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7th Circuit upholds jury award reduction

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court's grant of a motion for judgment as a matter of law on a breach of contract claim, finding a previously granted jury award of damages was based on speculation.

In John Wasson v. Peabody Coal Co., No. 07-2758, John Wasson appealed the decision by the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division, which overturned a $350,000 verdict in his favor following a bifurcated jury trial in a breach of contract suit with Peabody Coal Co. Wasson claimed the company underpaid royalties he was entitled to for coal mined on his property.

The District Court granted Peabody's motion for judgment as a matter of law and reduced the jury's award to less than $1,000. Wasson appealed, arguing the District Court erred in denying his motion for a continuance prior to trial, in barring his expert witness from testifying, and the court shouldn't have set aside the jury award for damages because there was ample evidence for the jury to find in his favor.

But the 7th Circuit disagreed with Wasson's arguments, finding him partly to blame for wanting more time to review requested records from Peabody. His interrogatories were very broad in scope, which may have expanded his original inquiries, wrote Judge Diane Wood. Wasson had ample time to review the documents to determine whether additional discovery was necessary before expiration of the discovery deadline, but he didn't act on the matter, wrote the judge.

Wasson's expert witness was his accountant, and his report claimed the coal price Peabody paid to Wasson was too low; however the accountant used data from a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report, which he had never used before. The accountant even admitted he was unaware of how to use the data of the report. The accountant's opinion wasn't based on sufficient facts or data, nor was it a product of reliable principles or methods as is required by Fed. R. Evid. 702, wrote Judge Wood

The District Court was correct in ruling the jury's award of damages to Wasson must be set aside because they were based on nothing but speculation, wrote the judge. Review of a trial exhibit Wasson claimed supported his award was nothing but his scratch-paperwork guessing what his damages would be. The reduction of the award to $965.62 was the actual amount Peabody admitted to owing Wasson.

"The district court held that it could 'identify no reasonable basis in the evidence for the jury's $350,000 damage award to Mr. Wasson.' Neither can we," wrote Judge Wood.

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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