Proximate cause is a necessary element in tort law, but also applies to claims of breach of commercial contract.  In a recent decision by Justice Barry R. Ostrager in MUFG Union Bank, N.A. v. Axos Bank et al., No. 652474/2019, 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 51101(U) (Sup. Ct., New York County Sept. 25, 2020), the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court, New York County addressed, among other things, the issue of whether a defendant’s breach was a proximate cause of plaintiff’s damages in denying one defendant’s motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss plaintiff’s breach of contract claim.

The parties to the action are MUFG Union Bank, N.A. (“Union”), Epiq Systems, Inc. (“Epiq”), and Axos Bank, Axos Fiduciary Services, Axos Nevada, LLC, and Seller Sub, LLC (collectively, “Axos”).

On or about September 27, 2012, Union and Epiq entered into a Joint Services Agreement (“JSA”), effective October 1, 2012, as amended. Pursuant to the JSA, Union and Epiq agreed, among other things, “to jointly promote their products and services to bankruptcy and insolvency professionals and also fiduciary types as may be agreed upon by the parties on a case-by-case basis,” which professional and fiduciary types were deemed “Joint Clients”. Specifically, Union provided deposit services to bankruptcy trustee customers and Epiq provided software services to bankruptcy trustee customers. The JSA expressly restricted Union and Epiq’s ability to assign the JSA or transfer Joint Client relationships or accounts without the other’s prior written consent. Notwithstanding this restriction, Epiq, without consent of Union, decided to sell its software business to Axos. In order to circumvent the anti-assignment provision in the JSA, Epiq established Seller Sub, LLC (“Seller Sub”), identified as “a special purpose entity wholly owned by Epiq and allegedly created for the sole purpose of effectuating the transfer of the JSA to Axos without Union’s consent.” Epiq formed Seller Sub one day before entering into a fifh amendment of the JSA with Union. Epiq then transferred the JSA to Seller Sub. Axos then acquired Seller Sub with the JSA. But Epiq directly transferred its software business to Axos. Thereafter, Axos terminated the JSA with Union and the action ensued.
Continue Reading Proximate Cause In Breach Of Contract Actions: Is Loss A Foreseeable Consequence Of Circumstances Created By The Breaching Party?

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