Tag: Appellate

Tennessee Court of Appeals Reverses $31m Verdict Against Navistar

An appellate court in Jackson, Tennessee reversed a 2017 jury verdict against Navistar Inc. that held the commercial truck and engine manufacturer liable for $31 million in actual and punitive damages. The underlying trial involved a commercial dispute regarding the reliability of trucks purchased by the plaintiff, Milan Supply Chain Solutions and manufactured by Navistar. Milan argued at trial that Navistar had committed fraud and violated Tennessee’s consumer protection laws when selling 234 Class 8 trucks, claiming that the manufacturer knew the engines on the trucks were defective when they were sold. In the appellate decision filed August 14th, the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Jackson ruled that the trial court erred at least twice, in that the economic loss doctrine barred fraud claims, and the consumer protection act does not cover commercial vehicles. Further, the panel affirmed the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees in favor of co-defendant and dealer Volunteer International, Inc., whom Milan sued without grounds.

Lead trial lawyer, Jeff Patterson, said, “We are relieved and grateful that the Court of Appeals corrected this irrational verdict. In at least seven venues around the country, trial courts and a jury have ruled for Navistar just as this appellate panel did. It’s a shame to have wasted so much in public and private resources on this case.”

In addition to the Hartline Barger team of Jeff Patterson, Clayton Callen and Tyler Stuart, Navistar was represented by Roman Martinez and Kevin Jakopchek of Latham & Watkins LLP, and Eugene N. Bulso Jr. and Paul J. Krog of Leader Bulso & Nolan PLC.

Law 360’s coverage of the decision can be found here (paywall)

Hartline Barger LLP Attorneys File Amicus Brief to U.S. Supreme Court

Attorneys Brad Robinson and Brandon Maxey, in the Dallas office of Hartline Barger LLP, submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a group law professors from across the country.

The case stems from a 9th Circuit decision that raises concerns regarding the application of federal vs. state privilege law in federal cases where the court’s personal jurisdiction is based solely on diversity of citizenship—as well as overarching issues of federalism. The issue on appeal is whether state privilege law governs a state law claim in federal court, where the court’s jurisdiction is based solely on diversity. Or, as the 9th Circuit held, would Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence regarding privilege govern?

In this breach of contract case, the application of state privilege law would have resulted in the exclusion of a key email from a pre-suit mediation—while the application of federal law, according to the 9th Circuit, would have allowed the email into evidence. The email was the crucial piece of evidence supporting a motion for summary judgment.  As such, the application of state vs. federal law was dispositive on the state law claim.

In the trial court, the defendant-petitioner argued that state law should apply because the district court’s jurisdiction on this state-law claim arose solely out of diversity. On appeal, the 9th Circuit reversed, holding that federal privilege law should have governed because the pre-suit mediation implicated potential federal claims—although no federal claims were present at the time of the trial court’s decision.

The law professors’ brief supports the petitioner’s position. In short, issues of federalism and the underlying policy of the Erie Doctrine support the application of state law in this context. As discussed in the law professors’ brief, Congress debated this very issue while designing Rule 501. Specifically, Congress designed the rule to avoid overriding states’ policy choices when state-law governs the claims and defenses in a case.

The case is Hannstar Display Corp. v. Sony Electronics, Inc., et. al., No. 16-1457. The petition has been distributed for the Court’s Conference of September 25, 2017.

Alan Carrillo, a summer associate at Hartline Barger, also contributed to the work performed on this brief.