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Accu-Spec Electronic Services, Inc. v. Central Transport International

April 13, 2006

ACCU-SPEC ELECTRONIC SERVICES, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CENTRAL TRANSPORT INTERNATIONAL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, Sean J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Presently pending before the Court are the following post-trial motions filed by Plaintiff, Accu-Spec Electronic Services, Inc. ("Accu-Spec"): Plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law, or, in the alternative, motion for a new trial; motion for prejudgment interest; and motion for reconsideration regarding cause of action under Section 14704.

I.BACKGROUND

This case involves a claim for relief under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14704 and § 14706, stemming from physical damage sustained by an industrial x-ray machine while being shipped in interstate commerce. Accu-Spec was the shipper and owner of the x-ray machine, Defendant Logistics Plus, Inc. ("Logistics") was the freight forwarder of the shipment, and Defendant Central Transport International, Inc., was the motor carrier that damaged the equipment in transit.

This matter was tried before a jury commencing on October 17, 2005, and concluding on October 20, 2005. During the trial, Plaintiff introduced evidence of damages in the amount $47,521.84. Among the items of damage disputed by the Defendants was an inspection performed by a representative of the x-ray machine's manufacturer who had to be flown in from England at a cost of $2,150.82. At the conclusion of trial, jurors were provided with interrogatories to answer. The jury's responses to those interrogatories indicated that the jury did not find the cost of flying an inspector from England to be reasonable, but that the jury did find it reasonable for Plaintiff to ship the x-ray machine back to England for repairs. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury awarded a sum of $21,000 to the Plaintiff, as evidenced by the juries' response to the following interrogatories:

6. What amount, if any, is plaintiff entitled to recover from Central Transport? $21,000.00

7. What amount, if any, is plaintiff entitled to recover from Logistics Plus? $21,000.00

In making its decision on damages, the jury was guided by the following instruction:

If you find that Central Transport is liable, you must also find that Logistics is liable, and you must find them liable in the same amount, although there will only be one recovery.

II.DISCUSSION

A. Motion for judgment as a matter of law

Plaintiff requests that this Court enter judgment as a matter of law in its favor in an amount of $45,371.02. Citing the jurors answers to interrogatories, Plaintiff contends that this amount is proper because it constitutes the total amount of damages requested, $47, 521.84, minus the amount the jury found to be unreasonable, $2,150.82. Plaintiff argues that, because the jury found Defendants to be liable, and because Defendants did not challenge the nature or amount of the damages asserted by Plaintiffs other than $2,150.82, Plaintiff is entitled to the remaining amount claimed.

The question before the Court in a motion for judgment as a matter of law is whether the facts and inferences are such that no reasonable factfinder could have reached a verdict against the movant. See Santos v. Sunrise Med., Inc., 351 F.3d 587, 590 (1st Cir. 2003). In cases where the damage amount is uncertain, modification of a jury's damage award is appropriate only in the rarest circumstances, as the assessment of damages is "so peculiarly within the province of the jury that the Court should not alter it." Dimick v. Schiedt, 293 U.S. 474, 480 (1935). However, where the jury has found the underlying liability and there is no dispute as to damages, the trial court may adjust the damage award. See, e.g., Liriano v. Hobart Corp., 170 F.3d 264, 272-73 (2nd Cir. 1999) (holding that federal courts have the ability to adjust a jury's damages award to account for an undisputed claim that was mistakenly omitted from the damages calculations); EEOC v. Massey Yardley Chrysler Plymouth, Inc., 117 F.3d 1244, 1252-53 (11th Cir. 1997) ("Courts recognize an exception to Dimick where the jury has found the underlying liability and there is no genuine issue as to the correct amount of damages."); Moreau v. Oppenheim, 663 F.2d 1300, 1311 (5th Cir. 1981) ("The constitutional rule against additur ... is not violated in a case where the jury has properly determined liability and there is no valid dispute as to the amount of damages.").

Here, there is no dispute as to the following damage claims and amounts:

A) Repair Costs (Dage) - $36,312.00

B) Shipping to England - $2,390.52

C) Shipping to U.S. - $3,924.55

D) Re-packing (NNN Carting) - $1,025.00

E) Customs - $738.95 (Plaintiff's Exhibit 23). At trial, after invoices reflecting these charges were entered into evidence, Plaintiff's counsel elicited testimony from Earnest Carlson, the president of Accu-Spec, as to each:

Q: Repacking, this invoice from NNN Carting, is there an invoice in the package for that?

A: Yes, there is.

Q: Did Accu-Spec pay that sum of money to ...


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