Justia Alaska Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Commercial Law
ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. v. Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc.
Williams Alaska Petroleum owned and operated a refinery, which ConocoPhillips Alaska supplied with crude oil. ConocoPhillips demanded that Williams tender a payment of $31 million as adequate assurances of Williams’s ability to perform if an ongoing administrative rate-making process resulted in a large retroactive increase in payments that Williams would owe ConocoPhillips under the Exchange Agreement. ConocoPhillips offered to credit Williams with a certain rate of interest on that principal payment against a future retroactive invoice. Williams transferred the principal of $31 million but demanded, among other terms, credit corresponding to a higher rate of interest. Williams stated that acceptance and retention of the funds would constitute acceptance of all of its terms. ConocoPhillips received and retained the funds, rejecting only one particular term in Williams’s latest offer but remaining silent as to which rate of interest would apply. Years later, after the conclusion of the regulatory process, ConocoPhillips invoiced Williams retroactively pursuant to their agreement. ConocoPhillips credited Williams for the $31 million principal already paid as well as $5 million in interest calculated using the lower of the two interest rates. Williams sued ConocoPhillips, arguing that a contract had been formed for the higher rate of interest and that it was therefore owed a credit for $10 million in interest on the $31 million principal. The superior court initially ruled for Williams, concluding that a contract for the higher rate of interest had formed under the Uniform Commercial Code when ConocoPhillips retained the $31 million while rejecting one offered term but voiced no objection to Williams’s specified interest term. On reconsideration, the superior court again ruled for Williams, this time determining that a contract for the higher rate of interest had formed based on the behavior of the parties after negotiation under the UCC, or, in the alternative, that Williams was entitled to a credit for a different, third rate of interest in quantum meruit. The superior court also ruled in favor of Williams on all issues related to attorney’s fees and court costs. ConocoPhillips and Williams both appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the superior court was right the first time and that the parties entered into a contract for the higher rate of interest under the UCC.View "ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. v. Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc." on Justia Law
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