When the Morrill County, Nebraska, jury returned its verdicts on November 20, the jury corrected improper acts committed by a business seller against a buyer nearly a decade ago. Gary’s Implement, Inc., sold its widely-known tractor parts and salvage business to Bridgeport Tractor Parts, Inc., a subsidiary of Allstate Ag Parts, Inc., in mid-1998. The key to the sale was Gary’s covenant not to compete with its buyer.
But, within about 18 months, full-fledged competition was underway. Installment payments were withheld by the buyer, and litigation was commenced. Claims and counterclaims were rapidly filed. The litigation process began in mid-2000.
Three years later, in July 2003, the case was tried to a Morrill County jury, but the evidence was restricted by pretrial rulings and jury instructions which eventually produced an adverse result. The buyer lost the first case and was ordered to pay nearly half a million dollars to the seller.
The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the outcome of the first trial. The appellate court held the first case resulted in the wrong outcome because the trial court made mistakes on the law. A new trial was ordered.
But, before the Supreme Court’s reversal was announced, Gary’s Implement issued writs of execution on its judgment causing sale of real estate. Bridgeport Tractor Parts was forced into a bankruptcy proceeding to protect itself. This spawned more litigation in federal court in Nebraska, South Dakota courts, and in separate lawsuits in Morrill County.
Eventually, the litigation was somewhat sorted out, and the Supreme Court of Nebraska ordered a new trial be held. Bridgeport Tractor Parts chose to engage new counsel for its second trial. It chose Domina Law Group pc llo.
The second trial was delayed until November 2009 by a series of events, first a principal in Gary’s Implement, Inc., died. Then, a principal in Bridgeport Tractor Parts, Inc., suffered serious physical illness. Eventually, the new trial commenced on November 16, 2009. In the end, it produced a markedly different result.
The jury was asked to return two (2) verdicts. First, it decided the seller, Gary’s Implement, breached its obligations to its buyer, Bridgeport Tractor Parts, by engaging in unauthorized competition. The jury held that Bridgeport Tractor Parts was damaged and awarded the buyer $1,250,000—more than twice the amount originally paid for the goodwill portion of the 1998 business transaction.
Second, the jury was called upon to decide whether the seller should recover the unpaid portion of the purchase price for the goodwill—$420,000. Bridgeport Tractor, the buyer, elected to stop making installment payments after it became convinced unfair competition was occurring.
Gary’s entered the trial thinking its promissory note claim was simple and a judgment in its favor on the note was inescapable.
Bridgeport Tractor Parts contended Gary’s was wrong, and the jury agreed. The jury held the seller, Gary’s, could recover nothing under the promissory note because its obligations to its buyer were breached. The combination of verdicts means a total of $1,250,000 is to be paid to Domina Law Group pc llo’s successful client, Bridgeport Tractor Parts, the purchaser. In addition, BTP is not required to pay the $420,000 promissory note it executed, nor must it pay 16% interest on the $420,000 debt. Gary’s sought interest in this amount from mid-2000 to the present time.
There may be more good news for BTP. Domina Law Group pc llo filed a separate proceeding for the company asking the court direct Gary’s to pay back the $476,000 sum it recovered on its reversed judgment after sale of BTP’s land. The sale forced BTP to pay $476,000 to get the land back despite the fact the promissory note, sought to be satisfied in the proceeding, has now been declared invalid and one upon which Gary’s Implement, the seller, was entitled to no recovery.
“We are hopeful BTP will finally be made whole after a decade of difficulty in Court,” Dave Domina said. Domina, who tried the case for Bridgeport Tractor Parts, noted the weeklong trial in District Court ended in a “responsible jury’s thoughtful, discriminating view of the evidence, with an obvious view the buyer had been wronged.”
Domina complimented Jerrold Strasheim, BTP’s appellate counsel. “Mr. Strasheim got a bad judgment reversed, and his efforts allowed BTP to have the right to a retrial of its case. I was privileged to be able to handle the second trial and capitalize on the opportunity Mr. Strasheim’s efforts gave to our mutual clients.”
Domina Law Group pc llo is a firm of trial lawyers. We specialize in complex litigation on a national basis. Our lawyers are ethical, aggressive, and committed to providing spirit and vitality to the judicial system and our client’s legal rights.