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Barkley, Inc. v. Gabriel Brothers, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

May 14, 2015

BARKLEY, INC. Plaintiff and Counterclaim-Defendant,
GABRIEL BROTHERS, INC. and RUGGED WEARHOUSE, INC., Defendants and Counterclaimants.


JOHN T. MAUGHMER, Magistrate Judge.

On October 5, 2012, Gabriel Brothers, Inc., and its affiliated company, Rugged Wearhouse, Inc. (collectively referred to as "Gabriel Brothers") entered into a seven-page Master Services Agreement ("MSA") with Barkley, Inc. ("Barkley"). Pursuant to the MSA, Barkley agreed to provide certain marketing and advertising services to Gabriel Brothers on a project-byproject basis. The business relationship between Barkley and Gabriel Brothers was short-lived and quickly led to litigation. Specifically, the present litigation was instituted by Barkley on September 4, 2013, when Barkley sued Gabriel Brothers in three counts: (1) an alleged breach of the MSA, (2) breach of an alleged agreement between the parties on April 5, 2013, and (3) unjust enrichment. In response, Gabriel Brothers counterclaimed asserting claims against Barkley for (1) breach of the MSA, and (2) unjust enrichment.

On November 20, 2014, following briefing by the parties and prior to the scheduled trial date, the Court denied Gabriel Brothers' MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY OF PLAINTIFF'S EXPERT SAM MEERS PURSUANT TO FEDERAL RULE OF EVIDENCE 702, denied Barkley's MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE OF ACCORD AND SATISFACTION, denied Barkley's MOTION TO ENFORCE JUDICIAL ADMISSION, and granted Gabriel Brothers' DEFENDANTS AND COUNTER-CLAIMANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT. This latter ruling granted summary judgment to Gabriel Brothers on Barkley's claims for breach of the parties' MSA.

On December 4, 2014, the Court conducted a final pretrial conference with the parties. At that time, the Court granted in part Barkley's motion in limine and granted in part Gabriel Brothers' motion in limine. Thereafter from December 8, 2014 through December 11, 2014, the parties tried the case to a jury. On December 11, 2013, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Barkley on its breach of contract claim in the amount of $132, 223.52.

Presently pending before the Court are Gabriel Brothers' motion to alter or amend [Doc. 135]; Barkley's motion for prejudgment interest [Doc. 138]; Gabriel Brothers' motion for attorneys' fees [Doc. 139], and Gabriel Brothers' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and motion for new trial [Doc. 141].

A. Gabriel Brothers' motion to alter or amend

In its motion, Gabriel Brothers asserts that in ruling on dispositive motions prior to trial, the Court entered summary judgment in favor of Barkley on its claim (in Count II of its complaint) that Gabriel Brothers' breached an alleged agreement between the parties on April 5, 2013. As Gabriel Brothers notes, Barkley never sought summary judgment on that count. The Court rejects Gabriel Brothers' characterization and denies the motion to alter or amend.

Following the close of discovery, Gabriel Brothers filed a motion with the Court, in part, seeking a summary judgment against Barkley on its claims for breach of the alleged agreement of April 5, 2013. In Count II of its complaint, Barkley contended that, following the termination of the MSA by Gabriel Brothers, the parties reached an alternative contractual arrangement that Gabriel Brothers subsequently breached. Following the termination, the parties entered into negotiations on a separation agreement.

In its complaint, Barkley alleged that an oral agreement was reached on April 5, 2013, whereby:

[Gabriel Brothers] rather than paying the January [2013] Invoice and the monthly retainer for February, March 2013 plus the 90 day notice period under the 2013 Statement of Work [would] pay Barkley for the actual hours worked on various projects for [Gabriel Brothers].

To that end, in the summary judgment record, it was undisputed that on or about April 5, 2013, Barkley sent to Gabriel Brothers several third-party invoices as well as invoices for work actually done for Gabriel Brothers in February and March of 2013. It was also undisputed that Gabriel Brothers paid the third party vendors directly. However, Gabriel Brothers questioned some of the invoices for Barkley's work, as a result, and paid Barkley only $228, 677.13 of the $366, 900.65 that Barkley claimed it was owed. In Count II of its complaint, Barkley sought the remaining balance alleging that Gabriel Brothers breached the April 5 oral agreement. As noted, Gabriel Brothers sought summary judgment on this count, arguing that there was no meeting of the minds.

In examining Gabriel Brothers' "meeting of the minds" argument, the Court necessarily had to examine the parties' contentions surrounding the alleged April 5 oral agreement. Thus the Court noted:

It does appear to be beyond dispute that the parties were working on an agreement to resolve their differences and that the agreement would entail Gabriel Brothers paying Barkley for "actual costs."[1] Gabriel Brothers believes that it has paid such actual costs by paying all third-party invoices and by paying those parts of Barkley's invoices that adequately reflected work done for Gabriel Brothers. Barkley, on the other hand, believes that the payment of anything less than 100% of its invoiced amount is a failure to pay actual costs.

The Court agreed with Gabriel Brothers that "[t] he existence of a contract necessitates a meeting of the minds' which the court determines by looking to the intention of the parties as expressed or manifested in their words or acts." J.H. v. Brown, 331 S.W.3d 692, 701-02 (Mo. App. [W.D.] 2011). Further, the essential terms of the contract must be capable of certain interpretation. Ketcherside v. McLane, 118 S.W.3d 631, 636 (Mo. App. [S.D.] 2003). "That is, [the] terms of agreement must be sufficiently definite to enable the court to give it an exact meaning." Id. The issue thus raised by Gabriel Brothers' summary judgment motion was whether the parties had "a ...

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