Articles Posted in Contracts

by
At issue was the proper method for calculating the quantum meruit value of an attorney’s services when a client terminates the contingent-fee agreement before a matter concludes. Respondent retained Appellant-law firm under a contingent-fee agreement to assist with asbestos litigation. Two months before settling a claim upon which Appellant had worked for about ten years, Respondent discharged Appellant. The district court dismissed Appellant’s attempt to recover a portion of the settlement funds, concluding that Appellant failed to prove the value of the services that it had provided. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the district court applied the incorrect test for determining quantum meruit. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) district courts should use eight factors to determine the quantum meruit value of a discharged contingent-fee attorney’s services; and (2) a remand was necessary so that the district court may consider the contingent-fee argument between the parties, in addition to the other relevant factors identified herein. View "Faricy Law Firm, P.A. v. API, Inc. Asbestos Settlement Trust" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court concluding that a grain-handling contract between the parties in this case that was to “continue indefinitely” was perpetual in duration, not indefinite, and therefore not terminable at will. Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, LLLP (CVEC) sought to end its contract with Glacial Plains Cooperative on the ground that it was a contract of indefinite duration, terminable at will be either party. The district court ruled in favor of Glacial Plains, finding that CVEC had wrongfully terminated the grain-handling contract. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that the intent of the parties should prevail over the general rule that contract without definite duration are terminable at will upon reasonable notice. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) the parties’ contract was one of indefinite duration and was therefore terminable at will by either party upon reasonable notice after a reasonable time as passed; and (2) it is for the district court to weigh the evidence and apply the law to determine whether a reasonable time has passed such that the contract may be terminated at will with reasonable notice. View "Glacial Plains Cooperative v. Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

by
The common law governs provisions of an antenuptial agreement that do not fall within the safe harbor of Minn. Stat. 519.11(1), and the multifactor Kinney test is the common-law test applicable to antenuptial agreements. See In re Estate of Kinney, 733 N.W.2d 118 (Minn. 2007). Wife petitioned for dissolution and moved to set aside the antenuptial agreement she signed just before her marriage. The district court invalidated the agreement, concluding that it was procedurally unfair because Wife did not have an adequate opportunity to meet with legal counsel of her own choice and that it was substantively unfair and the time it was made and executed. The court of appeals affirmed on different grounds, concluding (1) to the extent the district court relied on Minn. Stat. 519.11 for evaluating procedural fairness, the court erred; (2) agreements that purport to distribute marital property, such as the agreement in this case, must be evaluated under the common law; and (3) the agreement was procedurally unfair. The Supreme Court affirmed after applying the Kinney factors to the entire agreement, holding that this agreement did not satisfy the common law test for procedurally fairness, and therefore, the agreement was invalid and unenforceable. View "Kremer v. Kremer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Family Law

by
The clear-and-convincing standard applies when determining the existence of an oral contract for the conveyance of farmland when only money damages are sought for the claimed breach of that contract. Plaintiff argued that the Estates of his parents were obligated under an oral contract for the sale of land to convey farm property to him. After a second trial, the jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that an oral contract existed between Plaintiff and his parents and awarded Plaintiff damages for the breach of that contract. The Estates moved for judgment as a matter of law and a new trial, arguing that the district court instructed the jury on the incorrect standard of proof. The district court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter to the district court for a new trial, holding (1) the clear and convincing evidence is required to prove that an oral contract for the sale of land existed, regardless of whether the party seeks damages or specific performance; and (2) therefore, the district abused its discretion in denying Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. View "Christie v. Estate of Dilman Christie" on Justia Law

by
Claims brought against the manufacturer of a component part of an improvement to real property fell under an exception to the ten-year statute of repose because the improvement was “machinery installed upon real property.” See Minn. Stat. 541.051. Appellant manufactured the motor in a home’s heat-recovery ventilator. Sixteen years after the ventilator was installed, a fire started in the ventilator, causing property damage to the home. Respondent, the insurer of the homeowners, brought this subrogation action against Appellant. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellant, concluding that the ten-year statute of response for improvements to real property barred every claim except the claim alleging a post-sale duty to warn, which claim it dismissed upon summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) under the plain language of section 541.051, the ventilator containing Appellant’s motor was “machinery installed upon real property,” and therefore, the court of appeals properly reinstated Respondent’s breach of warranty, negligence, and product liability claims; and (2) Appellant did not have a duty to warn consumers of its product’s alleged defect after the time of sale. View "Great Northern Insurance Co. v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Claims brought against the manufacturer of a component part of an improvement to real property fell under an exception to the ten-year statute of repose because the improvement was “machinery installed upon real property.” See Minn. Stat. 541.051. Appellant manufactured the motor in a home’s heat-recovery ventilator. Sixteen years after the ventilator was installed, a fire started in the ventilator, causing property damage to the home. Respondent, the insurer of the homeowners, brought this subrogation action against Appellant. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellant, concluding that the ten-year statute of response for improvements to real property barred every claim except the claim alleging a post-sale duty to warn, which claim it dismissed upon summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) under the plain language of section 541.051, the ventilator containing Appellant’s motor was “machinery installed upon real property,” and therefore, the court of appeals properly reinstated Respondent’s breach of warranty, negligence, and product liability claims; and (2) Appellant did not have a duty to warn consumers of its product’s alleged defect after the time of sale. View "Great Northern Insurance Co. v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

by
At issue was whether an indemnity clause in a rental agreement required the renter to indemnify the rental company for the rental company’s negligence. The Tower Tap & Restaurant entered into an agreement to rent folding picnic tables from London Road Rental Center, Inc. for an event. Plaintiff injured his hip at Tower Tap’s event after one of the rented tables collapsed on him. Plaintiff sued Tower Tap and London Road. London Road filed a cross-claim against Tower Tap, seeking contractual indemnity based on the indemnity clause in the rental agreement. The district court granted summary judgment to London Road, concluding that the clause unequivocally covered liability for London Road’s own negligence. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the indemnity clause did not include express language that clearly and unequivocally showed the parties’ intent to transfer such liability to Tower Tap. View "Dewitt v. London Road Rental Center, Inc." on Justia Law

by
A seller’s fraudulent statements about the fitness of a vehicle for the purpose for which it was purchased make disclaimers in purchase documents stating that the buyer purchased the vehicle “as is” ineffective. The district court in this case awarded relief to the buyer on both fraud and breach of warranty theories. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the buyer’s fraudulent statements about the fitness of the vehicle being sold for the purpose for which the vehicle was purchased made the “as is” disclaimers of implied warranties in the purchase documents ineffective under Minn. Stat. 336.2-316(3)(a); and (2) under the Uniform Commercial Code, a party may seek remedies for fraud, including breach of warranty, even after the rescission of a purchase contract, and therefore, the district court did not err in awarding damages under both fraud and breach of an implied warranty theories of liability. View "Sorchaga v. Ride Auto, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Contrary to the holding of the district court, Appellant filed a timely legal-malpractice claim under Minn. Stat. 541.05(1)(5). Respondent, Appellant’s attorney, prepared an antenuptial agreement for Appellant and his then-fiancee, Cynthia Gatliff, but the agreement did not include statutorily required witness signatures, making it unenforceable. One year after Appellant married Gatliff, Respondent drafted a will for Appellant that incorporated the antenuptial agreement by reference. When Gatliff later filed for divorce, she alleged that the antenuptial agreement was invalid due to its lack of witness signatures. Appellant subsequently sued Respondent for legal malpractice. While the invalid execution of the antenuptial agreement fell outside the six-year limitations period for malpractice claims, Appellant argued that subsequent representations by Respondent that the anteuptial agreement was valid were separate legal-malpractice claims that each triggered their own statute of limitations periods. The district court granted Respondent’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant sufficiently alleged that Respondent’s will drafting formed the basis for a separate malpractice claims within the limitations period. View "Frederick v. Wallerich" on Justia Law

by
Contrary to the holding of the district court, Appellant filed a timely legal-malpractice claim under Minn. Stat. 541.05(1)(5). Respondent, Appellant’s attorney, prepared an antenuptial agreement for Appellant and his then-fiancee, Cynthia Gatliff, but the agreement did not include statutorily required witness signatures, making it unenforceable. One year after Appellant married Gatliff, Respondent drafted a will for Appellant that incorporated the antenuptial agreement by reference. When Gatliff later filed for divorce, she alleged that the antenuptial agreement was invalid due to its lack of witness signatures. Appellant subsequently sued Respondent for legal malpractice. While the invalid execution of the antenuptial agreement fell outside the six-year limitations period for malpractice claims, Appellant argued that subsequent representations by Respondent that the anteuptial agreement was valid were separate legal-malpractice claims that each triggered their own statute of limitations periods. The district court granted Respondent’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant sufficiently alleged that Respondent’s will drafting formed the basis for a separate malpractice claims within the limitations period. View "Frederick v. Wallerich" on Justia Law