Articles Posted in Contracts

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Upon their divorce, Wife and Husband entered into a marital dissolution agreement (MDA) that contained a provision entitling the prevailing party to an award of appellate attorney’s fees in subsequent legal proceedings. The MDA was incorporated into the parties’ final divorce decree. Wife later filed a relocation motion seeking to modify the parties’ parenting plan. Wife then filed a motion for judgment against Husband for reimbursement of uncovered medical expenses. After a hearing, the trial court granted both motions filed by Wife and awarded Wife attorney’s fees based on the MDA. The court of appeals affirmed but declined Wife’s request for an award of fees and costs on appeal. Wife appealed, arguing that she was entitled to appellate attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Wife was entitled to an award of appellate attorney’s fees incurred before the court of appeals under the parties’ MDA. View "Eberbach v. Eberbach" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Family Law

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In 2007, Landlord entered into a written agreement for the lease of commercial real estate to Tenant. In 2009, Landlord filed a complaint against Tenant and Richard Johnson alleging that Tenant breached the lease and that Johnson breached the personal guaranty agreement in the lease. The trial court dismissed Landlord’s claims against Johnson, concluding that Johnson was not personally liable for the obligations in the lease because he did not sign the lease in his personal capacity. At issue on appeal was whether Johnson agreed to be personally liable for Tenant’s obligations when he signed the agreement a second time. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Johnson’s second signature, “which followed a paragraph clearly indicating that the parties agreed that [Johnson] would be personally responsible for [Tenant’s] obligations,” was effective to bind Johnson. Remanded. View "MLG Enters., LLC v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action against Defendant within the extended statute of limitations set by a tolling agreement. Plaintiff voluntarily nonsuited the action and refiled it within one year but after the extended statute of limitations in the tolling agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, determining that the case was not timely filed. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the tolling agreement precluded application of the savings statute and, therefore, Plaintiff’s claims were barred. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the parties’ agreement, the savings statute applied to save the suit that Plaintiff refiled after the extended statute of limitations set in the tolling agreement but within the one-year period provided by the savings statute. Remanded. View "Circle C. Constr., LLC v. Nilsen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a bank, filed suit against multiple defendants for fraud, constructive fraud, civil conspiracy, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and violation of the Tennessee Securities Act. Three non-resident defendants (the “Ratings Agencies”) moved to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction under a theory of general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction; but (2) vacated the dismissal of Plaintiff’s action against the Ratings Agencies on the theory of conspiracy jurisdiction, holding that although Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of conspiracy jurisdiction at this point, the case must be remanded for the trial court to determine if Plaintiff should be allowed to conduct jurisdictional discovery on the conspiracy theory of personal jurisdiction in a manner consistent with the guidelines set forth in this opinion. View "First Cmty. Bank, N.A. v. First Tennessee Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Prentice Delon Hyler sought health care services from Action Chiropractic Clinic, LLC (Plaintiff) after she was injured in an automobile accident. Hyler executed an “Assignment of Rights” to Plaintiff for medical benefits payable to Hyler by Erie Insurance Exchange. Erie was the automobile liability insurance provider for the opposing driver involved in the accident. Erie and Hyler entered into a settlement agreement providing that Erie would pay Hyler $8,510 for claims relating to the accident. Plaintiff sued both Erie and Hyler seeking to recover the $5,010 it was owed from Hyler. The trial court granted Erie’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the Assignment of Rights was not a valid assignment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the assignment in this case was ineffective. View "Action Chiropractic Clinic, LLC v. Hyler" on Justia Law

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Buyer purchased a manufactured home from Sellers. The parties entered into a contract setting forth the terms of the sale and the parties obligations. The contract contained an arbitration provision under which Sellers retained the right to seek relief in a judicial forum for limited purposes. Buyer later brought a breach of contract action against Sellers, and Sellers filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion to compel, holding that the non-mutuality remedies in the arbitration provision rendered it unconscionable and invalid. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Sellers’ retention of a judicial forum for limited purposes did not render the arbitration agreement unconscionable. View "Berent v. CMH Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff contracted to sell Defendants certain real property. The contract provided that Plaintiff would retain ownership of a sixty-foot wide strip of property to provide access to her remaining property, but the warranty deed failed to include the reservation. When it became difficult for Plaintiff to access her property due to improvements on the purchased real property, Plaintiff sued Defendants, alleging, among other claims that were subsequently dismissed, breach of contract. The trial court ruled for Plaintiff on the breach of contract claim and awarded her $650,000 in damages. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the gravamen of Plaintiff’s prevailing claim was injury to real property, and therefore, the claim was barred by the three-year statute of limitations applicable to “actions for injuries to personal or real property.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s claim was not barred by the three-year statute of limitations because the gravamen of Plaintiff’s prevailing claim was breach of contract, to which the six-year statute of limitations for “actions on contracts not otherwise expressly provided for” applied. View "Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enters., LP" on Justia Law

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A man and a woman entered into a contract with a surrogate and her husband that provided for the surrogate to be artificially inseminated by the sperm of the intended father. After giving birth, the surrogate was meant to relinquish the child to the biological father and the intended mother. Seventeen days prior to the birth of the child, a juvenile court issued a consent order that declared the paternity of the child, granted custody to the intended parents, and terminated the parental rights of the surrogate. Approximately one week after the surrogate gave birth, she filed a series of motions asking the magistrate to vacate the consent order, set aside the surrogacy contract, and award her custody. The magistrate denied the motions. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the portion of the juvenile court’s order terminating the parental rights of the surrogate but otherwise affirmed, holding (1) public policy requires compliance with the statutory procedures for the termination of parental rights and does not allow parties to terminate the parental rights of a traditional surrogate through judicial ratification of a traditional surrogacy contract; and (2) in this instance, the contractual provisions circumventing the statutory procedures for the termination of parental rights were unenforceable. Remanded. View "In re Baby" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Family Law

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On July 28, 2012, Michael Becker was injured when a Ford truck driven by his son, Phillip Becker, struck a light pole. Michael and his wife filed suit against Ford Motor Company. On August 26, 2013, Ford filed an answer claiming that the accident was caused by a person other than Ford. On October 1, 2013, the Beckers filed a motion to join Phillip as a party to whom fault could be apportioned and a motion to file an amended complaint. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether, after a defendant asserts a comparative fault claim against a non-party tortfeasor who was known to the plaintiff when the original suit was filed, Tenn. Code Ann. 20-1-119 permits the plaintiff to amend its complaint to assert a claim directly against the tortfeasor named by the defendant. The Court held (1) application of section 20-1-119 is not restricted to tortfeasors who were unknown to the plaintiff when its original complaint was filed; and (2) therefore, the statute permits a plaintiff to file an amended complaint against the tortfeasor named by the defendant within ninety days after the filing of the answer in which the defendant first asserts a comparative fault claim against the tortfeasor. View "Becker v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was the minor beneficiary of a $100,000 life insurance policy. Plaintiff filed a complaint against his financial guardian and the insurance company after the guardian misappropriated the insurance proceeds. The trial court entered judgments in favor of Plaintiff. The insurance company appealed. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that, by entrusting the proceeds to the guardian, the insurance company breached its contractual duties. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the insurance company acted in good faith when it relied upon the validity of a juvenile court order establishing a financial guardianship in making payment of the life insurance proceeds, and (2) therefore, the insurance company could not be liable for breach of contract. View "Hood v. Jenkins" on Justia Law