Central Transport, LLC v. Balram Trucking, Ltd
ORDER AND ENTRY: (1) SETTING FORTH THE COURTS FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW; (2) DIRECTING THAT FINAL JUDGMENT BE ENTERED IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF CENTRAL TRANSPORT, LLC, FOR $87,288.26; AND (3) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE COURTS DOCKET- In light of the foregoing, the Court concludes that Central suffered damages to the leased tractor ($22,960.60) and the leased trailer ($6,900) in the total amount of $29,860.60, for which it is entitled to recover. Without dispute, C entral suffered other damages in the amount of $57,427.66, for which it is entitled to recover from Balram. Thus, in total, Central is entitled to recover from Balram damages in the amount of $87,288.26. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman on 8/21/17. (kma)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WESTERN DIVISION AT DAYTON
CENTRAL TRANSPORT, LLC,
Case No. 3:15-cv-265
BALRAM TRUCKING, LTD.,
Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman
ORDER AND ENTRY: (1) SETTING FORTH THE COURT’S FINDINGS OF FACT
AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW; (2) DIRECTING THAT FINAL JUDGMENT BE
ENTERED IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF CENTRAL TRANSPORT, LLC, FOR
$87,288.26; AND (3) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE COURT’S DOCKET
This civil consent case came before the Court for a bench trial on April 3, 2017. Doc. 34.
Attorney Robert Buchbinder represented Plaintiff Central Transport, LLC (“Central”) at trial. Id.
Attorney Jeffrey Jurca represented Defendant Balram Trucking, Ltd. (“Balram”) at trial. Id.
Following trial and preparation of the trial transcript, the parties simultaneously filed proposed
findings of fact and conclusions of law. Docs. 35, 36. The Court has carefully considered all of
the foregoing, as well the evidence admitted at trial, and this case is now ripe for issuance of the
Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law as required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a)(1).
This case arises out of a multi-vehicle collision on August 28, 2013 that occurred on
southbound I-75 near Tipp City, Ohio. See docs. 35, 36. The facts of the accident and Balram’s
liability for that accident are not in dispute. Doc. 35 at PageID 669; doc. 36 at PageID 681. The
sole dispute presented for the Court’s resolution is whether Central -- an Indiana limited liability
is entitled to recover the full extent of the $87,342.26 sought from Balram (who concedes that
Central is entitled to recover at least $57,427.66 in damages). Id.
The accident occurred when Dial Jhutti, while driving a tractor-trailer within the course
and scope of his employment for Balram, failed to brake and ultimately struck the rear of a
tractor-trailer driven by Michael Moore, a driver for Plaintiff Central.
As a result of the
collision, both tractor-trailers caught on fire and both Moore and Jhutti died in the accident.
(This action concerns only claims of property damage and does not concern any damages related
to the death of either driver).
The parties having agreed that Central is entitled to recover at least $57,427.66 for
property damage resulting from the accident, the limited dispute presented for the Court’s
resolution at trial is whether or not Central has standing to recover for the property damage
sustained to the tractor ($22,960.60) and trailer ($6,900) driven by Moore, which were
determined to be total losses.
It is undisputed that Central never owned the tractor or the trailer. Instead, Central leased
the tractor and trailer from the owner, GLS Leaseco (“GLS”), who is not a party to this lawsuit.
Despite not being the owner of the tractor or trailer, Central argues that it has standing to recover
damages for the tractor and trailer by virtue of: (1) its lease agreement with GLS, under which
Central bore responsibility to pay for damage to the tractor and trailer; and (2) an assignment
executed by GLS assigning to Central all of its claims arising out of the accident. Doc. 36 at
Balram argues that the lease agreement between the parties does not specifically assign
property damage claims to Central. Id. at PageID 670-72. Balram also argues that a separate
assignment of claims from GLS to Central is invalid.
With regard to the validity of the
assignment, Balram contends that Fred Calderone, who executed the assignment on behalf of
GLS, did not possess the requisite authority because, based upon his own deposition testimony,
he did not become GLS’s president until April 2016, i.e., after Central filed this lawsuit on July
6, 2015 and after expiration of the two-year limitations period on August 28, 2015. Doc. 35 at
FINDINGS OF FACT
From the Court’s perspective, in light of a number of stipulations by the parties (doc. 34
at PageID 603-08), there are only two factual issues required for resolution at trial, namely: (1)
the date upon which Calderone became president of GLS (thus gaining authority to bind GLS to
the assignment of claims); and (2) the date upon which Calderone executed the assignment. See
The Court finds Calderone’s trial testimony credible and concludes that, at deposition, he
mistakenly testified that he became GLS’s president in April 2016 when, in fact, he became
GLS’s president in April 2015. Doc. 34 at PageID 636, 651.
The Court also finds that
Calderone executed the assignment in the summer of 2015 -- albeit, there is no evidence upon
which the Court can conclude that the assignment was executed before the filing of this action on
July 6, 2015, or before expiration of the two-year limitations period on August 28, 2015. Doc.
34 PageID 630.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
There are two issues of law for the Court’s resolution: (1) whether Central has standing to
pursue damages to the leased tractor and trailer under its lease agreement with GLS; and, if not,
(2) whether Central has such standing under the assignment executed in its favor by GLS.
The lease agreement between Central and GLS with regard to the subject tractor and
trailer was signed on December 21, 2009 and reads, in part, that, “[Central] agrees to self-insure
the [the tractor and trailer] against the hazards of fire, theft, vandalism, physical damage or loss.”
JX 1. The lease also reads that, “[i]n the event of loss or damage of any kind” to the tractor and
trailer, Central “shall use all reasonable efforts to place [them] in good repair, condition and
working order to the satisfaction of [GLS][.]” Id. In the circumstance where the tractor and
trailer have “been irreparably damaged . . . [Central] shall make its election to pay [GLS] for the
irreparably damaged Unit[s] or to replace the irreparably damaged Unit[s][.]” Id.
“The real party in interest analysis turns upon whether the substantive law creating the
right being sued upon affords the party bringing the suit a substantive right to relief.” Certain
Interested Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, England v. Layne, 26 F.3d 39, 43 (6th Cir. 1994).
“[T]he governing substantive law in diversity actions is state law.” Id. In this diversity case,
Central’s alleged standing to pursue tort claims against Balram for damage to the tractor and
trailer arises from the lease between Central and GLS, which, by its terms, is governed by the
law of Central’s state of incorporation, i.e., Indiana. JX 1, JX 2. Under Indiana law, “[t]he
doctrine of subrogation may be invoked in favor of persons who are legally obligated to pay for a
loss caused by another’s tort.” Steury v. N. Indiana Pub. Serv. Co., 510 N.E.2d 213, 214 (Ind.
Ct. App. 1987); see also DePuy, Inc. v. Farmer, 847 N.E.2d 160, 170 (Ind. 2006). Thus, one
“who is primarily liable under a . . . contract for casualty losses [to property] . . . gains status as
a real party in interest because he [or she] is entitled to be subrogated to the rights” of the
property owner. Steury, 510 N.E.2d at 214.
As set forth by the terms of the lease noted above, Central is legally obligated to pay GLS
for loss to the leased tractor and trailer. Therefore, Central is a real party in interest and has legal
standing to pursue damages to the tractor and trailer against the Defendant tortfeasors. Id. Based
upon this conclusion, the Court need not determine whether Central also has standing to pursue
damages to the tractor and trailer under the assignment. Nevertheless, based upon the factual
findings above, the Court concludes that the assignment is valid and that Central also has
standing to pursue damages to the tractor and trailer based upon the assignment.
In light of the foregoing, the Court concludes that Central suffered damages to the leased
tractor ($22,960.60) and the leased trailer ($6,900) in the total amount of $29,860.60, for which
it is entitled to recover. Without dispute, Central suffered other damages in the amount of
$57,427.66, for which it is entitled to recover from Balram. Thus, in total, Central is entitled to
recover from Balram damages in the amount of $87,288.26.
The Clerk is ORDERED to enter judgment in favor of Plaintiff Central and against
Defendant Balram in the total amount of $87,288.26. The Clerk is further ORDERED to
TERMINATE this case on the Court’s docket.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
August 21, 2017
s/ Michael J. Newman
Michael J. Newman
United States Magistrate Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?