United States District Court, N.D. New York
WHITEMAN OSTERMAN & HANNA LLP Attorneys for Plaintiff
TABNER, RYAN & KENIRY, LLP Attorneys for Defendant
J. HENRY, ESQ., ROBERT S. ROSBOROUGH, IV, ESQ.
WILLIAM RYAN, JR., ESQ., BRIAN M. QUINN, ESQ.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT
before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for judgment as a
matter of law pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure or, in the alternative, for a new trial
pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See Dkt. No. 102.
owns a Gulfstream IV aircraft ("Aircraft").
Defendant maintains, services, provides crews for, and
brokers charter flights on third parties' aircraft. In
January of 2001, Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a lease
agreement whereby Defendant would procure charter flights on
the Aircraft in exchange for a 15% commission of the
resulting charter revenue. Specifically, the lease provided
that Defendant would "remit 85% of the charter rate per
hour flown" to Plaintiff. The Lease incorporated by
reference the parties' Management Agreement. The
Management Agreement defines the term "Flight Hour"
to mean "the time of take-off to landing (i.e., wheels
up to wheels-down), as recorded time on the Aircraft hour
meter, or, if nonfunctional for any reason, as indicated in
the journey log entries."
parties do not dispute that they intended the Lease to limit
Plaintiff's payment to hours that the Aircraft was
actually in the air during a charter flight. Nor do the
parties dispute that Plaintiff received payment for all hours
that the Aircraft actually flew. Rather, the critical issue
in this case is whether the parties orally modified the Lease
to provide that Defendant would remit to Plaintiff payment
for unused flight hours accrued through a contract Defendant
entered into with Sportsflight Air., Inc. ("SFA").
early 2002, Defendant explained that he had arranged an
opportunity whereby Plaintiff's aircraft could be leased
to the United States government for a high volume of charter
flights. Defendant's prospective client was SFA, a
subcontractor that would in turn charter the Aircraft to the
government. Defendant reported to Plaintiff that SFA agreed
to guarantee 250 hours during the first six months. SFA
thereafter had the option to renew month-to-month for a
minimum of fifty flight hours per month. The SFA contract,
while identifying the Aircraft by its registration number,
does not mention Plaintiff.
asserts that it agreed to forego certain of its rights under
the Lease because Defendant represented that chartering the
Aircraft to SFA would entitle Plaintiff to revenue for a
guaranteed minimum number of flight hours per month even if
the Aircraft did not fly those hours. According to Plaintiff,
the parties made the following oral agreement in connection
with the SFA contract: first, Plaintiff and Defendant agreed
that Plaintiff would subordinate its access priority to the
Aircraft for the duration of the SFA contract; second, they
agreed that SFA would receive a discounted charter rate of
$4, 900 per hour, as opposed to the Lease's stated rate
of $5, 100.
several years Defendant chartered airplanes for SFA and was
paid for the actual flight time, but not for the difference
between the actual time and the minimum monthly amount.
During this time, Defendant paid Plaintiff 85% of the revenue
for the hours SFA chartered the Aircraft; however, the
invoices reflecting these payments did not mention the unused
subsequently sent SFA an invoice in the fall of 2006 for
unused flight time for which SFA had guaranteed payment as
part of its 50-hour monthly minimum. Defendant gave SFA a
discount of some 305 hours to account for flights that the
Aircraft was chartered to third parties and accordingly not
available for SFA's use. When SFA failed to pay
Defendant's 2006 invoice, Defendant sued SFA in Supreme
Court, Columbia County, to recover the value of the unused
flight hours. After prevailing in a bench trial,
then-Plaintiff Richmor obtained a judgment that was adjusted