Stern Oil Co. v. BrownAnnotate this Case
Defendant-Appellant James Brown owned interests in several businesses. In late 2004, he acquired and redesigned two convenience stores on opposite sides of Exit 2 on Interstate 29 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. Plaintiff-Appellee Stern Oil, a fuel distributor for Exxon Mobil Corporation, contacted Brown while he was remodeling the properties. Although Brown was negotiating with another fuel distributor, he ultimately elected to do business with Stern Oil. When Brown notified Stern Oil that he would no longer purchase its fuel, Stern Oil initiated this breach of contract action. Brown filed a counterclaim, alleging fraudulent inducement. Stern Oil argued that Brown contracted to purchase a minimum amount of fuel for a ten-year period. The circuit court granted Stern Oil's motion for summary judgment on both the breach of contract claim and on Brown's counterclaim, but the issue of damages proceeded to trial. After trial, the circuit court awarded Stern Oil eight years of lost profits. Brown appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment. Both Brown's fraudulent inducement counterclaim and Stern Oil's breach of contract claim involved disputed material facts. Therefore, the Court concluded the circuit court erred in granting Stern Oil summary judgment. The case was remanded for further proceedings.