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G. Geerlings Export B. V. v. Van Hoekelen Greenhouses, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 21, 2017



          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is a Motion filed by Plaintiff G. Geerlings Export B.V. (“Geerlings”), requesting the Court to enter judgment for $873, 182.58, plus $45.65 for each day from December 7, 2016 to December 31, 2016, along with post-judgment interest and costs. (Doc. 44.) This Court previously granted Geerlings's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and recognized a foreign judgment issued in favor of Geerlings. (Docs. 42 & 43.) The Court's prior Order did not enter judgment for a sum certain and did not consider post-judgment interest or costs. For the reasons that follow, Geerlings's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part as detailed below and in the accompanying Order.

         I. Relevant Background

         Because the factual and procedural history are both well known to the parties and stated in the Court's prior Memorandum in G. Geerlings Export B.V. v. Van Hoekelen Greenhouses, Inc., No. 3:15-CV-1292, 2016 WL 6834033 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 21, 2016), they need not be repeated here other than to note the f ollowing:

         In 2002, Defendant Van Hoekelen Greenhouses, Inc. (“VHG”) purchased bulbs from Geerlings for delivery to Walmart in the United States. (Mem. 2, Doc. 42.) However, the bulbs delivered by Geerlings to VHG contained inaccurate barcodes, which resulted in Walmart refusing to pay VHG for the order and VHG losing all of Walmart's dry bulb business. (Id.) VHG made partial payment to Geerlings with respect to the Walmart bulbs, but did not pay the invoices in full because VHG believed that either Geerlings or Geerlings's printer was responsible for the incorrect barcode. (Id.)

         On January 8, 2008, Geerlings initiated a civil action against VHG in the Court of First Instance in The Hague, The Netherlands, seeking full payment on its invoices plus interest and costs. (Id.) The Court of First Instance issued a judgment in favor of Geerlings, finding VHG responsible for the incorrect barcodes. (Id. at 3.) The Dutch trial court concluded that the principal VHG owes on Geerlings's invoices is 336, 737.38 EURO. (Id.) On or about August 13, 2010, VHG filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal in The Hague, The Netherlands. (Id.) The Court of Appeal issued a judgment on December 24, 2013 (the “Appeal Judgment”), which affirmed the finding of the Court of First Instance that the principal owed by VHG is 336, 737.38 EURO. (Id.) The Appeal Judgment directs VHG to pay Geerlings 475, 976.18 EURO plus statutory interest on 459, 641.18 EURO from January 1, 2008 until the day of final settlement.[1] (Id.) The Court of Appeal transmitted its judgment to VHG's attorney on or about December 24, 2013. (Id. at 4.) VHG, however, did not satisfy the Appeal Judgment because it believed the award might overcompensate Geerlings. (Id.)

         On June 30, 2015, Geerlings filed a one-Count Complaint, requesting the Court to recognize the Dutch Appeal Judgment pursuant to the Pennsylvania Uniform Foreign Money Judgment Recognition Act, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 22001-22009 (the “Recognition Act”). (Compl. ¶ 1; id. Count I, Doc. 1.) VHG filed an Amended Answer on November 2, 2015, asserting various affirmative defenses and a counterclaim for fraud. (Doc. 12.) On November 23, 2015, Geerlings moved for partial summary judgment on Count I of its Complaint, requesting recognition of the Appeal Judgment. (Doc. 15.) On November 21, 2016, the Court granted Geerlings's Motion and recognized the Dutch Appeal Judgment dated December 24, 2013. (Order ¶ 1, Doc. 43.) The Court also dismissed VHG's counterclaim. (Id. ¶ 2.)[2]

         According to VHG, after the Court issued its Order on November 21, 2016, counsel for both parties exchanged emails discussing the Dutch statutory interest calculation. (Br. in Opp'n 5, Doc. 50; Sur-Reply Br. 4-5, Doc. 56-3.) The parties agreed to a calculation on December 6, 2016. (Id.) However, a dispute arose as to whether VHG was to pay Geerlings in EURO or in U.S. dollars. (See Sur-Reply Br. 4-5.) On the same day, Geerlings filed the instant Motion seeking an entry of judgment in U.S. dollars in an amount equal to the monies due on the Appeal Judgment. (Motion 2, Doc. 44.) Geerlings argues that judgment should be entered in its favor in U.S. dollars using the exchange rate in effect when the Dutch Appeal Judgment issued. (Br. in Supp. 6-13, Doc. 45.) On December 12, 2016, VHG wired Geerlings 638, 620.64 EURO, which included 162, 644.46 EURO in statutory interest. (Second Van Hoekelen Decl. ¶ 9, Doc. 50-2.) This total reflects the entire amount that was due on the Appeal Judgment in EURO at the time the payment was made. (See Nabben Expert Decl. ¶¶ 5-12, Doc. 15-2; Supp. Nabben Expert Decl. ¶¶ 5-6, Doc. 44-2; see also Reply Br. 1, Doc. 55.) On December 30, 2016, VHG filed its Brief in Opposition to Geerlings's Motion. (Doc. 50.) In opposing Geerlings's Motion, VHG makes several arguments. First, VHG contends that the instant Motion is moot by virtue of the December 12, 2016 wire payment. Second, if Geerlings's Motion is not moot, VHG argues that the Dutch Appeal Judgment should not be converted into U.S. dollars because situations warranting conversion are not present in this case, and because a conversion would give Geerlings an impermissible windfall. Lastly, if the Court finds that conversion is warranted, VHG posits that the appropriate exchange rate should not be the rate in effect on the date the Appeal Judgment issued. Geerlings filed its Reply Brief on February 8, 2017. (Doc. 55.) After obtaining leave of court, VHG filed a Sur-Reply Brief on February 28, 2017. (Docs. 56 & 57.) Geerlings's Motion is ripe for disposition.

         II. Legal Standard

         Geerlings entitled the instant Motion as a Motion to Enter Judgment pursuant to Rules 54 and 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Mot. to Enforce 1.) Presumably, Geerlings is requesting the Court to enter final judgment on its Recognition Act claim pursuant to Rule 54(b). Rule 54(b) states:

When an action presents more than one claim for relief-whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim-or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.

         Thus, by its own terms, entry of judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b) “applies only when there are either multiple claims for relief, . . . or when multiple parties are involved.” Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 2657 (3d ed.); see In re Heritage Bond, 2004 WL 2297981, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 27, 2004) (finding Rule 54(b) an appropriate basis for plaintiffs' motion for entry of judgment because the case involved “multiple claims and parties”). As noted by the Third Circuit:

Rule 54(b) is designed to facilitate the entry of judgments upon one or more but fewer than all the claims or as to one or more but fewer than all the parties in an action involving more than one claim or party. . . . The basic purpose of Rule 54(b) is to avoid the possible injustice of a delay in entering judgment on a distinctly separate claim or as to fewer than all of the parties until the final adjudication of the entire case by making an immediate appeal available.

Johnson v. Orr, 897 F.2d 128, 131 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2654 (2d ed. 1983)). Thus, in a case that involves simply one plaintiff and one defendant, a party generally moves for entry of judgment under Rule 54(b) in order to immediately appeal a court's ruling that resolves some, but not all, of the claims raised. See Aqua Shield, Inc. v. Inter Pool Cover Team, 2012 WL 5077576, at *1 (D. Utah Oct. 18, 2012) (noting that Rule 54(b) “envisions” the moving party seeking an entry of final judgment in order to immediately appeal the Court's ruling).

         Although VHG has not meaningfully challenged the propriety of Geerlings's Motion under Rule 54, because this case does not involve multiple parties and no longer involves multiple claims, the Court does not see a basis for entertaining Geerlings's Motion under Rule 54. Rather, the Court finds it more appropriate to treat this Motion as one for summary judgment under Rule 56 regarding the measure of damages, and a request for entry of a final judgment in a separate document as required under Rule 58. The Court's prior Order entered partial judgment in favor of Geerlings and thereby recognized the Dutch Appeal Judgment. (Doc. 43.) The Order also dismissed VHG's counterclaim for fraud. (Id.) The Order, however, did not enter judgment for a sum certain or otherwise direct VHG to pay a specific amount in damages, as Geerlings's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment concerned only the question of whether the Dutch Appeal Judgment should be recognized. (See Doc. 15.) Thus, because the Court's Order did not determine the monetary relief to which Geerlings is entitled, the Order was not a final judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(a); see Novella v. Westchester Cty., 335 Fed.Appx. 73, 74 (2d Cir. 2009) (“A judgment is not final when the amount of damages and other quantifiable relief is still genuinely in dispute.”). Accordingly, the amount of damages stemming from Geerlings's single claim for relief remains an issue outstanding in this case.

         But considering that the parties have thoroughly briefed the merits of Geerlings's Motion, and considering that VHG has not meaningfully disputed the procedural propriety of the instant Motion, and further finding that Geerlings is clearly entitled to have its recognized foreign judgment converted into U.S. dollars, the Court concludes that it is appropriate to treat Geerlings's Motion as one for summary judgment on the issue of damages and a concomitant request for a separate order entering final judgment. See Siematic Mobelwerke GmbH & Co. KG v. Siematic Corp., 669 F.Supp.2d 538, 539-43 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (granting partial summary judgment on issue of breach and subsequently ruling on the issue of conversion and interest and entering final judgment); Indag, S.A. v. Irridelco Corp., 658 F.Supp. 763, 764 (S.D.N.Y. 1987) (determining issue of conversion on motion for summary judgment); see also Cont'l Transfert Technique Ltd. v. Fed. Gov't of Nigeria, 932 F.Supp.2d 153, 162-63 (D.D.C. 2013) (“Continental”), aff'd, 603 Fed.Appx. 1 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (finding plaintiff was entitled to conversion of its foreign award even under the stringent “manifest injustice” standard of Rule 59(e)).

         III. Discussion

         Geerlings requests the Court to enter judgment in U.S. dollars using the exchange rate as of the date the Appeal Judgment issued, as well as post-judgment interest and costs. As detailed below, Geerlings's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         A. The Court Predicts That the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Would Look to theApproach of the ...

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