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Solidfx, LLC v. Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 5, 2015

SOLIDFX, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
JEPPESEN SANDERSON, INC., Defendant.

ORDER DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S RULE 50(b) MOTION AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL OR REMITTITUR

WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff SOLIDFX, LLC ("Plaintiff" or "SOLIDFX") brings this action against Defendant Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Jeppesen") alleging breach of contract and various state law tort claims. The Court held an eight-day jury trial, which resulted in the jury finding in Plaintiff's favor on all claims. (ECF No. 343.) The jury awarded Plaintiff the following damages: $42, 308, 000 on its claim for breach of contract (development of iPad apps); $615, 000 on its claim for breach of contract (JIT for tailored terminal charts); $173, 000 on its negligent misrepresentation claim; and $1 on each of the other claims. (ECF No. 343-6.) After resolving some post-trial motions, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. (ECF No. 407.)

Before the Court are Defendant's Rule 50(b) Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (ECF No. 377) and Motion for New Trial or Remittitur (ECF No. 378) (together "Motions"). For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are denied in part and granted in part.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

In evaluating a motion brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), the Court must examine all the evidence admitted at trial, construe that evidence and the inferences from it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and refrain from making credibility determinations and weighing the evidence. See Tyler v. RE/MAX Mountain States, 232 F.3d 808, 812 (10th Cir. 2000). Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate "only if the evidence points but one way and is susceptible to no reasonable inferences which may support the opposing party's position." Finley v. United States, 82 F.3d 966, 968 (10th Cir. 1996).

Defendant brings its Motion for a New Trial under Rule 59(a)(1), which permits the Court to order a new trial on all or some of the issues "for any of the reasons for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." Such a motion can be granted based on any error so long as "the district court concludes the claimed error substantially and adversely' affected the party's rights." Henning v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 530 F.3d 1206, 1217 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Sanjuan v. IBP, Inc., 160 F.3d 1291, 1297 (10th Cir. 1998)).

II. ANALYSIS

Though Defendant moves under both Rule 50(b) and Rule 59(a)(1)(A), many of the arguments raised in the Motions overlap. As such, the Court will discuss the Motions together by the issues raised therein.

A. Section 8.2 of the Contract

Following the close of evidence, the Court granted Defendant's Rule 50(a) Motion to the extent it sought to preclude recovery of certain categories of lost profits sought by Plaintiff. (ECF No. 356 at 232-41.) Defendant challenges this ruling in both of the instant Motions.

In its Rule 50(b) Motion, Defendant argues that, under Colorado law, lost profits are always classified as consequential damages, and therefore § 8.2 of the contract barred Plaintiff from recovering any lost profits. (ECF No. 377 at 14.) Defendant also contends that § 8.2 bars recovery of lost profits as a matter of law, regardless of whether lost profits are classified as consequential or direct damages. (ECF No. 377 at 13.)

In its Motion for New Trial, Defendant contends that the Court improperly ruled as a matter of law on the meaning of § 8.2 of the contract. (ECF No. 378 at 7-8.) Defendant points out that, in ruling on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court held that § 8.2 was ambiguous, but that the Court reconsidered this issue during trial and construed the meaning of § 8.2 as a matter of law. ( Id .; see also ECF No. 218 at 34-35.) Defendant argues that the Court's ruling at trial was error, and that the jury should have been permitted to determine the meaning of § 8.2 of the contract. (ECF No. 378 at 7.) Defendant also contends that it was "significantly prejudiced" by the Court's ruling in that it "devoted substantial time and effort at trial to a defense based on Section 8.2 that was premised on the Court's prior finding of ambiguity." ( Id. at 9.)

First, the Court notes that Defendant re-raised the issue of whether § 8.2 barred Plaintiff's claim for lost profits in its mid-trial Rule 50(a) motion. ( See ECF No. 336 at 5-12.) Defendant took the position that "the plain language of § 8.2 could not be clearer", and that the Court has an obligation to enforce "an unambiguous contract according to its plain language." ( Id. at 6-7.) Defendant then renewed this motion at the close of all evidence, and repeated its position that the Court should interpret § 8.2 as a matter of law. (ECF No. 356 at 225.) Having asked the Court to interpret § 8.2 as a matter of law, Defendant cannot now argue that the Court "significantly prejudiced" Defendant by doing so.

Second, a denial of summary judgment is not a final judgment, and a district court is always free to reconsider such rulings. See Fye v. Okla. Corp. Comm'n, 516 F.3d 1217, 1224 n.2 (10th Cir. 2008); Anderson v. Deere & Co., 852 F.2d 1244, 1246 (10th Cir. 1988) ("It is within the District Judge's discretion to revise his interlocutory orders prior to entry of final judgment.") At summary judgment, the Court was far less informed on issues that were key to the Court's ruling at trial. Defendant devoted two pages in its sixty page summary judgment brief to this issue, and Plaintiff offered a three page response. (ECF No. 128 at 53-54; ECF No. 164 at 58-60.) Neither party's summary judgment briefs discussed the nature of Plaintiff's plans under the contract, specifically its intent to make two apps displaying Defendant's terminal charts, and then two apps ...


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