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The Security National Bank of Sioux City, IA v. Vera T. Welte Testamentary Trust

Summarizing by Amir Shachmurove

Jones, Jr. v. Castellucci

Jones, Jr. v. Castellucci, , No. 14-8060 (10th Cir. July, 6, 2015)
The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's (D. Colo.) grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff and the district court's denial of post-judgment motion to reconsider. The Tenth Circuit agreed that disputed term in settlement agreement did require defendant to make settlement payment, and defendant's failure to make payment constituted a breach. Defendant had argued that term stating that defendant would "arrange for payment" to plaintiff did not create personal obligation to pay, or was ambiguous, such that term should be reformed to match defendant's intent. The Tenth Circuit agreed that term was unambiguous, and required defendant to make payment. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that even though the parties could have used more defined or definite language, it did not make the term ambiguous. Because term was unambiguous, district court was not required to consider parties' intent and understanding regarding the term, and thus entry of summary of judgment as a matter of law, and denial of motion to reconsider based on affidavits from defendant's attorney regarding defendant's intent, were proper.
Procedural context:
Plaintiff sued defendant for breach of settlement agreement in Wyoming state court. Defendant removed case to federal court, and asserted counterclaim for reformation based on mutual mistake. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff. Defendant filed motion for reconsideration under Rule 59(e), which court denied. Defendant appealed to Tenth Circuit.
Plaintiff owned a drilling company, which he sold to defendant's company. Buyer defaulted, and plaintiff sued company and obtained judgment for more than $3.6 million. Buyer filed bankruptcy. Plaintiff moved to dismiss bankruptcy. Defendant sued plaintiff in California. The parties--plaintiff, defendant, and two judgment debtor companies entered into a settlement agreement to resolve all disputes. Under settlement agreement, defendant agreed to "arrange for payment to [plaintiff] of $1.5 million[.]" Defendant also agreed to dismiss California suit, and plaintiff assigned his $3.6 million judgment to defendant's designee. After plaintiff performed all his obligations under the settlement agreement, defendant failed to "arrange" for payment. Plaintiff sued defendant in Wyoming state court for breach of contract [the settlement agreement]. Defendant removed to federal court, and asserted a counterclaim for refromation of the agreement based on mutual mistake. Defendant argued that he had never intended to be personally liable for the payment obligation, and believed the term reflected that he was not personally liable, and was consequently ambiguous.
Matheson, Bacharach, Moritz

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