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REMEE PRODUCTS CORP. v. SHO-ME POWER ELECTRIC COOP.

January 14, 2003

REMEE PRODUCTS CORP., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHO-ME POWER ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE AND TM SALES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold Baer, Jr., United States District Judge

OPINION & ORDER
Remee Products Corp. ("plaintiff" or "Remee") moves for a post-trial judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b), or., in the alternative, for a new trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. For the reasons detailed more fully below, Remee's post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law is denied in its entirety. In addition, Remee's post-trial motion for a new trial with respect to Sho-Me's fraud claim and the Court's refusal to instruct the jury with respect to the statutory measure of damages applicable to Sho-Me' s breach of warranty claims is also denied. However, I do find that it was inconsistent for the jury to award Sho-Me the total amount of damages for Remee's breach of its implied warranties and intentional misrepresentations — $5,176,569 — without first subtracting $399,539, that is, the amount awarded to Remee because of Sho-Me's breach of PO 29544 with respect to the final shipment of fiber optic cable. Accordingly, Remee's motion for a new trial solely with respect to the jury's award of damages on Sho-Me's breach of warranty claim is granted unless, within ten days of the filing of this order, Sho-Me files with this Court a statement accepting a remittitur in the amount of $399,539.

I. BACKGROUND

Remee, a manufacturer of fiber optic cable, brought an action against Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative ("defendant" or "Sho-Me") to recover approximately $400,000 for the latter's refusal to accept a final shipment of fiber optic cable under purchase order 29544 ("PO 29544"). Sho-Me counterclaimed against Remee asserting claims for breach of contract, breach of express and implied warranties, fraud and economic duress deriving from Remee' s shipment of defective cable to Sho-Me; Sho-Me sought damages totaling approximately $5.1 million. A jury trial took place from October 28, 2002 to November 1, 2002. The jury found that Sho-Me anticipatorily repudiated PO 29544 and awarded Remee $399,539 for the final shipment of fiber optic cable. However, the jury also found that Remee breached its implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for intended use by shipping defective cable, and awarded Sho-Me damages totaling $3,443,627. Further, the jury found that Remee made intentional misrepresentations and omissions with respect to its defective fiber optic cable and awarded Sho-Me $1,732,942 in damages on Sho-Me's intentional misrepresentation claim. The total amount of damages thus awarded to Sho-Me is $5,176,569.

Remee timely filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50, or, in the alternative, for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 on the following grounds: (1) the verdicts returned by the jury are inconsistent; (2) the evidence adduced at trial does not support those verdicts; and (3) the Court erred by refusing to dismiss Sho-Me's fraud claim and by refusing to instruct the jury that Sho-Me's damages for breach of warranty are governed by UCC 2-714(2). Specifically, Remee contends that Remee's fraud claim failed as a matter of law because it was duplicative of its contract claim, and that such claims cannot be maintained under New York law. (Remee memorandum at 4). In addition, Remee argues that the jury's answer to Interrogatory 1B is inconsistent with its answer to Interrogatory 2. (Id. at 9). The jury answered "no" to interrogatory 1B, which reads:

Did Sho-Me prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Remee breached its contract with Sho-Me with respect to purchase order 29544 by delivering defective fiber optic cable and that Sho-Me notified Remee of the allegedly defective fiber optic cable in a timely manner?
The jury answered "Yes" to interrogatory 2, which reads:
Did Sho-Me prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Remee breached its implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for intended use by delivering defective cable and that Sho-Me notified Remee of the allegedly defective fiber optic cable in a timely manner?
Consequently, the jury awarded Sho-Me compensatory damages in the amount of $3,443,627 for Remee's breach of its implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for intended use. Remee further submits that even if the Court does not find these answers to be inconsistent, it must still find that the evidence adduced at trial was legally insufficient to support an award of $3,443,627. (Id. at 11). For these reasons, Remee argues that the Court must either grant a judgment as a matter of law in its favor, or, in the alternative, order a new trial with respect to Sho-Me's fraud and breach of warranty claims. I disagree.

II. DISCUSSION

1. Standard for Judgment as a Matter of Law Pursuant to Rule 50(b)

Rule 50(b) states, in pertinent part, that

[t]he movant may renew its request for judgment as a matter of law by filing a motion no later than 10 days after entry of judgment — and may alternatively request a new trial or join a motion for a new trial under Rule 59. In ruling on a renewed motion, the court may:
(1) if a verdict was returned:

(A) allow the judgment to stand,

(B) order a new trial, or

(C) direct entry of judgment as a matter of law.

To decide whether judgment as a matter of law is warranted, the Court must decide "whether the evidence is such that, without weighing the credibility of witnesses or otherwise considering the weight of the evidence, there can be but one conclusion as to the verdict that reasonable [people] could have reached." Mallis v. Bankers Trust Co., 717 F.2d 683, 688 (2d Cir. 1983) (internal citations and quotations omitted). The trial court should grant judgment as a matter of law only when: (1) there is such a complete absence of evidence supporting the verdict that the jury's findings could only have been the result of sheer surmise and conjecture; or (2) there is such an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of the movant that reasonable and fair minded people could not arrive at a verdict against the movant. Lambert v. Genesee Hosp., 10 F.3d 46, 56 (2d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1052 (1994). On a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the district court "must view the evidence in the ...


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