Courts in several cases addressed claims for breach of contract based on a party’s failure to act in good faith. So, what does good faith require under UCC section 1-304? In the following case, the court did a nice job of tying an arbitration panel's implication of a reasonability requirement in the application of a termination provision in an agreement with the obligation of good faith.
In Burton Corp. v. Shanghai Viquest Precesion Industries Co., Ltd., No. 10 Civ. 3163(DLC), 2010 WL 3024319 (S.D.N.Y. August 03, 2010), the court affirmed an arbitration award in favor of Shanghai Viquest Precesion Industries Co., Ltd. (“Viquest”) to recover for unpaid shipments of snowboard bindings made to Burton Corp. (“Burton”) for use in its snowboards and for wrongful termination of the sales agreement. The agreement permitted Burton to terminate if Viquest’s “financial position pose[d] a risk to Burton's business.” Additionally, the agreement provided that Viquest would, upon request, return Burton’s molds upon termination for any reason. During the term of the agreement and while Burton owed Viquest $1.8 million for unpaid shipments, Burton terminated, claiming financial concerns, and requested return of the molds.
When Viquest did not return the molds, Burton had to replace the molds and filed an arbitration to recover its cost of replacement as the agreement provided for arbitration of disputes. Viquest counterclaimed for its lost profits due to the early termination. The arbitration panel concluded that Burton could only terminate under the financial clause if it reasonably believed that Viquest’s financial position threatened its prospects, which Burton did not prove. Accordingly, the arbitration panel awarded Viquest its lost profits for the early termination and denied Burton’s request for the cost of replacing the molds as Burton was not itself in conformance with the agreement and owed Viquest substantial sums.
The District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Burton’s request to vacate the arbitration award against it, confirming the award in full. The court treated the reasonableness as derived from the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, citing to the U.C.C. section 1-304 obligation of good faith contained in every contract. The court observed that the obligation of good faith required Burton to have a reasonable basis for terminating the agreement. Moreover, Burton’s failure to pay Viquest for outstanding invoices put pressure on Viquest’s financial condition.