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Kerst v. Upper Cumberland Rental & Sales, LLC

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 25, 2015

WILLIAM C. KERST, et al.
v.
UPPER CUMBERLAND RENTAL AND SALES, LLC

Session January 27, 2015.

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Putnam County No. 200749 Ronald Thurman, Chancellor

C. Douglas Fields, Crossville, Tennessee, for the appellants, William Kerst and Advanced Fasteners.

Henry D. Fincher, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Upper Cumberland Rental and Sales, LLC.

Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Arnold B. Goldin, J. and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

OPINION

KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE.

I. Background

This case began nearly a decade ago when William Kerst ("Appellant") orally agreed to sell his business, Advanced Fasteners, to Upper Cumberland Rental and Sales, LLC ("Upper Cumberland" or "Appellee"). Mr. Kerst began operating Advanced Fasteners in 2003; however, in 2004, he underwent open-heart surgery, which rendered him unable to work. In early May of 2005, Mr. Kerst orally agreed to sell his "business and inventory" to Upper Cumberland for $70, 000. Upper Cumberland paid $20, 000 down and agreed to pay the $50, 000 balance in monthly installments over five years, at five percent interest. The agreement provided that Mr. Kerst would work as a salesman and that he would not compete with Upper Cumberland. Upper Cumberland made thirteen payments to Mr. Kerst and then stopped. Upper Cumberland asserted that it ceased making payments because of Mr. Kerst's alleged violation of the non-compete agreement.

On February 16, 2007, in response to Upper Cumberland's refusal to make payments, Mr. Kerst filed suit in the Putnam County Chancery Court ("trial court") for payment of the balance owed under the sale agreement. On April 2, 2007, Upper Cumberland filed its answer and counterclaims, including breach of contract, unfair competition, and tortious interference with contract. Mr. Kerst answered the counterclaims on May 21, 2007. The case was continued numerous times for reasons that do not bear on this appeal.

Upon the parties' agreement and at their request, the trial court entered an order dated February 22, 2012, rescinding the agreement between the parties. On December 18, 2013, the trial court heard evidence on the issue of damages. In an order dated January 9, 2014, the trial court ordered Upper Cumberland to return any unsold inventory it obtained from Mr. Kerst, and also awarded him $8, 601.73. The trial court calculated the $8, 601.73 by subtracting, from the $70, 000 sale price, $15, 558.81 for the value of the returned inventory and $45, 839.46 for amounts already paid to Mr. Kerst. On January 13, 2014, Mr. Kerst moved the trial court to amend its judgment, or, in the alternative, for a new trial. The trial court denied the motion on April 16, 2014, and Mr. Kerst timely filed this appeal.

II. Issues

Appellant raises multiple issues for our review. However, we perceive that there are five dispositive issues, which we state as follows:

1. Whether the trial court erred when it did not award lost profits to the Appellant.
2. Whether the trial court erred when it did not make an award to Appellant for ...

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