justia Law

by
Patterson Enterprises, Inc., appealed and Titan Machinery, Inc., cross-appealed a judgment and an order denying their post-judgment motions after the district court ordered Patterson to pay Titan $88,707.75 due under several oral equipment leases. Patterson argued the district court erred in admitting into evidence an exhibit summarizing amounts Patterson owed Titan under the oral leases, the court erred in awarding Titan $5,617.63 for finance charges and the court erred in finding the equipment did not breach an implied warranty of merchantability. In its cross-appeal, Titan argued the court clearly erred in calculating the amount Patterson owed Titan for three items of leased equipment. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the debt summary into evidence. The Supreme Court was unable to understand the basis for the court's decision regarding late payment charges as a component of Patterson's obligations to Titan, and reversed and remanded for findings addressing this issue. The Court reversed and remanded for findings about the implied warranty of merchantability. The Court was not convinced the trial court erred in calculating Patterson's lease payments for certain items of equipment. As such, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Titan Machinery, Inc. v. Patterson Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

by
Prairie Supply, Inc. ("Prairie") sued Raymond Winter, doing business as Prairie Wood Products, in small claims court alleging Winter sold Prairie wood stakes that did not conform to samples provided to Prairie. Winter answered, alleging Prairie's claim affidavit was defective, and he was not a party to the contracts with Prairie. Winter asserted the agreements for the wood stakes were between Prairie and his employer Pro Pallet, Inc., a North Dakota corporation doing business as Prairie Wood Products. After an unrecorded hearing, the small claims court entered a $15,000 judgment against Winter. Winter petitioned the district court for a writ of certiorari, arguing the small claims court exceeded its jurisdiction. The district court denied Winter's petition, concluding the small claims court had jurisdiction over the action, and Winter was improperly seeking to use a writ of certiorari to appeal from the small claims court judgment. Finding that the small claims court did not exceed its jurisdiction, the Supreme Court affirmed and declined supervisory jurisdiction. View "Winter v. Solheim" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts