September 23, 2014

Tenth Circuit: Questions of Fact Existed Regarding ADA Violations; Summary Judgment Inappropriate

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. on Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co., parent company of J.M. Hollister, LLC, d/b/a Hollister Co., has two designs for its stores in shopping malls. One design features a raised “porch” entrance, where the porch is raised by two steps and there is no ramp. The Orchard Park Town Center and Park Meadows Mall Hollister stores have the “porch” design. Anita Hansen, a member of The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) who uses a wheelchair, tried to enter the Hollister store at Orchard Park and could not access the store via the “porch.” She was told by a store employee to use a side entrance, but it was locked. When an employee opened the door, there was no room for Hansen to maneuver her wheelchair into the store. She had a similar experience at the Park Meadows store. The experiences were humiliating for Hansen.

CCDC notified Abercrombie and Hollister that these stores violated the ADA. Attempts to settle failed, and CCDC brought suit in federal district court. CCDC added class complaints challenging the “porch” design at Hollister stores throughout the United States. Abercrombie corrected some of the barriers by lowering sales counters, rearranging merchandise so wheelchair-bound customers could access the store, and ensuring the side door remained unlocked. However, it kept the “porch” design.

After plaintiff filed a third amended complaint, Abercrombie moved to dismiss, arguing plaintiffs lacked Article III standing. However, the district court disagreed, finding a “real and immediate threat” of future harm if the ADA violations were not remedied. The plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking for judgment as a matter of law on whether the porch at the Park Meadows Hollister violated Title III of the ADA. This motion was granted. Thereafter, some plaintiffs withdrew and another wheelchair-bound plaintiff, Ms. Farrar, was added. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, plaintiffs seeking summary judgment that all Hollister stores with the porch-like entrance violated Title III of the ADA and defendants seeking summary judgment on standing, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to prove a concrete injury in fact. The district court granted plaintiffs’ motion in full and denied Abercrombie’s. The court held that plaintiffs proved standing, Abercrombie’s changes to the Park Meadows Hollister did not moot the claim against the porch entrance, and it entered a permanent injunction ordering Abercrombie to bring all stores into compliance with Title III of the ADA within three years. Abercrombie appealed.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed standing, finding that just because Farrar and Hansen were ADA testers, that did not deprive them of Title III standing. Further, because Ms. Farrar has standing, she has standing as the representative of a nationwide class. The Tenth Circuit declined to overturn the district court’s class certification, finding that the numerosity element of Rule 23 was met and that it would be impracticable to join all potential class members. Next, the Tenth Circuit turned to the ADA claims. The district court found that Abercrombie violated the ADA in three ways: (1) the raised porch design violated the broad statutory requirements of the ADA by providing “different or separate” accommodation that was not in the most integrated setting; (2) the porch was a “space” as defined by the Design Standards, and Abercrombie must comply with regulations regarding circulation routes and accessibility; and (3) because the porch was an “entrance,” it violated the Design Standards’ mandate that the entrance used by the majority of people be accessible. The Tenth Circuit disagreed that Abercrombie’s use of the porch design violated the ADA, holding instead that the design itself was what violated the ADA and the accessibility must be evaluated by the Design Standards. The Tenth Circuit held that each of the district court’s grounds for awarding Plaintiffs summary judgment was untenable.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment to Abercrombie, affirmed the class certification, but reversed the grant of summary judgment to plaintiffs. The case was remanded for further determination of the issues. The dissent would not have certified the class.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Dismissal Prior to Completion of Bankruptcy Case Re-Vests Claims in Debtors

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Mackall v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. on Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Bankruptcy—Dismissal—Standing—Issue Preclusion—Failure to State a Claim.

Plaintiffs purchased a home and subsequently refinanced it. After the court issued a written order authorizing JPMorgan Chase Bank (Chase), the assigned lender, to sell the house, plaintiffs filed a Chapter 13 petition for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court dismissed the bankruptcy proceeding before confirmation of a plan or discharge. Plaintiffs thereafter filed a civil complaint against Chase, alleging that Chase’s note was fraudulent and that Chase was not the proper party to enforce it. The district court granted Chase’s motion to dismiss some of plaintiffs’ claims.

On appeal, Chase contended that plaintiffs lacked standing to assert any claims against it because (1) all of the claims were actionable when plaintiffs filed for bankruptcy, and (2) plaintiffs failed to disclose the claims to the bankruptcy court. When a bankruptcy case is dismissed, the debtor is granted standing to assert any claim that it possessed before it filed for bankruptcy, regardless of whether it disclosed the claim to the bankruptcy court during the bankruptcy proceedings. Here, the dismissal of the bankruptcy petition re-vested the claims in plaintiffs, and they had standing to bring those claims against Chase after the dismissal.

Plaintiffs argued that the district court erred in dismissing some of their claims based on issue preclusion. The district court held that both the CRCP 120 order authorizing sale and the bankruptcy court order allowing Chase’s proof of claim precluded some of plaintiffs’ claims. Because the bankruptcy court ruling had preclusive effect on these issues, plaintiffs were barred from re-litigating the issues that were dismissed based on issue preclusion.

Plaintiffs also argued that the district court erred by dismissing several of their claims for failure to state a claim. Because the complaint failed to allege that Chase filed the CRCP 120 actions for any purpose other than to obtain an order authorizing sale, the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ abuse of process claim. Plaintiffs’ complaint failed to allege that their property was on the market for sale and, therefore, the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ slander of title claim. Additionally, plaintiffs claims for breach of contract, implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and promissory estoppel were properly dismissed because the statute of frauds barred any unwritten modification of the loan agreement. Finally, because Chase had the right to seek enforcement of the promissory note against plaintiffs, plaintiffs’ claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress failed. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Entire Lease Void Where District Exceeded Leasing Authority

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rocky Mountain Natural Gas, LLC v. The Colorado Mountain Junior College District on Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Lease—Municipality—Void—Reformation—Equitable Estoppel—Compensation.

Rocky Mountain Natural Gas, LLC (RMNG) and Colorado Mountain Junior College District(CMC) entered into a lease allowing RMNG to construct and operate a natural gas compressor station on CMC property. Despite the statutory three-year term limit on CMC’s authority to lease district property, the lease included an initial term of twenty years, with an option for RMNG to extend the lease for an additional twenty-year term. RMNG spent approximately $2.5 million in reliance on the lease, and CMC thereafter took action to set aside the lease as unenforceable, because the term of the lease exceeded CMC’s statutory authority. The court granted summary judgment in favor of CMC.

On appeal, RMNG contended that the district court erred by determining that the lease was entirely void and unenforceable. Because the evidence did not clearly show that CMC desired to lease the property for less than the twenty-year term stated in the agreement with RMNG, it was within the discretion of the district court to reject reformation of the contract as an appropriate equitable remedy. Further, because the entire contract was void, the court could not use the “savings clause” to reform the contract to the maximum three years. Accordingly, the district court did not err in determining that the term of years could not be reformed and that the entire lease was void and unenforceable.

RMNG also contended that the district court erred by refusing to apply equitable estoppel against CMC to prevent manifest injustice. Where a contract is void because it is not within a municipality’s power to make, the municipality cannot be estopped to deny the validity of the contract. Here, because CMC had no power to lease district property for any term exceeding three years, principles of estoppel do not apply against CMC. Accordingly, the district court did not err when it allowed CMC to deny the validity of the lease.

RMNG further argued that the district court erred because it refused to hold a hearing or make factual findings that would permit it to craft a remedy that fully compensated RMNG for CMC’s breach. CMC refunded the lease payments it received from RMNG. Accordingly, RMNG was fully compensated for the benefit it conferred on CMC and the district did not err when it denied further relief and granted summary judgment in favor of CMC. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Erroneously Denied Party Its Counsel of Choice

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People v. Hoskins on Monday, September 8, 2014.

Disqualification of Retained Counsel of Choice—Colo. RPC 1.9(a).

In this original CAR 21 proceeding, the Supreme Court reviewed the trial court’s order disqualifying petitioners’ retained counsel of choice under Colo. RPC 1.9(a). The trial court found that counsel previously represented another party in the same matter for which counsel now represents petitioners, and that the former client and petitioners have materially adverse interests. The Court held that, because the record before it was insufficient to support a finding that the interests of petitioners and the former client are materially adverse in this criminal proceeding, the trial court abused its discretion by disqualifying petitioners’ retained counsel of choice under Colo. RPC 1.9(a). Accordingly, the Court made the rule absolute, reversed the trial court’s order disqualifying petitioners’ counsel of choice, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Civil Access Pilot Project Extended to June 30, 2015

Chief Justice Directive 11-02 was amended in July to extend the period for the Civil Access Pilot Project until June 30, 2015. In June 2013, the project was extended to December 31, 2014. The court extended the pilot project for an additional six months in order to eliminate confusion, give the court time to determine whether the project achieved its stated goals, and consider what changes should be made to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, if any.

The Civil Access Pilot Project was developed in order to streamline the litigation process by identifying and narrowing issues at the earliest stage of litigation, require active ongoing case management by a single judge, and attempt to keep litigation costs proportionate to the issues being litigated. It applies to certain business actions, including claims for breach of contract, business tort actions, actions regarding the application of the Uniform Commercial Code, actions involving commercial real property, private actions for securities fraud, actions involving intellectual property, and more.

For CJD 11-02 regarding the Civil Access Pilot Project, click here. For all the Colorado Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Directives, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Jury Verdict and Attorney Fee Award Upheld in Employee Class Action

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Garcia v. Tyson Foods, Inc. on Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

Tyson employees were required to don and doff certain protective clothing before and after performing job duties. Tyson originally compensated only certain employees for 4 to 7 minutes of this “K-code” time, eventually changing its policy to compensate all employees for 20 to 22 minutes of K-code time. However, based Tyson’s own study, employees were uncompensated for approximately 29 minutes per shift based on the times they punched in and punched out versus actual compensation.

A group of Tyson employees brought class and collective actions against Tyson, seeking unpaid wages for pre- and post-shift activities. After a jury returned an award for the employees and an attorney fee award, Tyson unsuccessfully moved for judgment as a matter of law. Tyson appealed the district court’s judgment and denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law. Tyson also argued the attorney fee award was excessive.

The Tenth Circuit addressed Tyson’s first argument – whether the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict – and found it was. The question for the jury was whether the K-code system had resulted in underpayment, and the Tenth Circuit found ample reason in the evidence to support the jury’s decision that it had, including Tyson’s own study. Tyson also challenged the proof of underpayment as to each class member. The Tenth Circuit rejected that challenge, because the proof was unnecessary, the jury could rely on representative evidence, and Tyson’s supporting cases are inapplicable.

The jury awarded less to plaintiffs than they requested. Tyson interpreted this to mean that the jury found some class members were appropriately compensated. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding the evidence supported a finding of undercompensation for all class members, and noting that Tyson’s argument was speculative.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit addressed the attorney fee award. The Fair Labor Standards Act provides a right to attorney fees to prevailing plaintiffs. The district court awarded over $3 million in attorney fees, despite the much lower awards to the plaintiffs. Because of ongoing class litigation in another county, the district court adopted a procedure whereby it reviewed the attorneys’ time records in camera, allowed disclosure of the hourly rate and number of hours worked, and allowed each side the chance to depose someone on the other side familiar with the billing process. Tyson objected to this process, instead requesting full discovery of billing records. The Tenth Circuit upheld the process and the award, finding good cause for the district court’s procedure and award.

The judgment was affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Opinion Reissued Upon Remand from U.S. Supreme Court

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in National Credit Union Administration Board v. Nomura Home Equity Loan, Inc. on Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the Tenth Circuit’s August 27, 2013 decision and remanded with instructions to reconsider in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, 134 S. Ct. 2175 (2014). The Tenth Circuit, after receiving additional briefs and reviewing CTS Corp., reinstated its original opinion. Click here for the original summary.

Colorado Supreme Court Reverses Years of Precedent in Softrock and Western Logistics

It is advantageous to employers to retain the services of independent contractors when possible. Contractors are not required to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance and employers need not pay unemployment tax out of the contractors’ wages. However, classifying workers as contractors has its risks; after an audit, the employer may be found liable for back taxes on workers who are found to be employees rather than contractors.

That is precisely what happened to Carpet Exchange in 1993, when the Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Carpet Exchange of Denver v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 859 P.2d 278 (Colo. App. 1993). The court of appeals analyzed C.R.S. § 8-70-115(1)(b) and, after applying the factors, decided that the workers in question were employees rather than contractors because they were not “customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business related to the service performed.” Since then, courts have relied on this one-factor test to determine whether long-term workers are employees or contractors.

Industrial Claim Appeals Office v. Softrock Geological Services, 2014 CO 30 (Colo. May 12, 2014), reversed that precedent. In Softrock, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected the outside employment test as dispositive of whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, ruling instead that the totality of the circumstances must be considered and no single factor can be dispositive in deciding whether an individual is customarily engaged in an independent business or trade.

Michael Santo, lead counsel in Softrock, will present a lunchtime program on Friday, August 22, 2014 at the CLE offices to discuss Softrock‘s impact on employment law. Santo will also discuss Western Logistics, Inc. v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 2014 CO 31 (Colo. May 12, 2014), a related opinion that the supreme court delivered the same day as Softrock. Employment attorneys, business attorneys, and in-house counsel should attend this informative lunchtime program.

CLE Program: Independent Contractor or Employee? Softrock‘s and Western Logistics‘ Effect

This CLE presentation will take place on August 22, 2014. Click here to register for the live program and click here to register for the webcast. You can also register by phone at (303) 860-0608.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here — MP3 audio downloadVideo OnDemand

Tenth Circuit: Ambiguities in Arbitration Agreement Must Be Resolved in Favor of Arbitration

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sanchez v. Nitro-Lift Technologies, L.L.C. on Friday, August 8, 2014.

Miguel Sanchez, along with co-plaintiffs Shane Schneider and Eddie Howard, worked for Nitro-Lift Technologies in and around Johnston County, Oklahoma, servicing and monitoring oil rigs. At the beginning of their employment, they signed a “Confidentiality/Non-Compete Agreement.” They claim they were not allowed to read the document, ask questions, or have an attorney review it before signing. The agreement, which Nitro-Lift alleges is an employment agreement despite its title, contains a broad arbitration clause requiring arbitration for “any dispute, difference or unresolved question” between Nitro-Lift and the employee.

The employees brought suit against Nitro-Lift in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, alleging violations of the FLSA because they were forced to work more than forty hours nearly every week and did not receive overtime compensation from Nitro-Lift for the hours they worked in excess of forty hours per week. In response, Nitro-Lift filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration pursuant to the provision in the purported employment agreement, or, alternatively, a motion to stay pending arbitration. Plaintiffs argued the arbitration agreement was unenforceable as to their FLSA claims for a variety of reasons, their wage disputes did not fall under the scope of the arbitration clause, the arbitration clause’s fee-shifting provisions were impermissible as to their employment dispute, and the forum selection clause and application of commercial arbitration rules make the clause unenforceable because they would force employees to pay substantial costs they cannot afford. The district court denied Nitro-Lift’s motion to compel arbitration, ruling that the contract’s broad arbitration clause did not encompass wage disputes because the contract only applied to confidentiality and non-competition. Nitro-Lift filed an interlocutory appeal, and on the same day filed a new motion to dismiss based on plaintiffs’ amended complaint adding Howard and reasserting the same issues contained in its original motion. The district court denied Nitro-Lift’s second motion as a motion for reconsideration. Nitro-Lift timely appealed and the appeals were consolidated for Tenth Circuit review.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed the dispute regarding the applicability of the arbitration clause. The Tenth Circuit found a strong presumption in favor of arbitration, noting that any ambiguities must be resolved in favor of arbitration. Because the Tenth Circuit found ambiguity regarding whether the arbitration clause applied to the dispute at hand, it ruled that arbitration was required and reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to compel arbitration.

The district court did not address plaintiffs’ FLSA claims, and the Tenth Circuit declined to address them for the first time on review, instead remanding to the district court for determination of plaintiffs’ unresolved issues. The Tenth Circuit also left for the district court determination of whether the fee-shifting provision in the arbitration clause rendered the agreement unenforceable in light of U.S. Supreme Court and Tenth Circuit precedent. The Tenth Circuit also declined to address plaintiffs’ argument that Nitro-Lift’s willingness to waive the fee-shifting provision, the forum selection clause, and the rules governing arbitration constituted an impermissible unilateral contract amendment, instead leaving this issue for the district court’s determination.

The district court’s denial of Nitro-Lift’s motion to compel arbitration was reversed and the case was remanded for further findings consistent with the Tenth Circuit’s opinion.

Tenth Circuit: Total Mix of Disclosures Adequately Advised Investors of Risks

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 880 Pension Fund v. Chesapeake Energy Corp. on Friday, August 8, 2014.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation was one of the country’s largest producers of natural gas, and in July 2008, it sold 25 million shares of common stock in a public offering. Later in 2008, the financial crisis hit, and Chesapeake suffered badly. A group of investors led by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 880 Pension Fund filed suit against Chesapeake in the Southern District of New York, citing violations of §§ 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act and alleging that the Registration Statement for the offering was materially false and misleading because Chesapeake should have disclosed that it had a risky gas price hedging strategy and that Chesapeake’s CEO, Aubrey McClendon, had pledged substantially all his stock as security for margin loans. On Chesapeake’s motion, the case was transferred to the Western District of Oklahoma. Chesapeake moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted, finding that (1) the Registration Statement disclosed the risks associated with Chesapeake’s hedging strategy; (2) Chesapeake had adequately disclosed that McClendon had pledged most of his shares for collateral; and (3) additional disclosures about McClendon’s financial resources would be unreasonable because they would require speculation. The plaintiffs appealed.

The Tenth Circuit examined Chesapeake’s disclosures prior to the stock offering and found they adequately conveyed that Chesapeake was engaging in risky hedging strategies. The Registration Statement included general information about Chesapeake’s hedging strategy and conveyed Chesapeake’s anticipated future losses due to the strategy. Additionally, SEC filings incorporated in the Registration Statement disclosed information about Chesapeake’s “knockout swaps,” which were their most risky hedge investment. Plaintiffs allege that because Chesapeake disclosed some information about its knockout swaps, it had a duty to update that information, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed. The Tenth Circuit found that the information was provided in several SEC filings, and the total mix of information available to a reasonable investor revealed sufficient information about Chesapeake’s knockout swaps.

Next, the Tenth Circuit looked at Chesapeake’s disclosures regarding McClendon’s pledging of stock for margin loans. Plaintiffs alleged that the Registration Statement did not adequately disclose McClendon’s investments. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, noting that the Registration Statement contained disclosures required by Item 403(b) and further disclosure was not required or reasonable.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment.

Tenth Circuit: ERISA Preemption Necessitated Removal to Federal Court

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Salzer v. SSM Health Care of Oklahoma, Inc. on Wednesday, August 6, 2014.

Richard Salzer received medical care at an SSM facility following an accident. At the time, he was covered by a health insurance plan, and he entered into a contract with SSM in which he authorized his health insurance company to pay for his care. SSM had a provider agreement with Salzer’s health insurance company in which it agreed to accept payment from the insurance company at a discounted rate. Although the provider agreement prohibited SSM from seeking payment for covered charges from the insured, SSM billed Salzer for the non-discounted amount.

Salzer filed suit against SSM in Oklahoma state court, alleging breach of contract, violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, deceit, and tortious interference with contract. He purported to represent a putative class of Oklahoma residents who received treatment at SSM facilities and were similarly billed in violation of provider agreements with insurance companies. Salzer sought damages and specific performance of the provider agreement. SSM removed the case to federal district court. In its notice of removal, SSM alleged that Salzer was a beneficiary of his wife’s employer-provided health plan operated by Aetna and governed by ERISA. SSM further alleged Salzer’s claims were preempted because they can be characterized as seeking to enforce rights under ERISA. Salzer moved to remove the case back to state court, but the district court denied his motion, ruling that his claims were completely preempted by ERISA.

Salzer then filed an amended complaint that reasserted his original claims and added other state law claims. SSM moved to dismiss for failure to state any ERISA claims. The district court dismissed Salzer’s complaint with prejudice, concluding that Salzer disregarded the court’s prior orders by failing to allege any ERISA claims and by continuing to argue that ERISA did not preempt the lawsuit. Salzer appealed to the Tenth Circuit.

The Tenth Circuit examined first the district court’s denial of Salzer’s motion to remand based on ERISA preemption. The Tenth Circuit looked at each of Salzer’s six claims and decided that the first five claims did not implicate ERISA and could have been remanded to state court. However, the sixth claim was indeed an ERISA claim, and the district court correctly refused to remand to the state court for determination of the ERISA claim. The Tenth Circuit found federal jurisdiction over one claim is sufficient to support removal. Because Salzer did not argue on appeal that the district court incorrectly dismissed his claims with prejudice, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.

Tenth Circuit: Case Involving Interpretation of License Agreement was Contract Dispute, Not Patent Resolution Claim

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Cellport Systems, Inc. v. Peiker Acoustic GMBH & Co. KG on Tuesday, August 5, 2014.

Cellport, a Colorado corporation, designs technology to allow vehicle owners to connect different cell phone models to a single hands-free system through specialized “pockets.” In August 2001, Cellport entered into an agreement with Peiker, a German corporation, granting Peiker a non-exclusive license to Cellport’s intellectual property. After Cellport filed a lawsuit alleging breach of the 2001 agreement, the parties came to terms on a second license agreement in October 2004. The 2004 agreement provided that Peiker would pay Cellport royalties on products that use Cellport’s intellectual property. In 2009, Cellport filed suit in the district court in Boulder County, alleging breach of the 2004 agreement and seeking royalties for seven Peiker products. Peiker removed the case to federal district court. The district court found that Peiker owed royalties on only two products, interpreting a provision in the license agreement as a “rebuttable presumption,” and awarded Cellport prejudgment interest at the statutory rate rather than the 1.5% monthly interest proscribed in the license agreement. The district court declined to award costs, determining that neither party was a “prevailing party” as defined in the license agreement. Cellport appealed and Peiker cross-appealed.

Peiker first asserted that the Tenth Circuit lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal, moving instead to transfer the appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over patent claims. The Tenth Circuit analyzed the exclusive jurisdiction provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1295 and 1338 and found that they did not apply because the claims could be analyzed under contract law, not patent law. The parties’ dispute involved the language of sections 1.17(i) and 3.5 of their license agreement, which the Tenth Circuit interpreted as involving acknowledgments of the parties requiring Peiker to pay royalties on any products included in sections 1.17(i) and 3.5.

Following its analysis that section 1.17(i) requires royalties regardless of whether Cellport’s patents were infringed, the Tenth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court and determined Peiker owed royalties on two additional products, since Peiker conceded that section 1.17(i) applied to those products. Because the district court did not rule on whether section 1.17(i) applied to the remaining product, the Tenth Circuit remanded for the district court to make further findings concerning the applicability of section 1.17(i) to that product.

Regarding its BT-PSC product, Cellport argued that royalties were due under section 1.17(i) or (iii). The contractual provisions were ambiguous, and the district court resolved the ambiguity by determining no royalties were due. The Tenth Circuit could not find clear error in the district court’s factual findings and affirmed as to the BT-PSC product.

Cellport also argued that it was due royalties for the BT-PSC product due to its ‘456 patent. Because the district court only briefly addressed the relationship between the BT-PSC product and the ‘456 patent, the Tenth Circuit remanded for further findings on that issue. Turning to Cellport’s contention of entitlement to royalties on the SIAB product, the Tenth Circuit could find no clear error in the district court’s determination that no royalties were owed.

Cellport next argued that it was due interest at the contractual rate rather than the statutory rate. The placement of the interest provision in the contract indicated that the interest rate would apply only to royalties due as a result of audits. The Tenth Circuit found the district court’s application of the statutory interest rate appropriate. As to Cellport’s contention that it was owed costs as the “prevailing party,” the Tenth Circuit noted that on remand the balance would shift and the cost provision should be reassessed.

Turning to Peiker’s cross-appeal, the Tenth Circuit addressed Peiker’s contention that since the ‘456 patent had been revoked, it owed no further royalties. Cellport appealed the revocation and that appeal is pending. Cellport argued that Peiker’s cross-appeal is not yet ripe because Cellport’s revocation appeal is still pending. The Tenth Circuit agreed with Cellport that the issue is not ripe and vacated the district court’s judgment on the issue.

The judgment of the district court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Tenth Circuit’s opinion.