ILNews

7th Circuit upholds jury award reduction

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

ADVERTISEMENT