Prince Hotel, SA v. Blake Marine Group et al
ORDER denying 83 Motion for Directed Verdict or Judgment as a Matter of Law Concerning Damages. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 1/30/2013. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
PRINCE HOTEL, S.A.,
BLAKE MARINE GROUP, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION 11-0537-WS-M
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for Directed Verdict or
Judgment as a Matter of Law Concerning Damages (doc. 83). Plaintiff filed a response in
opposition to the Motion. (See doc. 84.)
The basis of defendants’ Motion is that in the Joint Pretrial Document, plaintiff describes
its damages claims as follows: “Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, plus
attorney’s fees and costs.” (Doc. 71, at 16.) Defendants correctly note that the Standing Order
Governing Final Pretrial Conference (doc. 44-1) calls for greater specificity as to the amount and
categories of damages sought than Prince Hotel provided in the Joint Pretrial Document.
Defendants’ position is that, in light of that omission, “plaintiff has failed to preserve a right to
seek damages in a specified amount” (doc. 83, at 1), such that defendants are entitled to
judgment as a matter of law on damages.
At the Final Pretrial Conference conducted on January 15, 2013, the Court observed that
the parties’ Joint Pretrial Document does not comply with the standards articulated in the
Standing Order in numerous particulars. The parties were notified at that time that the Court, in
its discretion, would not expend judicial resources (and force the parties to expend their
resources) to correct the many aspects of the Joint Pretrial Document that fall short or are
otherwise noncompliant; rather, the Court indicated that it would accept that filing in its deficient
state and allow it to govern the trial accordingly.
Defendants’ Motion selectively focuses on one of the numerous defects in the Joint
Pretrial Document, and seeks to parlay that defect into a judgment in their favor. The Motion is
not well taken. It disregards the Court’s determination at the Final Pretrial Conference to accept
the Joint Pretrial Document despite its many shortcomings, for which both parties share
responsibility and must bear the consequences at trial. It seeks to circumvent the Court’s
previous ruling that “while the parties’ pretrial submissions were noncompliant …, no formal
sanctions are warranted as against either side.” (Doc. 79, at 1.) More fundamentally, it ignores
the fact that the contours of plaintiff’s damages claims are well documented in the record and are
well known to the parties, such that there will be no prejudice or unfair surprise when plaintiff
pursues them at trial. By way of example, in its motion for summary judgment, Prince Hotel
claimed as compensatory damages the $62,359.60 face value of the bounced check, as well as
additional unpaid invoices of $7,137.50 and $1,080. (See doc. 40, at 1.) Defendants well know
that those amounts and types of damages are and have always been the focal point of Prince
Hotel’s claims. Inasmuch as all parties understand that plaintiff’s compensatory damages are
comprised of these items, plaintiff will be permitted to pursue these categories of compensatory
damages at trial, as well as punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.1
Defendants also state in their Motion that “the court should enter judgment in favor of
defendants on any claims for punitive damages.” (Doc. 83, ¶ 3.) However, defendants offer
neither legal authority nor explanation in support of their conclusory request. Punitive damages
are generally available under Alabama law where a defendant consciously or deliberately
engages in fraud, which appears to be plaintiff’s claim here. See Ala. Code § 6-11-20(a).
Moreover, Alabama law specifically authorizes award of punitive damages in connection with
statutory worthless check claims such as that brought by Prince Hotel. See Ala. Code § 6-5-285.
The Court will not endeavor to “fill in the blanks” by supplying a legal predicate for defendants’
Motion that defendants have not asserted.
That said, Prince Hotel will not be permitted at trial to claim other or different
amounts or categories of compensatory damages, above and beyond those specified in its
previous filings. In other words, plaintiff is limited to the amounts and types of damages of
which it has given fair and reasonable notice to defendants.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion for Directed Verdict or Judgment as a
Matter of Law Concerning Damages (doc. 83) is denied.
DONE and ORDERED this 30th day of January, 2013.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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