Articles Posted in U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Contractor contracted to build a restaurant in Minnesota, promising to pay each subcontractor, upon receipt of payment from the owner, the amount to which the subcontractor was entitled. Appellant became the subcontractor for carpentry and drywall work. Upon completing its work, Appellant was not paid the full amount owed. After Contractor settled a dispute with the restaurant, it offered Appellant a smaller sum, claiming it was Appellant's pro rata share of the settlement proceeds. Appellant rejected the offer and sued Contractor and its Owner in state court. Owner and his wife subsequently filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief, with the debt to Appellant unsatisfied. Appellant commenced this adversary proceeding to have the debt declared nondischargeable. The bankruptcy appellate panel (BAP) determined that neither 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(4) nor 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(6) barred discharge of the debt. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Owner was not a section 523(a)(4) fiduciary by reason of a Minnesota statute or Owner's Minnesota common law duties, nor did Contractor's use of its own property amount to embezzlement; and (2) the BAP did not err in finding no malicious injury, which resolved the section 523(a)(6) issue. View "Reshetar Sys., Inc. v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Torrance Bunch and Fernando Sanchez-Garcia were each convicted by a jury of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. The jury also found Bunch guilty of three counts of distribution of five grams or more of methamphetamine. On appeal, Bunch alleged that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and Sanchez-Garcia contended that the district court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial and committed other trial-related errors. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) by repeatedly rejecting all options except self-representation, after having been warned of the consequences, Bunch necessarily chose self-representation, and thus, the district court's ruling did not violate Bunch's rights under the Sixth Amendment; (2) the prosecutor's comments during closing argument were not improper, and thus Sanchez-Garcia was not entitled to a mistrial; (3) the district court did not commit plain error by proceeding with a joint trial; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting a recording of a telephone call into evidence. View "United States v. Sanchez-Garcia" on Justia Law

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This case concerns the payment for architectural services provided by SHA to Ladco in conjunction with a large office building project. In its breach of contract claim, SHA contended that it was not paid for the services it completed under the project. The district court denied Ladco's motion for summary judgment and ultimately, the jury found in favor of SHA. Ladco subsequently appealed the district court's denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law and remanded the case for entry of judgment for SHA and against Ladco, but only for unpaid invoices, rather than the amount awarded by the jury. The court agreed with the district court that the parties' contract was ambiguous and there was no sufficient evidence as to who drafted the Statement of Intent. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give a contra preferentem instruction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Shaw Hofstra & Assoc. v. Ladco Development, Inc." on Justia Law

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This declaratory judgment action was brought by Secura, an insurer for Horizon, a subcontractor on a troubled construction project. Horizon's two other insurers, State Auto and Federated later joined. Their dispute with Weitz arose out of a construction project in which Weitz was the general contractor for Metropolitan. After Weitz and Metropolitan brought breach of contract claims against each other, both filed third party complaints against Horizon for defective plumbing. Horizon's insurers defended and settled all claims against it and reimbursed Weitz for its defense of claims against Horizon. Weitz then contended that since it was an "additional insured" on Horizon's policies, the insurers should pay for attorney fees and costs it incurred in defending against Metropolitan's entire counterclaim. The insurers filed this action seeking a final judgment that they not be required to pay the attorney fees and costs. Applying Missouri law, the court rejected Weitz's argument that Metropolitan's counterclaim asserted potentially covered losses under the policies. Therefore, the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurers because Metropolitan's counterclaim did not state an "occurrence" giving rise to a possibility of coverage under the policies. View "Secura Ins. v. Weitz Co., et al." on Justia Law

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Carolyn M. Louper-Morris and her son, William J. Morris, were convicted of, among other things, conspiracy and fraud charges related to the activities they carried out through their company, CyberStudy101. Louper-Morris raised six issues on appeal: (1) the district court erred by denying her motion to dismiss the indictment because the United States made a material misrepresentation to the grand jury; (2) the district court erred in overruling her objection under Batson v. Kentucky; (3) the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions; (4) the United States intimidated one of her witnesses thereby depriving her of the right to present a complete defense; (5) the district court erred by enhancing her base level offense for her role as a leader or organizer under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1; and (6) cumulative trial errors warranted reversal or at least remand. Morris raised six issues on appeal: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the wire and mail fraud statutes exceeded Congress' authority to legislate in violation of the Tenth Amendment; (3) the district court erred by not allowing the jury to view the live website at issue; (4) the district court erred in overruling his objection under Batson; (5) the district court erred in enhancing his base offense level under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1 and 2B1.1(b)(9)(C); and (6) the district court's restitution order improperly included restitution to an entity that was already receiving compensation from a settlement agreement. The court rejected each of defendants' claims and affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Louper-Morris; United States v. Morris, Jr." on Justia Law

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The State challenged the Secretary's decision to accept four parcels of land within the geographic boundaries of the State into trust for the benefit of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation, a federally recognized Indian tribe. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary and the State appealed. The court held that, because the State lacked standing to bring a constitutional due process claim and did not raise any additional arguments on appeal, the State was not entitled to relief. The court dismissed and did not reach the merits. View "State of South Dakota, et al. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, et al." on Justia Law

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The Weitz Company sued MacKenzie House and MH Metropolitan for breach of construction contract. Arrowhead and Concorde were third-party defendants. MH Metropolitan counterclaimed for breach of the same contract, seeking liquidated damages and the cost to complete the project. Arrowhead also counterclaimed. The jury returned a verdict for MH Metropolitan, Arrowhead, and Concorde on Weitz's claim. The district court denied post-judgment motions and Weitz appealed. The court held that there was a legally sufficient evidentiary basis for the jury's verdict; the district court properly exercised its discretion in excluding the evidence of other projects; the district court correctly decided that the issue of liquidated damages and completion costs were issues of fact that were properly submitted to the jury; there was a legally sufficient evidentiary basis for the district court to deny judgment as a matter of law for Weitz's breach-of-contract claims against Arrowhead; the district court did no err in refusing to enter a default judgment against Concorde when it failed to appear at trial, or in the alternative, refusing to grant Weitz judgment as a matter of law on its claims against Concorde; and because the district court properly found against Weitz on all issues, there was no reason to consider the issue of vicarious liability. View "The Weitz Co. v. MacKenzie House, et al." on Justia Law

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Reshetar Systems, Inc. appealed a judgment of the bankruptcy court determining that the debt owed to Reshetar by debtor was not excepted from discharge. The court held that the debt was not excepted from discharge as the trustee of a constructive trust was not a fiduciary within the meaning of Code. Sec. 523(a)(4) and Minnesota law did not create the fiduciary relationship required by the section. The court also held that nothing in the statute, the contract, or the subcontract gave Reshetar specific property rights in the payments Construction 70 received from Applebee's. Those payments belonged to Construction 70, and Construction 70's use of its own property did not amount to embezzlement. The court also held that Construction 70's use of its own property did not amount to larceny where the payments from Applebee's to Construction 70 belonged to Construction 70. The court finally held that, giving due regard to the bankruptcy court's opportunity to judge debtor's credibility, the court could not say that the bankruptcy court's finding was clearly erroneous. View "Reshetar Systems, Inc. v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed this diversity action to foreclose a contractor's lien and an architect's and engineer's lien against Phoenix Land & Acquisition, LLC (Phoenix Land) and Phoenix Health, LLC (Phoenix Health), as owners of the property in dispute, and three financial institutions with recorded security interests in the property. Phoenix Land filed a counterclaim, asserting breach of contract, negligence, breach of implied warranty, breach of fiduciary relationship, and deceptive trade practices by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs appealed the district court's order denying their motion to compel arbitration of Phoenix Land's counterclaim. The court held that the district court did not err in finding plaintiffs' motion to compel arbitration on the ground that they had waived their right to arbitrate the dispute; they knew of the right and acted inconsistently with that right; and Phoenix Land suffered prejudice by plaintiffs' inconsistent actions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the court. View "Erdman Co., et al. v. Phoenix Land & Acquisition, et al." on Justia Law