ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision in a dispute between Charter Communications Operating, SATMAP Inc. (SMI) and The Resource Group International LTD.
The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District on Dec. 11 upheld the St. Louis Circuit Court’s ruling that Charter pay $90,970.17 to the respondents.
“Missouri law does not support Charter’s claim of unjust enrichment because the parties’ relationship was governed by a valid and enforceable contract,” Judge Kurt S. Odenwald wrote in the decision. Judges Robert G. Dowd Jr. and Sherri B. Sullivan concurred.
The Appeals Court stated that on the surface, Charter’s challenge to the St. Louis Circuit Court ruling that it pay attorneys' fees seemed plausible, but it was bound by Missouri law regardless of whether it seemed fair or not.
“The record before us does not suggest that respondents attempted to take advantage of Charter or benefit from any wrongdoings,” Odenwald wrote in the decision.
“The equitable principles which guide our application of unjust enrichment, in light of the particular facts before us, foreclose any ruling favorable to Charter, as unfair as that result may appear,” Odenwald added. “Importantly, we are guided by the unmistakable and clear dictate of Missouri law that a partner cannot recover damages under the equitable theory of unjust enrichment where an express contract governed the issue in dispute.”
The agreement between Charter, SMI and Resource dates back to January 2012. As part of the contract, SMI agreed to provide computer applications and tech support for Charters’ call centers. For the service, Charter agreed to prepay anticipated fees. For the first year, the fee was set at $3.6 million.
“Resource guaranteed SMI’s obligation to return promptly the remaining balance of the prepayment to Charter,” the opinion stated.
In June 2013, Charter terminated the contract and attempted to get the remainder of its prepaid fees returned. However, Charter and SMI disagreed about what that sum was. SMI calculated it as $1.5 million while Charter demanded $2.3 million.
Charter sued SMI and Resource for the money it felt it was owed and the two companies countersued.
“Charter averred that SMI’s retention of the early termination fee from the Prepayment balance breached the repayment provisions of the agreement,” the appeals court decision noted.