Helena Chemical Company v. Emmet Torian et al
ORDER granting as modified 9 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 5/9/2016. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
HELENA CHEMICAL COMPANY
EMMET TORIAN; and
EMMET TORIAN FARMS
1. Emmet Torian Farms bought rice seed and chemicals from Helena
Chemical Company on credit. Emmet Torian-the man doing business as
Emmet Torian Farms- guarantied payment.
Torian got behind on his
payments in 2014 when bad weather hurt his crops. NQ 12-2
2. His bill
now comes to approximately $147,000 in principal and $2,000 in monthly
finance charges. NQ 14-8. Helena sues for payment. Its motion for summary
judgment, NQ 9, is granted as modified.
2. Torian and his business admitted most of the facts: the account, the
guaranty, and many unpaid invoices. NQ 13at1-2. They disputed two things.
The first is the balance on two invoices. Invoices 1253 and 3530 divide their
charges 75/25 between Torian Farms and Bell Farms because the farms
shared some acreage. Torian says that's not right; the split should've been
50/50. NQ 12-2 at 1-2. Helena says that even though Torian signed off on
75 / 25 and should' ve spoken up sooner, it has re-done the split to take this fact
in Torian's favor. NQ 14-1at1-2.
The second dispute is legal: Is the credit agreement's 1.4% monthly
finance charge usurious? The parties chose Tennessee law. NQ 1 at 7; 14-4 at
18. Tennessee caps interest at a specified annual rate-currently 7.5%.
TENN. CODE ANN. § 47-14-105; NQ 12-3. The finance charge in the credit
agreement more than doubles that rate. Torian says all this is usury. Helena
contends the charge isn't interest, but rather a time-price differential.
A time-price differential is the added cost of paying later instead of
Black's Law Dictionary 1711 (10th ed. 2014).
distinguishes this kind of payment from interest. TENN. CODE ANN.§ 47-14102(8) & (11).
And Tennessee's usury law doesn't apply to time-price
differentials. TENN. CODE ANN.§ 47-14-120(a); see also Dennis v. Sears, Roebuck
& Co., 446 S.W.2d 260, 263, 223 Tenn. 415, 421 (1969) (discussing a time-price
differential and a statute about retail charge agreements). Helena is right that
the credit agreement's finance charge is a time-price differential because there
was no loan of money. The seed, chemicals, and other goods had one price
if paid for within 30 days, and another price if paid for over time. That's not
interest, so the rate's not usurious. TENN. CODE ANN.§ 47-14-120(a); see also
RESTATEMENT OF CONTRACTS§ 526 illus. 4 (1932).
3. The amount owed, after adjusting Invoices 1253 and 3530, is this:
Monthly finance charges
through 25 March 2016:
Monthly finance charges
since 25 March 2016:
Ng 14-1at4. Helena also seeks" post-judgment finance charges," but the Court
can't award them. Ng 9 at 3. Post-judgment interest is a matter of federal,
rather than state, law. Drovers Bank of Chicago v. National Bank and Trust
Company of Chariton, 829 F.2d 20, 23 n.3 (8th Cir. 1987). The Court will award
post-judgment interest under 28U.S.C.§1961. And Helena is contractually
entitled to a reasonable attorney's fee. Ng 9-3
3 & 14-4
Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. v. Epperson, 284 S.W.3d 303, 309 (Tenn. 2009).
Motion, Ng 9, granted as modified.
D .P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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