Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Xereas v. Heiss

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 5, 2019

JOHN N. XEREAS, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant,
v.
MARJORIE A. HEISS, et al, Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DEBORAH A. ROBINSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Defendants' Post Trial Motion to Alter or Amend the Jury's Judgment (“Defendants' Motion to Alter or Amend”) (ECF No. 234) and Defendants' Post-Trial Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (“Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law”) (ECF No. 235) are pending for determination. After careful consideration of the parties' submissions, and for the reasons that follow, the court will grant Defendants' Motion to Alter or Amend and deny Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law.

         BACKGROUND

         After nearly five years of litigation, including extensive discovery, the Plaintiff, in August 2017, filed his Second Amended Complaint. See Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 102). After extensive briefing, the court entered an order granting summary judgment as to fifteen counts in the Second Amended Complaint, dismissed four counts in the Second Amended Complaint, and denied summary judgment as to the remaining claims of trademark infringement (Counts I through III), breach of contract and the duty of good faith and fair dealing (Counts V, VII, and VIII), unjust enrichment (Count XVIII), and cybersquatting (Count XIX). See Order (ECF No. 187).

         Trial commenced on November 5, 2018. After the close of Plaintiff's evidence, the Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law on the basis that there was no evidence presented support the Plaintiff's claim for damages for breach of contract or for trademark infringement. See Transcript of Jury Trial, Day 7 (ECF No. 233) at 1016-17. In opposition, the Plaintiff argued that damages were his lost salary following his removal as a Managing Member of Riot Act LLC, and losses stemming from Defendants' conversion of the Riot Act trademark. See id. at 1019. The court granted the Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law as to the conversion of the Riot Act trademark. See id. at 1022-23. However, the court denied the motion as to the breach of contract claims because “the jury could find at a minimum that Mr. Xereas was not paid a salary and that constitutes a damage or one item of damages for the alleged breach.” See Id. at 1023:14-18. Thus, that issue was submitted to the jury.

         Following deliberations, the jury returned a verdict on the issues submitted. See Verdict Form (ECF No. 225). The jury awarded Plaintiff “$106, 000 plus legal fees” for recovery for the breach of contract claim and found in favor of the Defendants on their counterclaim for Conversion, awarding the Defendants “return computer.” See id.

         Defendants filed three motions: the two motions discussed herein, as well as the Motion for Attorney's Fees (ECF No. 236). Plaintiff filed the Motion to Amend the Pleadings to Conform to Evidence Presented at Trial (ECF No. 237).

         THE PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         A. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

         Defendants, in their Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, argue that the Plaintiff did not present any evidence supporting the contention that he is entitled to damages stemming from the breach of contract claims. See Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law at 3-6. Defendants contend that none of the alleged breach of contract claims have any causal connection to the damages Plaintiff claims as “unpaid salary.” Id. at 5. Defendants also point out that the court held that the failure to pay a salary was not a breach of contract. See id. (quoting Memorandum Opinion at 15). Additionally, the Defendants argue that there is no contractual basis for ensuring that the Plaintiff receive the $45, 000 salary because there is not guaranteed payment for the full salary permitted by the Operating Agreement. See id. at 6.

         In opposition, Plaintiff submits that Defendants effectively admit that the jury correctly determined that the defendants had breached the Amended Operating Agreement. Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Post-Trial Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (ECF No. 242) at 1-2. Plaintiff further submits that there was sufficient evidence-including witness testimony- for the jury to conclude that the Defendants unfairly removed Plaintiff as a Managing Member and holding member meetings without proper notice in violation of the Operating Agreement. Id. at 6-10. Plaintiff contends this constitutes sufficient evidence of promises Defendants made to Plaintiff that he would receive a salary and was wrongly denied that salary. Id. at 9. Plaintiff further argues that the jury could have reasonably disagreed whether breach of contract occurred, whether damages were required, and what damage amount would be appropriate. See id. at 13- 18 (discussing multiple pieces of evidence and arguments made at trial to suggest that reasonable minds could disagree whether a breach of contract occurred). Plaintiff argues that the jury could have considered any contract breach and the appropriate damages, and that the jury's award of damages was not limited to the “list of itemized damages in [Plaintiff's] Final Pretrial Statement.” See id. at 21. Finally, Plaintiff argues that Defendants are precluded from making a “causation” argument because it was not raised in the Plaintiff's Rule 50(a) motion following the close of evidence. Id. at 23.

         In reply, Defendants reassert the arguments made in their Motion. See Defendants' Reply In Support of Defendants' Post-Trial Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (ECF No. 245) at 3-5. Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's allegations of (1) failure to give timely notice of a Managing Member meeting, (2) failure to provide meeting agendas, and (3) Plaintiff's ultimate removal as a Managing Member, was not the cause of any salary to be withheld. Id. Defendants further argue that a loan Defendant Dawson gave to the LLC or the indemnification provision of the Operating Agreement cannot be the basis for Plaintiff's alleged damages. Id. at 5-6. Finally, Defendants argue that they filed a renewed motion under Rule 50(a) as to the lack of damages arising from the alleged breaches of contract, and thus preserved this argument for the present motion. Id. at 7-8. Thus, the Defendants argue that the motion should be granted because the Plaintiff has failed to offer evidence of damages causally related to the alleged breach of contract.

         B. Motion to Alter or Amend

         Defendants submit that the jury award of $106, 000 has no basis in the evidence presented at trial. Defendants also submit that the jury award of attorney's fees has neither a statutory or contractual basis, nor did Plaintiff request or argue for attorney's fees at trial. See Defendants' Motion to Alter or Amend at 1. Defendants first argue that the court should alter or amend the jury award of $106, 000 to avoid clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Id. at 2-4. Defendants contend that, at the most, Plaintiff should be limited to the amount of damages he specified in his in the pretrial statement, $45, 000. Id. at 3.[1] Second, Defendants argue that the jury's award ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.