3rd Circuit Contract Law News - U.S. Third Circuit
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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday issued its opinion in Milliken v. Jacono, holding that a home's seller didn't have to disclose a murder/suicide that occurred in the house because it didn't affect the price of the house. A grisly fact pattern to be sure, but the Supreme Court rooted its opinion in the more prosaic world of real estate.

It's not every day that a district court certifies questions of law for a state's highest court, but the District Court for the District of Delaware certified not one, but four questions of law seeking guidance from the Supreme Court of Delaware.

All the questions had to do with fee shifting in a non-stock corporations bylaws: whether and under what circumstances a fee shifting provision is valid, whether such a provision is valid if adopted to deter litigation, and whether the provision is enforceable against someone who became a member before its adoption.

Since most companies are incorporated in Delaware, we thought you'd want to know. Read on to see what the Supreme Court of Delaware concluded.

This case deals with a company going through a world-wide bankruptcy involving multiple nations' courts, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the Third Circuit, and New York law -- confused yet?

We were until we got down to the nitty gritty -- and realized this was a basic Contracts 101 case.

Lawsuit Dismissed Because 56 Percent Is Less Than 60 Percent

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals interprets settlement agreements like contracts: absent ambiguity, the four corners control.

This week, the appellate court ruled that, even in the face of changing technologies, a court can't redefine the terms of a clearly-written settlement.

Third Circuit Sends Back Sprint Class Action Settlement

The entire class needs to be properly protected for valid class certification. For starters, class representatives need to have the interests of the whole class in mind. Proper notice to potential class members is also crucial to a valid class action case.

A three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a settlement between Sprint and a class of its customers last week, claiming that the $17.5 million settlement didn’t adequately protect absent class members.

Estate May Sue ERISA 401(k) Beneficiary for Proceeds

If a divorced man fails to remove his ex-wife as a beneficiary of his 401(k) plan, does she get the proceeds, despite the fact that she may have waived those rights in divorce?

And if she gets the proceeds by virtue of the operation of the plan, can the estate sue her to recover those proceeds?

Employees Must Abide by Mandatory Arbitration Agreements

Do employees waive their rights to bring a class action lawsuit when they sign mandatory arbitration agreements?

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals says yes, in a recent opinion. Employees who consent to mandatory arbitration clauses in their employment agreements must arbitrate any controversy instead of litigating it.

Public Projects of Steel? Only If It's Made in America

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a Pennsylvania state law - the Pennsylvania Steel Products Procurement Act - requiring American-made steel in public works projects unless there wasn’t a sufficient amount available.

A Delaware corporation, Mabey Bridge & Shore Inc., had challenged the law, but a lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Transportation. Mabey then appealed the case to the Third Circuit, arguing that the law was pre-empted by the federal Buy American Act and violated the Commerce, Contract and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Forever Should Be Cheaper: Third Circuit Upholds De Beers Settlement

A diamond may be forever, but it shouldn't be so expensive.

So says the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which reinstated a $295 million antitrust settlement against South African company De Beers, the world's largest diamond supplier and self-proclaimed "world's diamond experts."

The multi-million dollar settlement is part of an agreement by De Beers to remedy injuries suffered by U.S. jewelry makers, retailers and consumers who purchased diamonds and diamond jewelry beginning in 1994.

Sample Business Contracts: Even a Legal Pro Can Learn New Tricks

We lawyers have lots of dirty little secrets.

While the non-lawyers in our lives thought that we spent law school learning how to practice the law, we really spent three years “learning how to think” and realizing what high school would have been like with legal access to alcohol.

What we didn’t learn while mainlining caffeine to keep up with cliques and study groups, (which, let’s admit, were one and the same), were the nuts and bolts of the law, like how to draft wills or business contracts.