Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of XTO on plaintiff's claims of breach of contract and conversion. The court concluded that plaintiff cannot survive summary judgment on his breach of contract or conversion claims because he has not set forth sufficient evidence to allow a factfinder to find that the Turner No. 1 Well has extracted gas from the Viola Formation after 1982. In light of the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact whether the Viola Formation produced after 1982, the court need not reach the question whether plaintiff's claims are time barred under Arkansas law. View "Turner v. XTO Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, former president of Milestone Systems, for refusing to pay plaintiff his pro-rata share of "Post-Closing Amounts" paid by Kudelski pursuant to its April 2016 cash purchase of Milestone's outstanding stock.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant. Interpreting the plain language of the agreements at issue, the court concluded that no reasonable factfinder could find that plaintiff was terminated by Kudelski without cause. In this case, the district court correctly concluded, as a matter of law, that plaintiff's failure to meet the requirements of Section 3 of the Post-Closing Amount was a material breach of an unambiguous term of the contract. Therefore, plaintiff was ineligible for payment. View "Hampton v. Kohler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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Plaintiffs, former clients of RBC, filed a purported class action suit against RBC for breach of contract, alleging that RBC breached its duties to comply with Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules and to know the clients' investment profiles.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to RBC, holding that the plain language of the Client Account Agreement did not create either duty. Applying Minnesota law, the court concluded that the Agreement's unambiguous plain language does not create a contractual duty that RBC comply with FINRA rules. In this case, the "subject to" language does not create a contractual duty. Rather, it is an acknowledgement by clients that RBC will comply with FINRA rules. Furthermore, the "I agree" phrase is an acknowledgment of the terms and conditions and does not create a duty. Finally, the court concluded that the RBC did not breach a contractual duty to know its customers. View "Luis v. RBC Capital Markets, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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Auge, an experienced industrial-equipment salesman, started with Fairchild in 2013, with a base salary of $50,000 and a commission of 30% on the gross profits from most new equipment sales. Days after the company’s plan for calculating compensation changed in 2017, Auge abruptly quit. Fairchild deposited his commissions into his bank account. He demanded more. He believed he was entitled to a 30% commission on all anticipated gross profits, not just those “booked” in 2017. He also requested immediate payment on several “rental purchase option[s],” even though Fairchild’s policy was not to pay commissions on these rent-to-own arrangements until the end of the rental term. In Fairchild’s view, Auge lost those commissions once he quit.Auge sued for breach of contract and for alleged violations of the Minnesota Payment of Wages Act. The district court dismissed the suit. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part but reversed with respect to “rental purchase options,” finding the contract provision ambiguous so that summary judgment was inappropriate. Fairchild owed Auge nothing for other commission, so the Act did not apply. View "Auge v. Fairchild Equipment, Inc." on Justia Law

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Engineered Sales filed suit against Endress, alleging a violation of the Minnesota Termination of Sales Representatives Act. At issue is whether the Act, as amended in 2014, applies to their contractual relationship.The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court's ruling as to whether Endress had "good cause" and otherwise violated the Act in its termination of the agreement. The court held that Engineered Sales continued to solicit orders with Endress's "consent or acquiescence" after August 1, 2014, and thus the parties' agreement was renewed after August 1, 2014, making the anti-waiver provision applicable to its terms. The court also held that the parties' Indiana choice-of-law provision would allow Endress to circumvent the requirements of the Act in this case, and thus the provision is void and unenforceable under Minn. Stat. 325E.37, subd. 7. View "Engineered Sales, Co. v. Endress + Hauser, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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Ohio law allows nonsignatory agents to compel arbitration under general principles of contract and agency law. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Navient's motion to compel arbitration against plaintiff. The court disagreed with the district court's finding that the relevant arbitration clause does not include Navient as a party and so Navient cannot compel arbitration. Rather, the court held that Ohio law permits plaintiff to compel arbitration as a nonsignatory agent of the holder of the loan. The court also held that Ohio's rule of alternate estoppel prevents plaintiff from disavowing the arbitration clause because his claim arises out of the same contract. Therefore, plaintiff is estopped from avoiding the arbitration clause because his claims are integrally intertwined with the contract containing the agreement to arbitrate. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Neal v. Navient Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Pharmacies filed suit against ESI, the nation's largest Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM), alleging breach of contract, attempted monopolization, and other claims. The district court dismissed the entire complaint with prejudice, holding that the Pharmacies did not state a claim for breach of contract because their claim was based on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The parties had incorporated HIPAA and the HITECH Act into section 5.3 of their pharmacy provider agreements (PPA).The court affirmed and held that, textually, HIPAA does not authorize the Pharmacies to direct or control the use of their customers’ information and does not grant the Pharmacies power to enforce their customers' rights. Furthermore, the Pharmacies failed to allege a breach of contract based upon an alleged past or ongoing HIPAA violation. In this case, the Pharmacies failed to allege that ESI's use of their customers’ HIPAA-protected information to provide lower cost mail order refills lacked the express authorization of the plan sponsors and, thus, the implied authorization of the customers seeking to have their prescription costs covered by their plans.The court also held that the district court did not err in dismissing the Pharmacies' claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing where the parties' agreements give ESI access to the Pharmacies' customer information and do not prevent its use for mail-order service dispensing. Finally, the court rejected the Pharmacies' claims of unfair competition, misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with business expectancy and attempted monopolization. View "Trone Health Services, Inc. v. Express Scripts Holding Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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In 2019, Perficient filed suit against its former employee and his new employer, Spaulding, alleging claims including breach of contract and violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and the Missouri Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The district court ruled in favor of Perficient, concluding that the employee violated the covenant-not-to-compete provision in his employment contract. The district court then granted permanent injunctive relief of short duration. The employee and Spaulding timely filed this interlocutory appeal but did not seek a stay of the district court’s order pending appeal. The injunction expired in May 2020 on its own, with the appeal pending and further proceedings stayed in the district court. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court's injunction has become moot and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. Furthermore, none of the traditional exceptions to mootness apply. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "Perficient, Inc. v. Munley" on Justia Law

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Travelex filed suit against defendant to enforce an alleged agreement restricting her ability to compete with Travelex by soliciting business from certain customers. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of defendant, determining that the purported agreement was unenforceable.The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that summary judgment was not warranted. In this case, the district court concluded that the agreement was unenforceable because the 2008 agreement became a nullity when Travelex was acquired by Cover-More and defendant refused to sign a new agreement as a condition of continued employment and was terminated. The court held that defendant's refusal to sign the new agreement nullified the prior agreement. The court also held that defendant's alternative argument, that under New York law restrictive covenants may not be enforced when an employee is dismissed without cause, does not apply because the non-solicitation agreement is not unreasonable as a matter of law. View "Travelex Insurance Services, Inc. v. Barty" on Justia Law

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FEI, Crop Venture's successor-in-interest, filed suit alleging that the individual defendants took proprietary information they developed at Crop Ventures after they left the company and co-founded Farmobile (the corporate defendant). Specifically, FEI alleges that the individual defendants' behavior constituted a breach of explicit or implicit contracts with the company; defendants were obligated to assign to their employer the ownership rights of products they worked to develop; the individual defendants breached their duty of loyalty to their employer; and the individual defendants misappropriated trade secrets. The district court denied in full FEI's motion, and granted in part and denied in part Farmobile's motion.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that because no contract bound the parties during Defendant Nuss' term of employment, Nuss was not in breach of an explicit contract; FEI has not shown that any of the individual defendants was similarly "specifically directed" during their product-development process, so no implied contracts were created under the hired-to-invent doctrine; FEI failed to show the individual defendants breached their duty of loyalty to their employer; FEI cannot maintain a trade secret claim under the Nebraska Trade Secrets Act (NTSA) or the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA); and the remaining claims are unpersuasive. View "Farmers Edge Inc. v. Farmobile, LLC" on Justia Law