Prospect ECHN, Inc. v. Winthrop Resources Corp., No. 21-3416 (8th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Certain healthcare entities entered into a lease agreement and related lease schedules with Winthrop Resources Corporation (Winthrop). Prospect ECHN, Inc. (Prospect) purchased the healthcare entities’ assets and later sought to be released from their obligations to Winthrop. After negotiations failed, Prospect filed suit against Winthrop, alleging that the schedules must be recharacterized as security interests under the Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.), as adopted by Minnesota. If recharacterized as security interests, Prospect owns the equipment that Winthrop had leased to it and can argue that Winthrop must return any security deposits and excess payments. If the schedules are true leases, however, Prospect owes Winthrop the amounts due under the contracts. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Winthrop, concluding that the agreement and schedules constitute true leases and that Prospect had breached them. The court awarded damages to Winthrop and determined that it was entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that although the U.C.C. demands recharacterization under its bright-line test or when so compelled by the facts of the case, it does not demand so here, where the parties negotiated a lease agreement and related schedules that skirt the line of creating security interests without crossing it. Thus, the court concluded that the district court correctly granted summary judgment in Winthrop’s favor. Further, the court found no error in the award of damages in the amount of the unpaid lease charges and other amounts due, as well as in the amount of the accelerated lease charges.
Court Description: [Wollman, Author, with Kelly and Kobes, Circuit Judges] Civil case. The agreements the parties signed to provide plaintiff certain hardware and software were leases, not security interests under Minn. Stat. Sec. 336.1-203, and plaintiff breached the leases; the district court did not err in awarding defendant damages of $4.8 million, as well as attorneys' fees and costs.