1. The Fifth Circuit vacated its panel opinion in Sawyer v. duPont to certify two questions to the Texas Supreme Court — paraphrased slightly, they were (1) whether an at-will employee can sue for fraud for loss of employment, and (2) whether a 60-day “cancellation-upon-notice” collective bargaining agreement would change a “no” answer to (1). The Texas Supreme Court has now answered those questions: “no” as to the basic question about a fraud claim arising from at-will employment, and “in the situation presented, no” to the second question about the effect of the CBA. “The Employees argue that it would contravene public policy to allow an employer to benefit from its duplicity, but public policy is not better served by allowing contracting parties to circumvent their agreement.” No. 12-0626 (Tex. April 25, 2014). (The Fifth Circuit formally adopted that reasoning and affirmed on June 11, 2014).
2. Similarly, the Court vacated its panel opinion in Ewing Construction v. Amerisure Insurance Corp. to certify the question whether a CGL policy’s “Contractual Liability Exclusion” would reach a contract in which a contractor commits to work in a “good and workmanlike manner.” The Texas Supreme Court answered “no”: “[A] general contractor who agrees to perform its construction work in a good and workmanlike manner, without more, does not enlarge its duty to exercise ordinary care in fulfilling its contract, thus it does not ‘assume liability’ for damages arising out its defective work so as to trigger the Contractual Liability Exclusion.” No. 12-0661 (Tex. Jan. 17, 2014). The opinion has been called a “significant reassurance” to policyholders in the construction business.