Articles Posted in Contracts

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Collins, who worked as a Mary Kay beauty consultant in New Jersey, brought a putative class action, claiming that Mary Kay policies and practices violated the New Jersey Wage Payment Law. Mary Kay, a Texas-based company, moved to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds, relying on written agreements that set forth the parties’ relationship. Both contained forum selection clauses specifying that legal claims would be submitted to Texas state court and contained choice-of-law clauses stating that Texas law would apply. The district court granted Mary Kay’s motion. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although Collins argued that her claims fell outside the scope of the forum-selection clause, Texas contract law applies to govern the interpretation of that clause. The parties have a substantial relationship to the state of Texas and there is no evidence New Jersey has a “materially greater interest” in the application of its own contract law to the interpretation of the forum selection clauses, or that application of Texas contract law to interpret the scope of the forum selection clauses would offend the “fundamental policy” of New Jersey. View "Collins v. Mary Kay Inc" on Justia Law

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Zuber, employed by Boscov’s at Fairgrounds Farmers’ Market in Reading, Pennsylvania, suffered an injury at work, immediately filed a workers’ compensation claim, and received work leave. About two weeks after Zuber returned to work, Boscov’s fired Zuber, Months later, Boscov’s and Zuber signed a Compromise and Release Agreement before the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Workers’ Compensation Office. Zuber later sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2617, and common law, claiming that Boscov’s failed to notify him of his FMLA rights and to designate his leave as FMLA protected; retaliated against him for exercising his FMLA rights; and retaliated against him for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The district court dismissed, based on a release provision in the Agreement. The Third Circuit reversed, based on the Agreement’s references to “benefits” and “monies of any kind,” “in connection with the alleged 8/12/2015 [sic] work injury claim as well as any other work injury claim(s).” Zuber seeks benefits and monies from FMLA and common law claims, not from matters related to the injury. View "Zuber v. Boscov's, Inc." on Justia Law

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The “Sunoco Rewards Program,” which Sunoco advertised, offered customers who buy gas at Sunoco locations using a Citibank-issued credit card a five-cent per gallon discount either at the pump or on their monthly billing statements. The “Terms and Conditions of Offer” sheet, indicating that Citibank is the issuer of the Card, stated that by applying for the card, the applicant authorized Citibank to “share with Sunoco® and its affiliates experiential and transactional information regarding your activity with us.” Sunoco was not a corporate affiliate of and had no ownership interest in Citibank and vice versa. White obtained a Sunoco Rewards Card from Citibank in 2013. He made fuel purchases with the card at various Sunoco-branded gas station locations. White filed a purported class action against Sunoco, not Citibank, alleging that “[c]ontrary to its clear and express representations, Sunoco does not apply a 5¢/gallon discount on all fuel purchases made by cardholders at every Sunoco location. Sunoco omits this material information to induce customers to sign-up for the Sunoco. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Sunoco’s motion to compel arbitration. Sunoco, a non-signatory to the credit card agreement and not mentioned in the agreement, cannot compel White to arbitrate. View "White v. Sunoco Inc" on Justia Law

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In 1962, PWV leased to Norfolk Southern certain railroad properties, consisting of a 112-mile tract of main line railroad and approximately 20 miles of branch rail lines in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. After securing appropriate regulatory approvals, the Lease went into effect on October 16, 1964. The term of the Lease is 99 years, renewable in perpetuity at the option of Norfolk Southern absent a default. On May 17, 1990, Norfolk Southern entered into a sublease with Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway. Wheeling assumed the rights, interests, duties, obligations, liabilities, and commitments of Norfolk Southern as lessee, including the role as principal operator of the Rail Line. In 2011, disputes arose following the proposed sale of an unused branch of the railroad line, a restructuring by PWV and its demand for additional rent and attorney's fees. Norfolk Southern sought a declaration that it was not in default under the terms of the Lease. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s use of course-of-performance evidence, found that PWV had engaged in fraud to obtain Norfolk’s consent to a transaction otherwise prohibited by the Lease. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Co v. Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad" on Justia Law

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Moon performed at the Breathless Men’s Club in Rahway. She rented performance space in the Club and signed an Independent Dancer Rental Agreement, stating: Dancer understands and agrees that he/she is an independent contractor and not an employee of club. Dancer is renting the performance space for an agreed upon fee previously agreed to by Dancer and Club. … In a dispute between Dancer and Club under this Agreement, either may request to resolve the dispute by binding arbitration. THIS MEANS THAT NEITHER PARTY SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO LITIGATE SUCH CLAIM IN COURT OR TO HAVE A JURY TRIAL – DISCOVERY AND APPEAL RIGHTS ARE LIMITED IN ARBITRATION. ARBITRATION MUST BE ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS. THIS MEANS NEITHER YOU NOR WE MAY JOIN OR CONSOLIDATE CLAIMS IN ARBITRATION, OR LITIGATE IN COURT OR ARBITRATE ANY CLAIMS AS A REPRESENTATIVE OR MEMBER OF A CLASS. Moon sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201; the New Jersey Wage Payment Law; and the state Wage and Hour Law. The district court denied a motion to dismiss and ordered limited discovery on the arbitration issue. After discovery, the court granted the Club summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed. Moon’s claims do not arise out of the contract itself; the arbitration clause does not cover Moon’s statutory wage-and-hour claims. View "Moon v. Breathless Inc" on Justia Law

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Former Howmedica Sales Representatives, all California natives, signed employment agreements with confidentiality, non-compete, and forum-selection clauses, designating New Jersey (or Michigan) as the forum for any litigation arising out of the agreements. After clashes with Howmedica, the Sales Representatives resigned and became independent contractors representing Howmedica’s competitor, DePuy. Some of Howmedica’s customers, previously assigned to the Sales Representatives, followed them. Howmedica suspected that the Sales Representatives and DePuy conspired to convert those customers before the Sales Representatives’ resignations. Howmedica filed suit in New Jersey, joining DePuy’s regional distributor, Golden State as a “necessary party.” The defendants successfully moved to transfer the case to California under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a), which, for “the convenience of parties and witnesses” and “in the interest of justice,” allows transfer to a district where the case “might have been brought.” The Third Circuit directed the district court to transfer claims against only the two corporate defendants who did not agree to any forum-selection clause. Where contracting parties have specified the forum in which they will litigate disputes arising from their contract, federal courts must honor the forum-selection clause “[i]n all but the most unusual cases.” In this case, all defendants sought transfer to one district; some, but not all, defendants are parties to forum-selection clauses. View "In re: Howmedica Osteonics Corp" on Justia Law

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GRC, a manufacturer and supplier of refractory products designed to retain strength when exposed to extreme heat, previously included asbestos in its products. GRC was the defendant in 31,440 lawsuits alleging injuries from “exposure to asbestos-containing products manufactured, sold, and distributed by GRC” dating back to 1978. GRC’s insurers initially fielded these claims. During the 1970s and ‘80s, GRC had entered into primary liability insurance policies with several different insurers. GRC also secured additional excess insurance policies. In 1994 GRC’s liabilities from thousands of settled claims far exceeded the limits of its primary insurance coverage. In 2002, after years of continued settlements, GRC tendered the underlying claims to its excess insurance carriers. All denied coverage on the basis of a policy exclusion: It is agreed that this policy does not apply to EXCESS NET LOSS arising out of asbestos, including but not limited to bodily injury arising out of asbestosis or related diseases or to property damage. The district court ruled in favor of GRC. The Third Circuit reversed. The phrase “arising out of,” when used in a Pennsylvania insurance exclusion, unambiguously requires “but for” causation. The losses relating to the underlying asbestos suits would not have occurred but for asbestos, raw or within finished products. View "General Refractories Co. v. First State Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In bidding to strip and repaint the Commodore Barry Bridge, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) rejected the lowest bidder, Alpha, as not a “responsible” contractor under its guidelines because Alpha failed to remit accident experience forms (OSHA 300) and insurance data (Experience Modification Factors) in its bid package. DRPA also declared that Corcon was actually the lowest bidder because of a “miscalculation” that DRPA perceived in Corcon’s bid. DRPA awarded the contract to Corcon. After its bid protest was denied, Alpha filed suit, seeking an injunction. The district court held a trial, concluded that DRPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and directed DRPA to award the contract to Alpha. The Third Circuit agreed that DRPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, but concluded that the court abused its discretion by directing that the contract be awarded to Alpha. DRPA did not establish a rational basis under its policies for labeling Alpha “not responsible” and ”the decision to modify Corcon’s bid appeared out of thin air.” DRPA’s Board of Commissioners gave virtually no attention to Alpha’s protest. Alpha should be restored to competition; DRPA should evaluate Alpha’s bid and affirmatively determine, per its guidelines, whether Alpha, the lowest bidder, is a “responsible” contractor. View "Alpha Painting & Construction Co., Inc. v. Delaware River Port Authority" on Justia Law

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In New Jersey, GTL is the sole provider of telecommunications services that enable inmates to call approved persons outside the prisons. Users can open an account through GTL’s website or through an automated telephone service with an interactive voice-response system. Website users see GTL’s terms of use and must click “Accept” to complete the process. Telephone users receive an audio notice: Please note that your account, and any transactions you complete . . . are governed by the terms of use and the privacy statement posted at www.offenderconnect.com.” Telephone users are not required to indicate their assent to those terms, which contain an arbitration agreement and a class-action waiver. Users have 30 days to opt out of those provisions. The terms state that using the telephone service or clicking “Accept” constitutes acceptance of the terms; users have 30 days to cancel their accounts if they do not agree to the terms. Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that GTL’s charges were unconscionable and violated the state Consumer Fraud Act, the Federal Communications Act, and the Takings Clause. GTL argued that the FCC had primary jurisdiction. Plaintiffs withdrew their FCA claims. GTL moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied GTL’s motion with respect to plaintiffs who opened accounts by telephone, finding “neither the knowledge nor intent necessary to provide ‘unqualified acceptance.’” The Third Circuit affirmed. The telephone plaintiffs did not agree to arbitration. View "James v. Global TelLink Corp." on Justia Law

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In August 2012, Aliments, a Canadian snack purveyor, contacted its American broker, Sterling, to purchase thousands of pounds of raw pistachios. Sterling contacted Pacific, another broker, which called Nichols, a California pistachio grower, who agreed to the proposed quantity and price. In September, Sterling contacted Pacific with another order from Aliments. Pacific contracted with Nichols again. Sterling sent sales confirmations to Aliments and Pacific. Pacific did not forward the Sterling sales confirmations to Nichols but issued its own confirmations to Nichols and Sterling. Neither Aliments nor Nichols was aware that two confirmations existed, with the same terms, including a 30-day credit term. However, while Sterling’s confirmations contained arbitration clauses, not all of the confirmations generated by Pacific contained arbitration clauses. Aliments believed that the Sterling confirmations, though unsigned by either party, represented binding contracts to purchase pistachios from Nichols, with payment due 30 days from delivery, “as usual.” Nichols thought that the 30-day term was but a placeholder. The parties were unable to agree to payment terms. Despite being notified of an arbitration, Nichols did not attend. Aliments was awarded $222,100 in damages. Nichols refused to pay. The district court denied Aliments’ petition to enforce the award and granted Nichols’s cross-petition to vacate because no genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the parties failed to enter into “an express unequivocal agreement” to arbitrate. The Third Circuit vacated, finding multiple issues of fact. View "Aliments Krispy Kernels Inc v. Nichols Farms" on Justia Law