Articles Posted in Contracts

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Buyers and Sellers entered into a contract for deed of property. The contract for deed indicated that Buyers were purchasing the home “as is” and that neither party made any representations or warranties except those made in the contract for deed. Within a year after moving into the home, Buyers discovered major defects on the property. Buyers brought suit against Sellers alleging fraud and failure to disclose defects. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Sellers. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the circuit court erred when it applied the parol evidence rule to exclude Buyers’ extrinsic evidence and when it granted summary judgment on Buyers’ fraud claims; and (2) the circuit court erred when it granted summary judgment on their claim that Sellers violated S.D. Codified Laws 43-4-38. View "Oxton v. Rudland" on Justia Law

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Prior to their marriage in 1993, Wife and Husband entered into a pre-marriage agreement (PMA) listing their assets and liabilities. In 2012, Husband sued Wife for divorce in Minnesota. The Minnesota court determined that Butte County, South Dakota, was the proper venue to determine the issues regarding the validity and enforceability of the parties’ PMA. Wife filed a declaratory judgment action against Donald in Butte County requesting a judgment declaring the PMA valid and enforceable and asking the court to construe the rights and interests of the parties under the PMA. The circuit court declared the PMA valid and enforceable and interpreted the PMA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err when it interpreted the PMA to permit tracing of earnings or property through the joint marital account and applied the marital loan concept; (2) the circuit court did not err when it adopted Wife’s expert’s report; and (3) Wife was not entitled to appellate attorney’s fees. View "Charlson v. Charlson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Family Law

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Thomas and Elizabeth Edgar entered into a lease agreement with Boyd and Merlyn Mills concerning land in Faulk County. Under the belief that he had an option to purchase the real estate at the conclusion of the lease term, Thomas Edgar later contacted an attorney to prepare a warranty deed so that the Millses could convey the real estate to the Edgars. After the Edgars’ attempts to execute the deed with the Millses failed, the Edgars sued the Millses for specific performance. The Millses counterclaimed, alleging that the Edgars breached the lease agreement. The trial court found the lease agreement ambiguous and considered parol evidence. The court ultimately concluded that the parties intended the lease agreement to be a lease with an option to purchase and ordered specific performance compelling the Millses to execute a warranty deed in favor of the Edgars. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded, holding (1) the trial court erred when it interpreted the parties’ agreement to be ambiguous and when it directed the Millses to execute a warranty deed in favor of the Edgars; and (2) under the lease, the Millses were entitled to reimbursement of their reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by reason of the Edgars’ breach of the lease agreement. View "Edgar v. Mills" on Justia Law

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David Knigge entered into an oral employment contract with Robert Knigge, who had cancer and a limited time to live, to manage a grocery store that was owned by Robert and his wife, Lynette. David alleged that the contract included a severance payment if Lynette ended David’s employment after Robert’s death. Robert died five months after entering into the contract. Lynette terminated David’s employment two months after Robert died and refused to pay the severance. David filed suit to enforce the agreement. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Lynnette, ruling that the oral contract was unenforceable under the statute of frauds because it could not be performed within one year. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in ruling that the contract was unenforceable under the statute of frauds and that there were disputes of material fact regarding the existence of the severance term. View "Knigge v. B & L Food Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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This lawsuit centered around the termination of the employment of Dr. Sonia Hernandez by Avera Queen of Peace Hospital (Avera). Hernandez brought suit against Avera and multiple persons associated with the hospital for, inter alia, defamation and breach of contract. The circuit court dismissed several of Hernandez’s causes of action and, during the ensuing jury trial, entered judgment as a matter of law dismissing the defamation action. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Avera on the breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err (1) when it dismissed several of Hernandez’s claims against Avera and the additional parties, and (2) when it dismissed Hernandez’s defamation claim during trial. View "Hernandez v. Avera Queen of Peace Hosp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Injury Law

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Kern was injured in a rear-end collision in which the other driver was at fault. Kern filed an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim with Progressive Northern Insurance Company, his insurance provider. Months of settlement negotiations ended in a stalemate. Thereafter, Kern brought an action against Progressive for bad faith, alleging that Progressive’s settlement offers had been intentionally inadequate. Kern also sought unpaid UIM benefits. After a trial, the jury awarded Kern $18,650 in unpaid UIM damages and found that Progressive had not acted in bad faith. Kern appealed, alleging several errors. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that none of Kern’s alleged errors required reversal and that the trial court did not clearly err by refusing to award attorney’s fees. View "Kern v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Tri-City Associates, LP owned and operated the Northgate Shopping Center in Rapid City. It entered into a written lease agreement with Belmont, Inc. in April 2006 for unfinished commercial space. The unfinished commercial space required substantial initial construction work before the lease was to begin on August 1, 2006. The parties experienced considerable difficulties in completing the terms of the lease. Tri-City proposed to move the start date of the lease to January 15, 2007. Belmont did not respond to the requested modification. Ultimately, Tri- City did not deliver the premises to Belmont on August 1, 2006, in the condition required under the lease and did not complete its allocated initial construction work. After Belmont did not pay rent for the first few months of the lease, Tri-City served Belmont with a notice of default under the lease. A month later, Tri-City served Belmont with a notice to quit and vacate and, in April 2007, sued to evict Belmont. Belmont answered and asserted that Tri-City materially breached the lease, which Belmont asserted relieved it of its duty to pay rent. Then, in October 2007, Belmont counterclaimed for damages for Tri-City’s failure to perform under the terms of the lease. Tri-City responded to Belmont’s counterclaim that Belmont agreed to accept the premises “as is.” Tri-City also argued that Belmont failed to provide Tri-City with written notice of Tri-City’s alleged breach and did not give Tri-City an opportunity to cure as required by the notice-and-cure provision in the lease. In this second appeal, Tri-City argued that the circuit court erred when it entered a judgment in favor of Belmont, Inc. In "Tri-City I," the South Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for the circuit court to enter “findings of fact and conclusions of law on the effect of Belmont’s failure to give notice of breach and an opportunity to cure.” On remand, the circuit court entered supplemental findings of fact and conclusions of law, interpreting the notice-and-cure provision of the lease at issue to allow for substantial compliance and found that Belmont substantially complied. It also found that Tri-City had actual notice of its material breaches and an opportunity to cure. Alternatively, the court concluded that, by bringing suit against Belmont, Tri-City repudiated any intention to perform its obligation under the lease and made futile the requirement that Belmont strictly comply with the notice-and-cure provision. It then entered a judgment in favor of Belmont. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Tri-City Associates, LP v. Belmont, Inc." on Justia Law

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Black Hills Excavating Services, Inc. (BHE) and Retail Construction Services, Inc. (RCS) entered into three subcontract agreements pursuant to which BHE agreed to perform construction services for RCS. BHE later filed suit alleging that RCS breached the subcontracts. RCS counterclaimed against BHE for breach of contract and also filed a complaint against BHE’s president, Mitch Morris, alleging that he was personally liable for BHE’s actions. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of RCS and awarded damages but did not impose personal liability on Morris. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not clearly err in determining that BHE had breached the subcontracts and that RCS was not liable for breach of contract; and (2) Morris was not personally liable for the corporation’s acts. View "Black Hills Excavating Servs., Inc. v. Retail Constr. Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Laskas entered into a contract involving real property with the Barr Partners. Believing the contract created an option, the Barr Partners attempted to buy the property listed in the contract. The Laskas contended that the contract was ambiguous and void for lack of a time of performance and lack of mutual assent. The circuit court found the contract to be unambiguous and concluded that it granted the Barr Partners a right of first refusal and limited their rights under the contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contract was ambiguous. Remanded to the circuit court to consider extrinsic evidence and to determine the parties’ intent. View "Laska v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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Fifteen-year-old Haley Gores was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Steven Smith when Smith lost control of the vehicle. Haley was treated by Dr. Lisa Miller for injuries she received during the accident. Dawn Gores, Haley’s mother and conservator, signed a general release in exchange for a settlement with Smith and Smith’s insurer. The release did not specifically name the treating physician or clinic, but it released al other claims that might develop from the accident. Haley and Dawn subsequently filed a malpractice suit against Dr. Miller and Yankton Surgical Associates (YSA), Dr. Miller’s practice group. Dr. Miller and YSA filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the release discharged Plaintiffs’ claims against them. The circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that, based on the language of the release, the malpractice claims were discharged as a matter of contract. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly determined that the release barred Plaintiffs’ claims as a matter of contract. View "Gores v. Miller" on Justia Law