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American Water Heater Co. v. Taylor Winfield Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

January 14, 2020

AMERICAN WATER HEATER CO. and A.O. SMITH CORP., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE TAYLOR WINFIELD CORP., d/b/a TAYLOR-WINFIELD TECHNOLOGIES, Defendant.

          Magistrate Judge Lee

          MEMORANDUM

          CURTIS L. COLLIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs have filed a motion for a new trial. (Doc. 173.) Defendant has responded in opposition (Doc. 176) and the time for filing a reply has expired. See E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1(a). For the reasons set out below, the Court will DENY Plaintiffs' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arose as a result of a contractual dispute concerning two custom-designed welding machines, or welders, Defendant was hired to build for Plaintiffs. On May 12, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant alleging breach of contract for failure to deliver the welders on time. (Doc. 1.) A jury trial was held from September 9 through September 16, 2019, and the jury ultimately returned a verdict in Defendant's favor. (Doc. 151.) On the verdict form, the jury indicated (1) Plaintiffs had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant breached the parties' contract; (2) Defendant had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiffs waived the delivery dates in the contract; and (3) Plaintiffs had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant breached the contract by failing to deliver the welders in a “reasonable time.” (Id.)

         On October 17, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial, alleging the jury's verdict that Plaintiffs had not proven Defendant breached the contract by failing to deliver the welders in a “reasonable time” was against the weight of the evidence. (Doc. 173.) Plaintiffs contend the jury failed to properly consider the forty-two-day delivery deadline Defendant's project manager proposed at a February 2, 2016, meeting. (Doc. 174.) Plaintiffs argue the proposal of forty-two days was a binding, judicial admission as to the “reasonable time” for delivery. (Id.) Plaintiffs also contend testimony at trial demonstrated Defendant would never have been able to deliver the welders in a “reasonable time” because it was never ready to conduct the contractually required runoff testing. (Id.) Plaintiffs assert Defendant did not, and could not, deliver the welders in a “reasonable time” and thus, the jury's verdict was against the weight of the evidence. (Id.)

         Defendant has filed a response in opposition. (Doc. 176.) Defendant contends the evidence at trial showed Plaintiffs did not provide a time limit for the additional pre-delivery work they requested and failed to provide a reasonable notification before cancelling the parties' contract. (Id.) Defendant also disputes that the delivery deadline proposed on February 2, 2016, constituted a judicial admission for the “reasonable time” to deliver the welders. (Id.) Even if there was a judicial admission, Defendant contends it would not preclude the jury's consideration of Defendant's evidence as to why it was taking Defendant more time to complete the welders. (Id.) Thus, Defendant asserts the evidence taken as a whole supports the jury's verdict. (Id.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Evidence 59, a party may move for a new trial “for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained Rule 59 requires a new trial only “when a jury has reached a ‘seriously erroneous result' as evidenced by (1) the verdict being against the weight of the evidence; (2) the damages being excessive; or (3) the trial being unfair to the moving party in some fashion.” Mike's Train House, Inc. v. Lionel, LLC, 472 F.3d 398, 405 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Holmes v. City of Massillon, 78 F.3d 1041, 1045-46 (6th Cir. 1996)).

         A court should only grant a new trial on the grounds that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence if “the verdict was unreasonable[.]” Barnes v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 201 F.3d 815, 821 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Holmes, 78 F.3d at 1047-48). In determining whether the verdict was unreasonable, a court may not “reweigh the evidence and set aside the jury verdict merely because the jury could have drawn different inferences or conclusions or because . . . other results are more reasonable.” Id. (citing Duncan v. Duncan, 377 F.2d 49, 52 (6th Cir. 1967)). “[I]f a reasonable juror could reach the challenged verdict, a new trial is improper.” Id. The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate a new trial is necessary. Clarksville-Montgomery Cty. Sch. Sys v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 925 F.2d 993, 1002 (6th Cir. 1991).

         III. DISCUSSION

         As the jury was instructed, in the absence of a specific time for delivery, the time for delivery is a “reasonable time.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-2-309. What constitutes a “reasonable time” for delivery “depends upon what constitutes acceptable commercial conduct in view of the nature, purpose, and circumstances of the action to be taken.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-2-309, Official Comment 1. Before a failure to deliver in a “reasonable time” may be treated as a breach of contract, the party awaiting delivery must provide the delivering party with a reasonable notification. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-2-309, Official Comment 5.

         The Court will first address Plaintiffs' contention that a “reasonable time” for delivery was determined by judicial admission and will then consider whether the verdict was against the weight of the evidence.

         A. ...


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