Baseball Sues Biogenesis for Tortious Interference with Contract

Hello baseball fans and contract law fans! (That would be an interesting Venn diagram.) Anyway, this morning Major League Baseball sued Biogenesis (among others) for allegedly tortiously interfering with the “Joint Drug Agreement” between MLB and the MLB Players Association. The basic theory is (1) that MLB and the MLBPA have a contract pursuant to which the players agree not to use drugs and (2) that Biogenesis interfered with that contract by giving drugs to certain players.

Bonds & Steroids

Craig Calcaterra is one of my favorite baseball writers–and he also happens to be a former lawyer. He’s got a post up at NBC’s Hardball Talk in which he helpfully provides a copy of MLB’s Complaint; he concludes that the “lawsuit is crazy on its face” and “should be thrown out of court.” Indeed, Calcaterra is “shocked Major League Baseball found someone who would file it.”

Well, I’m not so sure… Continue reading

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Daily Decisions: Apportionment of “Just Compensation” to a Commercial Tenant

I should admit at the outset that I don’t really like this case. The whole thing seems unfair. But I’m not sure how much of that perceived unfairnes is just the way it is, or whether perhaps the case should have been decided differently. I have no idea.

With that disclaimer, here is City of Puyallup v. Carl R. Hogan (Division 2, May 16, 2012). Carl Hogan owns a shopping center in Puyallup. But he used to own a little bit more. A “small portion” of his shopping center was condemned by the City in connection with a road construction project. As a taking, Hogan was entitled to “just compensation,” which a jury calculated at $5,150,000. That award was based, at least in part, on the City’s elimination of a road, which would reduce traffic and access to the center (and therefore reduce the number of shoppers).

Okay, so far so good. But then Borders (the shopping center’s “anchor tenant”) claimed that it was entitled to a portion of the award. The trial court agreed and awarded $948,000 to Borders after a “bench apportionment trial.” I admit that this is the first time I’ve ever heard of such a procedure. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: County and Coordinating Contractor Not Liable to Injured Worker as “General Contractors”

Ignacio Cano-Garcia was injured on a construction project owned by King County and monitored by Jacobs Civil, Inc. While working with cement, the mixture got into his boots and attached to his skin; he required skin graft surgery for his injuries. Cano-Garcia claimed that King County and Jacobs “each had a duty to protect him from injury” on the project.

In Ignacio Cano-Garcia v. King County (Division 2, May 8, 2012), the Court of Appeals disagreed, holding as a matter of law that neither Jacobs nor the County owed a duty to Cano-Garcia to protect him from injury. Rather, that duty belonged to Kenny/Shea/Traylor (“KST”), one of eight general contractors on the project and the one for which Cano-Garcia worked. However, under the workers’ comp system, KST was immune from suit. (Also under the workers’ comp system, Cano-Garcia received payments from the Department of Labor for his medical bills and lost time.) Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Contractor Must Comply with Contractual Pre-Claim Requirements Before Suing City

The Court of Appeals in Realm, Inc. v. City of Olympia (Division 2, March 13, 2012) (published May 8, 2012), concluded that because Realm had not complied with its contractual pre-suit notice requirements, it had waived its ability to sue the City of Olympia following Olympia’s termination of the parties’ contract.

Realm contracted with Olympia in June 2008 to build a fish passage tunnel. Sadly, the opinion does not describe the need for this tunnel or anything else about the tunnel. And what is a fish passage tunnel anyway? Well, luckily, this website here seems to have some good information about fish tunnels in general. Enjoy! Continue reading

SCOW: Cell Phone Termination Penalties Are Not Penalties

I suspect that most of you have signed up for a one- or two-year service plan with a cell phone company. And I suspect that as part of that agreement, you agreed to pay some sort of early termination fee (“ETF”) if you terminated the contract prior to the expiration of the agreed-upon term. In Minnick v. Clearwire US LLC (Wash., May 3, 2012), the Supreme Court was tasked (by certified question from the Ninth Circuit) with deciding whether that ETF provision is an alternative performance provision (“APP”) or a liquidated damages provision (“LDP”). Why is this important? Well, LDPs are subject to a “penalty” analysis to determine whether they are enforceable, while APPs are not subject to any such review.

Here, the Supreme Court concluded that Clearwire’s ETF was an APP because (1) customers had a “real option” at the time of contracting and (2) the option was of “relatively equal value” when compared to the alternative of fulfilling the rest of the service contract. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Contract Madness!

I’m not ashamed to say it: I really like contracts. But I admit that I can’t really make heads or tails of Wright v. Dave Johnson Insurance Inc. (Division 2, February 22, 2012) (published April 25, 2012), a recently published contract case. Perhaps one of my three non-family readers could shed some light on this interesting and confusing case. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: No Restitution for the Weary

Kofmehl v. Baseline Lake, LLC (Division 3, April 12, 2012), is a very interesting case involving contracts for the sale of real estate, the statute of frauds, restitution, rescission, and burdens of proof. Really, it’s got a little bit of something for everyone!

Under Washington law, “[w]hen a purchase and sale agreement is determined to be void under the statute of frauds, the court may grant rescission and award restitution, restoring the parties to their precontractual positions. But a purchaser who relies on the statute of frauds to avoid the contract may not obtain restitution if the vendor is ready, willing, and able to perform as agreed.”

That’s the well-established rule in Washington. What is not so well established, however, is who bears the burden of proof of establishing whether the seller is ready, willing, and able to perform as agreed. The Court of Appeals addresses that question — and more — in this opinion. Continue reading