U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Contract Law Category

In a case brought by Ohio, and other states, charging American Express with anti-competitive behavior for the anti-steering provisions contained in its merchant agreements, the High Court found that the card people don't want to leave home without wasn't really doing anything wrong at all.

The challenge alleged that AMEX had violated section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which prohibits unreasonable restraints on trade. The petitioners claim that by charging merchants higher fees than other credit card companies, AMEX is increasing the costs to all consumers for goods and services as merchants must adjust their prices upward to account for those higher fees. The High Court wasn't buying it though.

In the closely watched Lucia v. SEC matter, the High Court has ruled in favor of the petitioner, who sought to fight the decision of the SEC's administrative law judge by challenging the ALJ's appointment.

Unfortunately for the petitioner, although he did win, the Court hasn't done anything more than give the SEC a second chance to hear his case. The silver lining, at least, is that he won't have to go up in front of the same judge.

The High Court just issued its opinion in one of the bigger cases this term, with far reaching implications for businesses large and small throughout the country. The issue of whether a state can collect tax from an out-of-state seller that makes a sale to an individual within the state has been decided in the state's favor.

And while SCOTUS warned that its specific decision only narrowly applies to the South Dakota law in question, commentators and the Court know that every state that collects sales tax is likely going to be looking over its tax codes after reviewing the guidance in the opinion.

Few cases this term have been as closely watched, or are as far reaching, as the Epic Systems v. Lewis case. The 5 to 4 decision handed down by the Court in the wage theft case held that arbitration agreements in employment contracts that ban collective action are enforceable.

For the estimated 25 million U.S. workers currently subject to these types of employment agreements, this decision is bad news. As some Court watchers are reporting, this opens up the potential for employers to go Lex Luther on their employees and steal just a little bit from each one in amounts so small, they don't even notice (or can't financially justify taking legal action).

The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act allows Native American tribes to take over certain aid programs that would otherwise be the responsibility of the federal government. The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin did just that, entering into a "self-determination contract" with the Indian Health Services.

Contracting tribes are eligible to receive money that the U.S. government would have spent on the program, but many have complained that the federal government has often failed to fully reimburse contract support cost. Those dissatisfied tribes include the Menominee, who sued after years of conflict with the federal government -- only to have some of their claims rejected for falling outside the statute of limitations. The tribe argued that equitable tolling should allow them to pursue their claims, but the Supreme Court unanimously rejected that argument on January 25th. Here's why.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court put the kibosh on a class action lawsuit by DirectTV customers. California courts, it ruled, must enforce a DirectTV arbitration agreement that prevented class-wide claims. It's the last opinion from the Court in 2015, and one of a number of recent cases emphasizing that state courts must give effect to arbitration agreements.

But that's wasn't the only news out of the High Court on Monday. In its first major action on the rights of gays and lesbians since last summer's Obergefell decision, the Supreme Court stepped in to a dispute between two lesbian parents, staying an Alabama order that would have denied one mother parental rights to her adopted children.

SCOTUS Exercises Equitable Power in Kansas Water Rights Dispute

In a fractured opinion authored by Justice Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court sided with Kansas in a battle over water rights in the Republican River Basin.

Kagan, along with the Court's four liberals, signed on to the whole opinion. Chief Justice Roberts agreed, but only to parts I and III. Justice Scalia concurred and dissented separately, and Justice Thomas concurred and dissented in part, joined by Justice Alito, Roberts, and Scalia.

Got all that?

Straw Purchasers, Political Speech, and Argentina's Bad Day

Now we're getting to the good stuff. Last week, we helped your insomnia by recapping the juice man's juiceless juice and incomprehensible cross-ideological splits -- not the sort of stuff that anyone but SCOTUS diehards can sit through without being rendered unconscious through boredom.

Fortunately, Monday has arrived, and with it, a questionable gun straw-purchaser holding, an opinion that will allow Ohio's terrible political speech restriction to be challenged, and maybe, just maybe, the collapse of a nation's economy thanks to SCOTUS and Wall Street vultures creditors.

Argentina Returns, Again Seeking Cert. in Bonds Case

We had a feeling they'd be back.

Last October, we noted that Argentina's first appeal to the Supreme Court was kicked, which wasn't particularly surprising since the appeal was filed before the Second Circuit handed down its decision (ordering Argentina to pay more than $1 billion in debt). While that petition was pending, the Second Circuit handed down its decision, and an appeal of that decision was expected.

Here it is: will the Supreme Court save Argentina from venture "vulture" capitalists, and possibly save that nation from economic collapse?

Contract Sets Timing in ERISA Claim; Clock Ticks Before Accrual

When does the timer begin to tick?

Julie Heimeshoff filed a claim for long-term disability benefits with Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co., the administrator of Walmart's Group Long Term Disability Plan, due to her diagnosis of lupus and fibromyalgia. Her claim was denied after multiple doctors, hired by Hartford, found that even with her condition, she could continue to work her largely sedentary position as a senior public relations manager. The decision took nearly two years, after both sides hired multiple doctors and ordered multiple tests.

The governing ERISA plan requires the claimant to initiate judicial action within three years after "proof of loss" is due, i.e. when she was required to submit the relevant medical evidence. She filed suit three years after her final administrative appeal was denied (or approximately five years after the "proof of loss" was due). Her argument? The clock should start when the judicial cause of action accrues -- not before. And at first blush, her argument makes sense. After all, what happens if the administrative process and appeals eats up the entire term limit?

Unfortunately for her, the Supreme Court sided with the insurer, but for good reason.