Session: February 20, 2018 
from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-005702-11
Gina C. Higgins, Judge
unjust enrichment claim, Plaintiff/Appellee Victor Cole filed
a lawsuit alleging, inter alia, a claim for unjust enrichment
against Defendant/Appellant Joe Caruso. A jury determined
that Mr. Cole had been unjustly enriched. Upon our review, we
conclude that Mr. Cole failed to provide any evidence that
Mr. Caruso was unjustly enriched, thereby failing to
establish a prima facie claim. Because Mr. Cole failed to
provide any evidence regarding one of the elements of unjust
enrichment, the trial court erred in denying Mr. Caruso's
motion for directed verdict.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Reversed and Remanded
L. Moore, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joe Caruso.
Charles W. Weirich, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the
appellee, Victor Cole.
Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which Arnold B. Goldin, and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ.,
STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE.
case began with allegations that the parties participated in
a secret partnership agreement; the facts are highly
disputed. Plaintiff/Appellee Victor Cole and
Defendant/Appellant Joe Caruso both played professional
baseball and would train together at a sports academy near
Memphis, Tennessee. In 2009, Mr. Caruso allegedly approached
Mr. Cole about becoming potential business partners to
"recruit, train, and coach youth baseball players with
aspirations of playing professionally or in college."
Mr. Cole and Mr. Caruso had a meeting in the fall of 2010 at
Mr. Cole's home, in which they discussed the alleged
partnership agreement. Other than the two parties to this
appeal, only Mr. Cole's wife and son were present. During
this meeting, Mr. Cole claimed that he and Mr. Caruso
initially discussed a 50/50 split of the profits; however,
the two ultimately agreed on a 60/40 split with Mr. Caruso
receiving 60% of the profits and Mr. Cole receiving 40%. Mr.
Caruso disputed that he and Mr. Cole ever had a meeting to
discuss a potential partnership and maintained that there was
never a partnership between he and Mr. Cole.
the alleged partnership was made, it is undisputed that Mr.
Caruso and Mr. Cole both worked together for a time in the
East Coast Grays baseball organization. In the fall of
2011, however, Mr. Caruso informed Mr. Cole that Mr. Cole was
not meeting the expectations of the organization and was no
longer needed. The two then parted ways. Up to this point,
Mr. Cole had received compensation in the amount of
approximately $13, 000.00. He cashed the checks with no
December 22, 2011, Mr. Cole filed his complaint against Mr.
Caruso for "damages, injunction, and accounting for
breach of partnership agreement, conversion, promissory fraud
and/or unjust enrichment[, ]" in the Shelby County
Circuit Court ("trial court"). Mr. Caruso filed an
answer on January 13, 2012, denying all the material
allegations set forth in Mr. Cole's complaint. Following
a period of discovery, the case was eventually heard by a
jury for four days beginning on April 25, 2016. At trial, Mr.
Cole offered testimony from three people: (1) himself; (2)
Dr. Ralph Scott, an expert witness; and (3) Mrs. Sherri Cole,
Mr. Cole's wife.
trial, Mr. Cole testified that he coached and served as a
recruiting director for the organization, and that during his
tenure, from 2010-2011, the organization grew from one team
to three teams. He also testified that during the early days
of the East Coast Grays, he and Mr. Caruso met regularly to
discuss tournaments, camps, clinics, uniforms, other coaches
to hire, player development, and player placement. Mr. Cole
further stated that during his time with the East Coast
Grays, he and Mr. Caruso traveled across the Southeast, often
using his automobile for the trips and that he turned down
other income opportunities to work with Mr. Caruso and the
East Coast Grays organization. In sum, Mr. Cole generally
testified as to the services and contributions he provided
for the East Coast Grays and its players, his alleged
partnership with Mr. Caruso, and his alleged partnership
interest in the East Coast Grays. Dr. Scott testified solely
as to the monetary value of Mr. Cole's partnership
interest. Mrs. Cole testified mostly to the facts surrounding
the meeting in which Mr. Caruso and Mr. Cole established the
alleged partnership. At the closing of Mr. Cole's proof,
Mr. Caruso moved for a directed verdict. The trial court
granted the directed verdict regarding the claims of
conversion, attorney fees, punitive damages, and promissory
fraud; however, the trial court denied the motion for breach
of a partnership agreement and unjust enrichment.
April 28, 2016, the jury returned a unanimous verdict
specifically finding that the parties did not have a
partnership, and thus Mr. Cole had not suffered damages as a
result of a breach of partnership agreement. On the
alternative ground of unjust enrichment, the jury did find
that Mr. Caruso had "received the benefits of [Mr.
Cole's] services under circumstances rendering it
inequitable to keep those benefits without compensating [Mr.
Cole.]" Therefore, the jury found that Mr. Caruso was
unjustly enriched by Mr. Cole's services and awarded Mr.
Cole $10, 000.00. Judgment on the jury verdict was entered on
May 16, 2016.
20, 2016, Mr. Cole filed a motion for pre-judgment interest
and on June 7, 2016, also filed a motion for additur or, in
the alternative, a motion for new trial, arguing that the
$10, 000.00 jury verdict was not reasonable in light of his
contributions to the organization; Mr. Cole requested an
additur of $90, 000.00. On June 14, 2016, Mr. Caruso filed a
motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, for
remittitur, or alternatively to alter or amend the judgement.
On December 5, 2016, the trial court entered an order
granting Mr. Cole's motion for additur in the amount of
$40, 000.00 thereby increasing Mr. Cole's award to $50,
000.00. The trial court subsequently (1) denied Mr.
Cole's motion for prejudgment interest; (2) denied Mr.
Caruso's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict,
remittitur, or in the alternative to alter or amend; and (3)
granted Mr. Cole's motion for discretionary costs. From
this judgment, Mr. Caruso timely appeals.
Caruso presents two issues on appeal, which we have reworded:
(1) Whether the trial court erred in failing to grant Mr.
Caruso's directed verdict because Mr. Cole did not
establish a prima facie case on ...