Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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The Third Circuit vacated in part the order of the district court denying OptumRX's (Optum) motion to compel arbitration in the underlying action alleging breaches of contract and breaches of duties of good faith and fair dealing and violations of certain state statutes, holding that the district court erroneously applied the incorrect standard in ruling on Optum's motion.More than 400 pharmacies brought suit against Optum, a pharmacy benefits manager responsible for administering prescription drug programs on behalf of health-insurance plans. Optum moved to compel arbitration based on arbitration agreements found in various contracts covering the majority of the pharmacies. The district court denied the motion in full, concluding that compelling the pharmacies to proceed with arbitration would be procedurally unconscionable. The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment in part, holding that the district court erred by not adhering to Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, 716 F.3d 764 (3d Cir. 2013). View "Robert D. Mabe, Inc v. OptumRX" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Transit was awarded an exclusive license to bring telecommunications services to 277 New York City subway stations. Transit subcontracted with Fiber-Span, to develop remote fiber nodes to amplify telecommunication signals in the first six subway stations to receive service. Fiber-Span agreed to subsidize certain developmental costs, hoping to be selected as the contractor for the remaining 271 subway stations. Transit agreed that, if Fiber-Span was not selected to supply nodes for the remaining stations, Transit would reimburse those front-loaded costs. The relationship deteriorated. Transit asserted that Fiber-Span remained in breach of contract even after attempts to remediate problems but nevertheless took the network live. Transit insisted that Fiber-Span replace the nodes. Fiber-Span said it would do so only after it was awarded a contract for the remaining stations. Transit continued to use the nodes for two more years, then sued in New York state court. Fiber-Span filed for bankruptcy.The Third Circuit concluded Transit’s decision to keep using the nodes was consistent with the acceptance of non-conforming goods. Fiber-Span breached the contract; the damages must reflect the difference in value between what Transit received and what it was promised, which is less than what the bankruptcy and district courts awarded. Transit was not required to compensate Fiber-Span for not selecting it to provide nodes for the remaining subway stations. Transit’s claim to the payment on Fiber-Span's performance bond is time-barred. View "In re: Fiber-Span Inc" on Justia Law

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Under "loyalty contracts," Physician Buying Groups (PBGs) members are entitled to discounts if they buy a large enough percentage of their vaccines from Merck. The loyalty contracts include an arbitration provision. Membership contracts between PBGs and medical practices give medical practices discounts on Merck vaccines for enrolling in PBGs. PBGs contract with both Merck and medical practices and are middlemen but PBGs never possess the vaccines. Medical practices buy their vaccines directly from Merck, receiving discounts for belonging to a PBG. The Pediatricians, members of PBGs that contracted with Merck, never signed contracts containing an arbitration clause.The Pediatricians filed federal suits alleging Merck’s vaccine bundling program was anticompetitive. Merck moved to compel arbitration. On remand, following discovery, the district court again denied Merck’s motion and granted the Pediatricians summary judgment, reasoning that the Pediatricians were not bound under an agency theory. The Third Circuit reversed. The PBG membership contract made the PBG a “non-exclusive agent to arrange for the purchase of goods and services,” and the PBG acted on this authority by executing the loyalty contract with Merck that included the arbitration clause. The Pediatricians simultaneously demonstrated intent to create an agency relationship and exercised control over the scope of the PBG’s agency by contract. View "In re: Rotavirus Vaccines Antitrust Litigation v." on Justia Law

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The Unions represent PG employees. Each union's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with PG required PG to provide health insurance to union employees. A separate provision governed dispute resolution with a grievance procedure that culminated in binding arbitration. The CBAs had durational clauses and expired in March 2017; the arbitration provisions had no separate durational clauses. Two months before their expiration, PG sent letters to the unions, stating that upon expiration, "all contractual obligations of the current agreement shall expire. [PG] will continue to observe all established wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment as required by law, except those recognized by law as strictly contractual, after the Agreement expires. With respect to arbitration, the Company will decide its obligation to arbitrate grievances on a case-by-case basis." While negotiating new CBAs, the parties operated under certain terms of the expired agreements. The unions claim that in 2019, PG violated the expired CBAs by failing to provide certain health-insurance benefits. The unions filed grievances under the dispute-resolution provisions. PG refused to arbitrate, stating that the grievance involved occurrences that arose after the contract expired. The Unions argued implied-in-fact contracts had been formed.The district court granted PG summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed, overruling its own precedent. As a matter of contract law, the arbitration provisions here, because they do not have their own durational clauses, expired with the CBAs. View "Pittsburgh Mailers Union Local Union 22 v. PG Publishing Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Keles was admitted into Rutgers’s Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department’s graduate program and received his M.S. degree in 2014. While pursuing this degree, Keles expressed his interest in continuing his studies as a Ph.D. student. To continue their studies as Ph.D. students, M.S. students in the CEE Department must submit a “Change-in-Status” form, identifying advisors and describing their research plans. At the end of the M.S. program, Keles submitted an incomplete Change-in-Status form. Keles disputed that he needed to submit a completed Change-in-Status form due to his claimed enrollment as an M.S.-Ph.D. student. Members of the CEE Department and the University’s administration informed him that he needed to satisfy the admission prerequisites. Keles neither found an advisor nor submitted a completed form but sought to register for classes in 2015. Rutgers’s Administration informed Keles that his lack of academic standing prevented him from registering.Keles sued, alleging contract, tort, statutory, and due process claims. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit, finding that Rutgers adhered to its own policies and did not act in bad faith. All M.S. students were subject to the same departmental requirements. Rutgers afforded Keles sufficient process and did not venture “beyond the pale of reasoned academic decisionmaking.” View "Keles v. Bender" on Justia Law

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For 20 years, the vendor (SDM) provided food services at Drexel University in Philadelphia. In 2014 the university announced that it would competitively bid the contract for on-campus dining. The same vendor ultimately won that competition but about two years into the contract’s 10-year duration, the vendor sued the university for fraud, multiple breaches of contract, and alternatively for unjust enrichment. The university responded with fraud and breach-of-contract counterclaims. Only a few of the vendor’s breach-of-contract claims and portions of the university’s breach-of-contract claim survived summary judgment. The parties referred the remaining claims and counterclaims to arbitration and jointly moved to dismiss them. The district court granted that motion and entered final judgment, which the parties appealed, primarily to dispute the summary judgment ruling.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in Drexel’s favor on SDM’s unjust enrichment and punitive damages claims, summary judgment in SDM’s favor on Drexel’s fraudulent inducement claim, and the district court’s decision to deny Drexel’s motion to strike declarations by SDM witnesses under the sham affidavit rule. The court vacated an order granting summary judgment to Drexel on SDM’s claims for fraudulent inducement, breach of contract for failure to renegotiate in good faith, and breach of a supplemental agreement for the Fall 2016 Semester. The surviving claims were remanded to the district court. View "SodexoMAGIC LLC v. Drexel University" on Justia Law

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EBEWC, a beauty salon, was charged with violating 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1) and (3), by implying that employees would be discharged if they engaged in union or protected concerted activity, soliciting employee assistance in ascertaining union support, issuing a handbook rule subjecting employees to discipline for gossiping or complaining about EBEWC’s rules or procedures, and discharging an employee for engaging in concerted employee activities. EBEWC signed a settlement agreement. The National Labor Relations Board concluded EBEWC violated that agreement by failing to “fully comply” with a provision requiring EBEWC to text the requisite notice to its employees. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the Board then found the complaint's allegations true, made factual findings and conclusions of law consistent with those allegations, and granted a “full remedy” for the violations.The Third Circuit granted EBEWC’s petition for review and denied the Board’s application for enforcement. The Board took drastic action although EBEWC purportedly “defaulted” merely by sending the requisite notice to its employees by e-mail instead of by text message. The settlement agreement explicitly provided for notice by text but there is no indication that texting, as opposed to some other method of electronic communication, had any real significance to EBEWC, its employees, or the Board. EBEWC otherwise fully complied with the agreement. The Board overreached and acted punitively. View "East Brunswick European Wax Center, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Reefer arrived at the Port of Wilmington, Delaware for what its owner, Nederland, expected to be a short stay. Upon inspection, the Coast Guard suspected that the vessel had discharged dirty bilge water directly overboard and misrepresented in its record book that the ship’s oil water separator had been used to clean the bilge water prior to discharge. Nederland, wanting to get the ship back to sea as rapidly as possible, entered into an agreement with the government for the release of the Reefer in exchange for a surety bond to cover potential fines. Although Nederland delivered the bond and met other requirements, the vessel was detained in Wilmington for at least two additional weeks.Nederland sued. The Delaware district court dismissed the complaint, holding that Nederland’s claims had to be brought in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims because the breach of contract claim did not invoke admiralty jurisdiction a claim under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) failed because of sovereign immunity. The Third Circuit reversed. The agreement is maritime in nature and invokes the district court’s admiralty jurisdiction. The primary objective of the agreement was to secure the vessel's departure clearance so that it could continue its maritime trade. APPS explicitly waives the government’s sovereign immunity. View "Nederland Shipping Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In March 2018, following sexual misconduct allegations against TWC’s co-founder Harvey Weinstein, TWC sought bankruptcy protection. TWC and Spyglass signed the Asset Purchase Agreement (APA). The sale closed in July 2018. Spyglass paid $287 million. Spyglass agreed to assume all liabilities associated with the Purchased Assets, including some “Contracts.” The APA identifies “Assumed Contracts,” as those Contracts that Spyglass would designate in writing, by November 2018.In May 2018, TWC filed an Assumed Contracts Schedule, with a disclaimer that the inclusion of a contract did not constitute an admission that such contract is executory or unexpired. A June 2018 Contract Notice, listed eight Investment Agreements as “non-executory contracts that are being removed from the Assumed Contracts Schedule.” The Investment Agreements, between TWC and Investors, had provided funding for TWC films in exchange for shares of future profits. Spyglass’s November 2018 Contract Notice listed nine Investment Agreements as “Excluded Contracts,”In January 2019, the Investors requested payments from Spyglass--their asserted share of a film’s profits. The Bankruptcy Court rejected the Investors’ claim that Spyglass bought all the Investment Agreements under the APA. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. The Investment Agreements are not “Purchased Assets” and the associated obligations are not “Assumed Liabilities.” The Investment Agreements are not executory contracts under the Bankruptcy Code. View "The Weinstein Co. Holdings, LLC v. Y Movie, LLC" on Justia Law

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Dansko conducted due diligence to replace the trustee for its employee stock ownership plan. Benefit falsely denied having been recently been investigated by the Department of Labor. Dansko’s board passed a resolution appointing Benefit as the new trustee under the Trust Agreement. Around that time, Dansko decided to refinance its debt. Benefit never agreed in writing to help with the refinance but allegedly said it would “be able to do the [deal]” and estimated that it would need a month or more to do due diligence for the trust. Dansko thought Benefit would be the trustee for the deal. In December 2014, Benefit told Dansko that it would not serve as trustee for the debt deal, which delayed the deal and allegedly cost Dansko more than $2 million in extra interest.Dansko sued Benefit, alleging breach of the trust agreement, breach of an implied promise (promissory estoppel), and that Benefit fraudulently induced Dansko to hire it by falsely denying the DOL investigation. Benefit counterclaimed for its defense costs under an indemnification clause in the trust agreement. The district court rejected Dansko’s claims but held that Dansko did not have to indemnify Benefit for its defense costs. Applying Pennsylvania law, the Third Circuit vacated. The court erred in rejecting Dansko’s contract, estoppel, and fraud claims but under the trust agreement, Dansko must advance the trustee’s reasonable litigation expenses. View "Dansko Holdings Inc. v. Benefit Trust Co." on Justia Law