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TOWER INT'L, INC. v. CALEDONIAN AIRWAYS

February 12, 1997

TOWER INTERNATIONAL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CALEDONIAN AIRWAYS, LIMITED, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COOK

 This matter comes before the Court on post trial motions by the Plaintiff, Tower International, Inc. (Tower) and the Defendant, Caledonian Airways, Limited (Caledonian). On December 13, 1996, Caledonian filed a motion for the entry of a judgment as a matter of law, or alternatively, for a new trial. Three days later, Tower filed a motion which, if granted, would oblige the Court to set aside the verdict and conduct a new trial on the issue of damages. *fn1" For the reasons that are stated below, Caledonian's motion for a judgment as a matter of law is granted, and Tower's motion is denied.

 I

 This action arose out of the charter of a Lockheed L-1011 aircraft by Caledonian to Air Algerie in March 1990. In its Complaint, Tower claimed that it was entitled to a "finder's fee" of 5% of the charter amount for its role in representing the interests of Caledonian and procuring the lease agreement. It was Tower's specific contention that (1) it had an express brokerage agreement with Caledonian during all of the times that are relevant to this controversy, and (2) its unrewarded efforts to broker the lease agreement with Air Algerie had resulted in an unjust enrichment to Caledonian. Caledonian rejected these arguments, insisting that Tower had neither been hired to broker the lease agreement with Air Algerie nor was it the procuring cause of the lease. A jury trial ensued.

 On November 27, 1996, the jury concluded that Tower, despite not having been specifically hired by Caledonian as a broker, was the catalyst for the charter agreement between Caledonian and Air Algerie. Thereafter, the jury returned a verdict in the sum of $ 64,500 in favor of Tower on the basis of its unjust enrichment claim.

 II

 In deciding a motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), the Court must inquire if the evidence presented a sufficient disagreement which would require its submission to the jury or whether the facts were so heavily weighted that one party must prevail as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); Malarkey v. Texaco, Inc., 983 F.2d 1204, 1213 (2d Cir. 1993). The court in Richardson v. Richardson-Merrell Inc., 273 U.S. App. D.C. 32, 857 F.2d 823 (D.C. Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 882, 107 L. Ed. 2d 171, 110 S. Ct. 218 (1989), relying on Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986), explained:

 
The question for us is not whether there was some evidence, but whether in terms of "the actual quantum and quality of proof necessary to support liability," there was sufficient evidence upon which a jury could properly base a verdict for the [plaintiffs]. . . . To survive a motion for judgment n. o. v., the evidence [plaintiffs] introduced had to be more than merely colorable; it must have been significantly probative if the jury's verdict is to stand.

 857 F.2d at 828-829 (footnotes omitted); accord Metromedia Co. v. Fugazy, 983 F.2d 350, 359 (2d Cir. 1992).

 In its motion, Caledonian submits that this Court erred in its determination as a matter of law that Tower need not produce legally sufficient signed writings in order to sustain a claim for unjust enrichment. According to Caledonian, the jury in the case at bar was erroneously instructed as follows:

 
In the Plaintiff's second cause of action, it claims that even if there was no contract between the parties, the Defendant was unjustly enriched by the Plaintiff's services. Unjust enrichment is an equitable remedy that is designed to ensure a just result where there is no contract and none was intended.
 
In order to recover under a theory of unjust enrichment, the Plaintiff must show that:
 
(1) a benefit was conferred upon the Defendant; and
 
(2) as between the two parties, enrichment of the Defendant was unjust.
 
Thus, if you find that there was no contract between the parties, but that the Plaintiff was the procuring cause of the Defendant's charter to Air Algerie, and that the Defendant was unjustly enriched by the ...

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