Articles Posted in Contracts

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The Federal Arbitration Act does not preempt all state arbitration law. A party alleging an arbitration agreement is unconscionable must demonstrate some quantum of both procedural and substantive unconscionability. A party's failure to clearly object to a defect in arbitration proceedings prior to or during arbitration may constitute a waiver of the objection. Lynne Thompson appealed a district court order compelling arbitration, a judgment confirming the arbitration award, and an order denying her motion to vacate the judgment or for a new trial. Thompson sued Lithia ND Acquisition Corp. #1, seeking to rescind a contract to purchase a vehicle and for damages for unjust enrichment and unlawful sales practices. Lithia moved to dismiss Thompson's complaint and to compel arbitration, arguing there was an enforceable agreement to arbitrate. Thompson responded to the motion, arguing the arbitration agreement was unenforceable and unconscionable and claiming she was entitled to a jury trial on the issue of the enforceability. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in compelling arbitration or confirming the arbitrator's award. View "Thompson v. Lithia ND Acquisition Corp. #1" on Justia Law

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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

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In 2013, Herman Kauk, Sr. and Cletis Kauk ("Sellers") contracted to sell land to Herman Kauk, Jr. and Christy Kauk ("Buyers"). The property was known to the parties as “Walter’s Quarter.” The Buyers had their attorney draft a new version of the Sellers’ contract. This version was entitled "Extension of Purchase Agreement" and specified the new closing date. Notably, the new version removed language that granted an option to sell another piece of property, “Katie’s Quarter.” The parties signed the contract. Shortly thereafter, the Sellers sent the Buyers a letter “Notice of Cancellation of Option to Purchase Additional Land." The Sellers executed a Notice of Contract for Deed with the county recorder naming a third party as grantee of the option property. The Buyers filed a complaint on August 10, 2015 requesting a declaratory judgment that the option to purchase "Katie's Quarter" was still valid. Both Buyers and Sellers testified at trial. At trial, both parties acknowledged the first contained an incorrect legal description for the land in the option paragraph, "Katie's Quarter." The "Notice of Cancellation of Option" letter contained the same legal description appearing in that original contract. However, the Notice of Contract for Deed contained the correct legal description for "Katie's Quarter." The district court ultimately found the option was enforceable because it was supported by adequate consideration and nothing in the revised contract revoked the option from the original. The court indicated it was clear "Katie's Quarter" was incorrectly identified in the contract. The Sellers appealed when the district court reformed the contract and ruled in the Buyers’ favor. The Sellers also contended the district court "exceeded its authority when it ruled the issue of reformation was not res judicata" and claims the district court abused its discretion by ordering the same. The North Dakota Supreme Court, after review of the district court record and the Sellers' arguments, found “a structural problem with the district court's orders that this Court cannot ignore.” Concluding the district court abused its discretion by granting declaratory relief, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's orders and remanded for entry of an order of dismissal. View "Kauk v. Kauk" on Justia Law

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Charles Robinson, Paul Robinson, and William Robinson appealed an amended judgment granting summary judgment in favor of THR Minerals, LLC, and deciding ownership of mineral and royalty interests in certain property. The Supreme Court concluded the assignment of royalty at issue was unambiguous, and the district court did not err as a matter of law in construing the assignment to decide the ownership of the subject mineral and royalty interests between the parties. View "THR Minerals, LLC. v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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Eagle Rigid Spans, Inc., ("ERS") appealed an order denying its motion for new trial and an amended judgment entered after a jury found in favor of Brandon and Constance Jalbert and awarding them $650,000 plus interest, and costs and disbursements. ERS also appealed from the district court's order overruling its objections to costs and disbursements. ERS contracted to build a multi-purpose building for the Jalberts. During and after the construction of the building the Jalberts discovered problems with the structure. The Jalberts brought suit alleging breach of contract and breach of warranty. ERS argued irregularities in the proceeding of the jury trial prevented them from having a fair trial, the jury awarded excessive damages because of the influence of passion or prejudice, sufficient evidence did not exist to justify the verdict and the trial court erred in failing to reduce the Jalbert's expert witness fees. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jalbert v. Eagle Rigid Spans, Inc." on Justia Law

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GEM Razorback, LLC appealed a judgment dismissing its declaratory judgment action because GEM failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and dismissing its claim for specific performance because GEM could not establish that it was a third-party beneficiary of a contract. GEM and Zenergy, Inc. owned working interests in two oil and gas wells located in McKenzie County. Zenergy operated the wells, but GEM had not consented to pay its share of the drilling and operating costs. GEM did not execute a joint operating agreement for the wells and consequently was assessed a risk penalty as a nonconsenting owner. In 2013, Zenergy assigned its interest in the wells to Oasis Petroleum North America LLC. The assignment conveyed all assets, including "all files, records and data maintained by" Zenergy. After the assignment, GEM requested the same information from Oasis. Oasis provided Zenergy with the requested information. However, according to Oasis, some of the requested information for the time period before the assignment was not in its possession. Because of differences in the numbers provided by Zenergy and Oasis, GEM filed applications for hearing with the Industrial Commission requesting that the Commission determine the actual reasonable costs plus risk penalty for the two wells. After a hearing, Oasis agreed to allow GEM to conduct an audit of the wells. The Commission then dismissed the applications without prejudice. During the ensuing audit process, GEM discovered there were documents it requested that were not in Oasis' possession for the time period before the assignment when Zenergy operated the wells. GEM contacted Zenergy and requested an extensive list of 39 specific types of information regarding the wells. Zenergy refused to provide GEM with the requested information. GEM then commenced its declaratory judgment and specific performance action against Zenergy. Zenergy argued the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the request for declaratory relief because GEM failed to exhaust its administrative remedies with the Commission before filing the complaint. Zenergy further argued the claim for specific performance failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because a provision of the assignment agreement specifically bars third-party beneficiary status. The court agreed with Zenergy's arguments and dismissed GEM's action. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s ruling. View "GEM Razorback, LLC v. Zenergy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Justin Beckstrand and James Beckstrand, through his surviving spouse, Cynthia, appealed a judgment awarding $164,202.40 in 2015 farm rental payments to Julie Beckstrand, the personal representative of John Beckstrand's estate. The Supreme Court found that because the district court's findings were inadequate to explain the basis for its equitable decision to award the farm rental payments to Julie Beckstrand, it reversed and remanded for the court to explain the rationale for its decision. View "Beckstrand v. Beckstrand" on Justia Law

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Kevin and Lynn Klein appealed a judgment dismissing their claims and quieting title to certain real property in Gregory Sletto. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in granting summary judgment because the Kleins failed to present any evidence supporting their claims about the existence of a valid contract. View "Klein v. Sletto" on Justia Law

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Twalker Development, LLC appealed a judgment granting KLE Construction LLC's claim for unjust enrichment and ordering Twalker to pay $87,958.74 in damages. KLE and Twalker engaged in negotiations for KLE to provide construction services to Twalker in exchange for four lots located in Twalker's development. KLE and Twalker never executed a written contract finalizing the terms of an agreement. KLE began performing construction services on the property, including preliminary dirt work related to clearing and scraping the property. KLE also hired an engineering firm to create plans to subdivide the property for future sales. KLE and Twalker disagreed about certain aspects of the project, and Twalker terminated KLE's services. Twalker continued to develop the property and did not compensate KLE for the services it provided. KLE sued Twalker for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and forbearance. After a bench trial, the district court dismissed KLE's breach of contract claim, finding KLE failed to establish the existence of a contract. The court dismissed KLE's forbearance claim, stating forbearance was not a separate and distinct claim. The court granted KLE's unjust enrichment claim and found KLE was entitled to $90,857 in damages. The court ordered each party pay the other party's costs and disbursements. A judgment was entered in favor of KLE for $87,958.74. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting KLE's unjust enrichment claim and awarding damages. View "KLE Construction, LLC v. Twalker Development, LLC" on Justia Law

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Samantha Gillespie and her mother, Tina Taylor, appealed the grant of summary judgment dismissing their lawsuit against Taylor's motor vehicle insurer, National Farmers Union, for underinsured motor vehicle coverage. Gillespie and Taylor sued Farmers Union for underinsured motor vehicle coverage, alleging Gillespie was insured under her mother's motor vehicle policy with Farmers Union and was driving a motor vehicle owned by another person when Gillespie lost control of the vehicle and it overturned, resulting in significant injuries to her. According to Gillespie and Taylor, the motor vehicle was owned by Angela Ayers, Gillespie's aunt, and insured by GEICO. Ayers died as a result of the accident and another passenger in the motor vehicle sustained significant injuries. Gillespie and Taylor asserted GEICO paid Gillespie $25,000 in no-fault benefits, but denied her request for liability coverage based on a claim that Ayers negligently entrusted the vehicle to Gillespie, an alleged inexperienced driver who received her learner's permit two days before the accident. After review, the Supreme Court concluded Gillespie and Taylor failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact about whether Gillespie was legally entitled to collect for bodily injury from the owner or operator of an underinsured motor vehicle, and affirmed. View "Gillespie v. National Farmers Union Property & Casualty Co." on Justia Law