John Deere Financial, f.s.b. v. Bio-Mass Renewable Technologies, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER. 1. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 76 ) is GRANTED. 2. Plaintiff will submit a proposed order within 14 days of this order dividing the damages between the Littrells' respective accounts. (Written Opinion) Signed by Judge Donovan W. Frank on 8/29/2017. (BJS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
John Deere Financial, f.s.b.,
f/k/a FPC Financial, f.s.b.,
Civil No. 15-31 (DWF/TNL)
OPINION AND ORDER
Bio-Mass Renewable Technologies, Inc.,
Jeff Buresh, and Jeffrey and Holly Littrell,
Matthew C. Berger, Esq., Michael S. Dove, Esq., and Rick J. Halbur, Esq., Gislason &
Hunter LLP, counsel for Plaintiff.
Jeffrey Littrell, pro se, and Holly Littrell, pro se, Defendants. 1
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff John Deere Financial, f.s.b.’s (“John
Deere”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 76.) For the reasons discussed
below, the Court grants the motion.
On January 15, 2008, Defendant Bio-Mass Renewable Technologies (“BRT”)
entered into an agreement with John Deere to become an authorized merchant of John
Deere. Defendants Jeffrey Littrell and Jeff Buresh were part-owners of BRT. In
The Littrells were represented by Michael M. Sawers of Briggs & Morgan, PA for
the limited purpose of responding to post-motion briefing.
addition, Jeffrey and Holly Littrell separately opened farm-plan accounts with John
Deere. The farm-plan accounts allowed the Littrells to purchase inventory on credit.
Under the Farm Plan Agreement for the Littrells’ farm-plan accounts, the Littrells each
agreed to pay “all amounts charged by the use of the Account, plus Finance Charges.”
(Doc. No. 114 ¶ 3, Ex. A (the “Farm Plan Agreements”).) 2 The Littrells accepted the
terms of the Farm Plan Agreements by any authorized use of the accounts. (Id.)
In April and May 2013, the Littrells purchased almost $450,000 worth of
inventory through BRT with their farm-plan accounts. (Doc. No. 19-1.) The Littrells
never paid those charges. (Doc. No. 79 (“Dunek Aff.”) ¶ 4.) John Deere alleges that the
Littrells are liable for $511,150.11, which represents the unpaid invoices, plus additional
accrued interest, fees and charges through November 17, 2014. (Id. ¶ 2.)
On January 7, 2015, John Deere filed suit against BRT, the Littrells, and Jeff
Buresh. As relevant here, John Deere brought a claim for breach of contract against the
Littrells for their unpaid accounts. John Deere now moves for summary judgment against
Summary judgment is appropriate if the “movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Courts must view the evidence, and the inferences that may be
While the Littrells had separate accounts, the relevant terms were the same in both
agreements. See Farm Plan Agreements.
reasonably drawn from the evidence, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Weitz Co., LLC v. Lloyd’s of London, 574 F.3d 885, 892 (8th Cir. 2009). However,
“[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural
shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed
‘to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.’” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 1).
The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of
material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Enter. Bank v. Magna
Bank, 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party must demonstrate the
existence of specific facts in the record that create a genuine issue for trial. Krenik v. Cty.
of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). A party opposing a properly supported
motion for summary judgment “may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his
pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986).
John Deere is Entitled to Summary Judgment.
The elements of a breach of contract claim are: “‘(1) formation of a contract;
(2) performance by plaintiff of any conditions precedent to his right to demand
performance by the defendant; and (3) breach of contract by defendant.’” Watkins Inc. v.
Chilkoot Distrib., Inc., 719 F.3d 987, 991 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Park Nicollet Clinic v.
Hamann, 808 N.W.2d 828, 833 (Minn. 2011)). Here, John Deere has shown that the
Littrells each breached their Farm Plan Agreements. The Littrells entered into the Farm
Plan Agreements whereby they agreed to pay all charges to their account in exchange for
John Deere providing a line of credit. John Deere provided credit for charges to the
Littrells’ account, but the Littrells failed to pay those charges. Thus, John Deere has
shown that the Littrells breached their Farm Plan Agreements.
The Littrells’ arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive. First, the Littrells
contend that they never agreed to the Farm Plan Agreements. The Littrells, however,
have provided no evidence to support this assertion. Moreover, John Deere provided the
Littrells’ updated financial disclosures for the farm-plan accounts, which show the
Littrells acknowledging their accounts. (Doc. No. 106 (“Dunek Supp. Aff.”) ¶¶ 3-4,
Exs. A & B.) To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party cannot
rely on mere denials. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Without evidence to support their
contentions, the Littrells cannot avoid summary judgment by denying the contracts
Similarly, the Littrells argue that BRT racked up the charges and not them. But
the Littrells agreed to pay all charges to their accounts. (See Farm Plan Agreements.)
Thus, the Littrells cannot avoid summary judgment by contending that BRT charged their
Next, the Court turns to the issue of damages. John Deere contends that the
Littrells are jointly and severally liable for the charges even though they each applied for
separate accounts. The Farm Plan Agreements provide that co-applicants agree to be
held jointly and severally for any charges. John Deere, however, has provided no
evidence to show that the Littrells were co-applicants. Indeed, the documents that John
Deere did provide show that the Littrells signed only their respective application. (See
Dunek Supp. Aff.” ¶¶ 3-4, Exs. A & B.). Thus, the Littrells are not jointly and severally
liable based on any provision in the Farm Plan Agreements.
In the absence of a contract provision, two defendants can be held jointly and
severally liable for breaching separate contracts only if the breaches are “closely related
in point of time, to the same person, and it is not reasonably possible to make a division
of the damages caused by the separate breaches.” Duluth Superior Erection, Inc. v.
Concrete Restorers, Inc., 665 N.W.2d 528, 538 (Minn. Ct. App. 2003) (citing Mike’s
Fixtures, Inc. v. Bombard’s Access Floor Sys., Inc., 354 N.W.2d 837, 839 (Minn. App.
984). Here, the Littrells’ charges can be traced to the separate accounts. John Deere’s
damages are therefore not indivisible. Thus, the Court concludes that joint and severally
liability is not appropriate.
Based on the foregoing, and the files, record, and proceedings herein, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that:
Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. ) is GRANTED.
Plaintiff will submit a proposed order within 14 days of this order dividing
the damages between the Littrells’ respective accounts.
Dated: August 29, 2017
s/Donovan W. Frank
DONOVAN W. FRANK
United States District Judge
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