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Logistec USA, Inc. v. Daewoo International Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

June 17, 2015

LOGISTEC USA, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
DAEWOO INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, Defendant.

ORDER

R. STAN BAKER, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on several motions in limine. Specifically, Defendant Daewoo International Corporation ("Daewoo") has filed a Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence (Doc. 98) and a Motion in Limine Regarding Plaintiff's Trial Exhibits (Doc. 103), which the parties have fully briefed (see Docs. 107, 114, 117, 120-21). In addition, Plaintiff Logistec USA Inc. ("Logistec") has filed three Motions in Limine-to Exclude Parol and Extrinsic Evidence as to the Meaning of the Term "Truck Tipper" (Doc. 99); to Exclude any Argument or Commentary by Defendant that the Agreement Was Subject to a Condition Precedent or Condition Subsequent (Doc. 100); and to Exclude Impermissibly Disclosed Documents and Similar Evidence Relating to Daewoo's Woodchip Procurement Costs, Analyses and Financial Losses It Sustained Following Its Termination of the Agreement (Doc. 101)-and Daewoo has filed a Response to each (Docs. 106, 110, 115). The Court held a hearing on these Motions on June 9, 2015. (Doc. 123.) For the reasons stated on the record at the hearing and as supplemented below, each of Daewoo's Motions (Docs. 98, 103) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and Logistec's Motions, respectively, are DENIED (Doc. 99), GRANTED as unopposed (Doc. 100), and GRANTED in part and DENIED in part (Doc. 101).

I. Daewoo's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence (Doc. 98)

Daewoo moves the Court for an order prohibiting Logistic from offering any argument or evidence on certain enumerated matters at trial. (Doc. 98, pp. 1-2.) In particular, Daewoo lists eleven matters which it believes are inadmissible pursuant to the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or Georgia law. (See generally id.) Logistec's Response asks the Court to deny Daewoo's Motion, because some matters are squarely admissible and others are not ripe for a ruling on admissibility at this time. (See generally Doc. 107.) In its Reply, Daewoo maintains that the Court should disregard Logistec's Response as failing to adhere to this Court's Local Rules regarding page limit and citations (Doc. 117, pp. 1-3), an error for which Logistec's Surreply attempts to demonstrate good cause and a lack of prejudice to Daewoo (see generally Doc. 120).

At the hearing, the Court informed the parties that it would consider the arguments in Logistec's Response despite noncompliance with the Local Rules' page limit, because Logistec had demonstrated good cause and a lack of prejudice for such error under the circumstances. In addition, the Court invited oral argument on the eleven areas of contention raised by Daewoo's Motion. With limited exception, the parties largely stood by the positions advocated in their briefs on each of the issues. The Court's ruling on each of these matters is as follows:

1. Settlement Letters and Negotiations Between Logistec's Legal Counsel and Daewoo's Legal Counsel

For the reasons stated on the record at the hearing, this portion of Daewoo's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

Daewoo's Motion is GRANTED to the extent that the following items must be excluded from evidence in either party's case-in-chief, as they constitute discussions of compromise: letter from Foster Lindberg dated December 17, 2012; letter from Virginia M. Kittles dated December 31, 2012; letter from Ms. Kittles dated January 4, 2013; e-mail thread between Mr. Lindberg, Ms. Kittles, and John R. Ferrelle dated January 11, 2013, through January 14, 2013; letter from Mr. Ferrelle dated January 30, 2013; and letter from Mr. Lindberg dated February 6, 2013. (Doc. 98-43, pp. 1-8; Doc. 98-45, pp. 3-4.)

The Motion is DENIED in that the letters dated December 7, 2012, and January 25, 2013, are relevant and admissible, subject to the following redactions. (Doc. 98-43, p. 9; Doc. 98-45, pp. 1-2.) The December 7, 2012, letter from Ingrid Stefancic, if offered into evidence, must be redacted to exclude the final paragraph in its entirety-beginning with the phrase, "In light of the foregoing, " and ending with, "without further notice." (Doc. 98-45, pp. 1-2.) Additionally, the January 25, 2013, letter from Mr. Lindberg will be admissible into evidence provided that the following language is redacted: "by March 17, 2013 (90 days from our December 17, 2012 letter to Ingrid Stefancic)." (Doc. 98-43, p. 9.)

2. Lawsuits Involving Daewoo and Other Parties

For the reasons stated on the record at the hearing, Daewoo's Motion is GRANTED insofar as Logistec may not offer any argument or evidence in its case-in-chief regarding Daewoo's lawsuits with other parties. As mentioned at the hearing, if Logistec believes at trial that this evidence has become relevant for rebuttal purposes, Logistec should raise the issue to the Court at that time. Logistec is advised to do so outside the presence of the jury, given the prejudicial nature of this evidence.

3. Settlements by Daewoo in Other Lawsuits with Other Parties

As the Court addressed Daewoo's settlements concurrently with its other lawsuits at the hearing, Daewoo's Motion as to its settlements is GRANTED, subject to the same qualifications and instructions discussed above in Subpart I.2.

4. Termination of Contract Between Megahan International LLC ("Megahan") and Daewoo International (America) Corp. ("Daewoo America")

Having taken the admissibility of this evidence under advisement at the hearing, this issue warrants further discussion here. The general test for the admissibility of evidence is that relevant evidence is admissible unless a constitutional, statutory, or other rule specifically provides otherwise. Fed.R.Evid. 402. "Evidence is relevant if (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed. R. Civ. 401.

While Daewoo highlights the differences between the Megahan-Daewoo America contract and the Logistec-Daewoo agreement in this case (Doc. 98, pp. 14-16), the Court is persuaded by Logistec's argument that this evidence is relevant to its allegation of contrived excuse (Doc. 107, p. 7). Logistec alleges that Daewoo, upon realizing that it had a flawed procurement plan for shipping woodchips and that market conditions were more favorable in Jacksonville, Florida, than at Logistec's facility in Brunswick, Georgia, relied on Logistec's purchase of a trailer tipper as an excuse to terminate the agreement and move its shipping operations to Jacksonville, Florida. (Id. at pp. 6-7 n.2.) Logistec contends that Daewoo America's execution and termination of the Megahan contract on behalf of Daewoo in Jacksonville, Florida, evidence a shifting of plans and further procurement issues, supporting its allegation of contrived excuse. (Id. at pp. 7-8.) In any event, the Court finds that the circumstances surrounding the execution and termination of the Megahan-Daewoo America contract would tend to make Logistec's theory of contrived excuse more or less probable.

Furthermore, because the Court determines infra that the subject of Daewoo's costs in Jacksonville, Florida, is admissible, the Megahan-Daewoo America contract also may be relevant for rebuttal purposes. See Subpart IV.1. Thus, because this evidence is relevant and admissible, this portion of Daewoo's Motion is DENIED.

5. Bankruptcy Action Filed by Daewoo GTL (America) Corp.

Logistec represented at the hearing that it does not intend to make any argument or introduce any evidence on this matter. Consequently, Daewoo's Motion to this end is GRANTED as unopposed. Daewoo GTL (America) Corp.'s bankruptcy action must be excluded from argument and evidence at trial.

6. Sugunthan Thuraisamy's Canadian Case

For the reasons stated on the record at the hearing, this portion of Daewoo's Motion is GRANTED as unopposed. Sugunthan Thuraisamy's Canadian case will not be admissible at trial.

7. Logistec's Alleged Damages for Lost Profits of Its New Venture into the Woodchip Business

For the reasons stated on the record at the hearing, this portion of Daewoo's Motion is DENIED. As stated at the hearing, this ruling does not foreclose Daewoo from raising these arguments at trial, including through a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50. However, a "motion in limine is not the proper vehicle to resolve substantive issues, to test issues of law, or to address or narrow the issues to be tried." Variable Annuity Life Ins. Co. v. Laeng, No. 8:12-CV-2280-T-33, 2013 WL 3992418, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 2, 2013). Consequently, the Court will not dispose of Logistec's claim for lost profits on a motion in limine. As this claim is still in the case, Logistec will be allowed to present evidence to support it.

8. Logistec's Alleged Damages for Capital Expenditures and Lost Profits

Similarly, and for the reasons stated on the record at the hearing, this portion of Daewoo's Motion is DENIED. Again, a motion in limine is not the proper vehicle to raise a dispositive issue. Daewoo may advance the substantive arguments it raises in this portion of its Motion to the Court and the jury at trial. However, at this stage, evidence of Logistec's alleged damages for capital expenditures and lost profits remains relevant and admissible.

9. Logistec's Alleged Punitive Damages

For the reasons stated on the record at the hearing, this portion of Daewoo's Motion is DENIED. Daewoo argues in its brief, and emphasized at the hearing, that the Court should consider this dispositive issue because Logistec failed to include its claim for punitive damages in the Pretrial Order. (Doc. 98, p. 28.) The Court agrees that Logistec has not provided any reason why it omitted this claim from its portion of the Pretrial Order. However, the Court does not find that Daewoo has been prejudiced by this omission, as it has been aware that Logistec seeks punitive damages since the ...


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