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Williams v. Medalist Golf, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

February 26, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment (#25). After an extended briefing schedule, this matter is ripe for disposition.

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts are undisputed except where indicated.

         Plaintiff Chris Williams d/b/a Cane Creek Sod is a company that supplies, grows, and delivers sod. Defendant Medalist, Inc. is a golf course builder that specializes in building high-end golf courses. Medalist agreed to build the Gary Player Design Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge (the “Project”) for Ozarks Golf and Hunt Club, LLC (“Ozarks Golf”). Medalist's project manager, Todd Tilton, solicited sod bids for the Project. Tilton told plaintiff's farmhand, Mark Woodard, that the sod was for use on a high-end golf course for a very important client. Plaintiff submitted a bid to provide Meyer Zoysia sod for the Project. At the time of the bid, around 2015-2016, plaintiff had approximately 65 acres of Meyer Zoysia sod, which had been planted in 2000. On January 2016, Tilton informed Woodard that plaintiff was “in the driver's seat with regard to the Zoysia” and that as long as the owner's director of agronomy approves of the sod, “then it looks good for you.” Tilton also informed Woodward that the Project owner's director of agronomy would likely want to visit the farm and inspect the fields.

         On February 23 and 24, 2016, plaintiff and Medalist executed a Grass Supplier Agreement (the “Agreement”) regarding the Project. Plaintiff understood that he guaranteed that the sod would be of a quality that satisfied the customer and that the quantity in the Agreement was an estimate and that Medalist could use less Meyer Zoysia sod on the Project. Specifically, plaintiff “acknowledges that its customer, defendant, had the right to inspect and reject sod per the Grass Supplier Agreement and Missouri statutes.” (#32 at 2.) Medalist made no payment to plaintiff in connection with the Agreement. The estimated quantity of sod in the Agreement was 21 acres.

         Todd Bohn is the director of agronomy for Big Cedar Lodge. Bohn holds a bachelor's degree in golf course management and was previously employed as golf course superintendent two other golf courses. Bohn oversees Big Cedar Lodge's golf properties with regard to golf turf maintenance and construction; he also oversees construction for Ozarks Golf and was given authority to act on behalf of Ozarks Golf as it related to the Project. At the relevant time, Jeff Lezon was superintendent of the Project. Around July 7, 2016, and at Bohn's instruction, Lezon visited plaintiff's farm on behalf of Ozarks Golf. Lezon inspected plaintiff's Meyer Zoysia sod accompanied by Woodard, plaintiff's farm manager. Woodard showed Lezon the 45-acre field of Meyer Zoysia that plaintiff identified as the field from which sod would be harvested for the Project. Lezon inspected and took photographs of the sod and sent the photographs and feedback regarding the sod to Bohn. Bohn concluded that the sod did not meet the quality standards required for the Project and instructed Medalist to reject plaintiff's sod. On July 14, Medalist informed plaintiff that it rejected plaintiff's Meyer Zoysia sod.

         Plaintiff did not harvest any Meyer Zoysia sod for the Project and did not deliver any Meyer Zoysia sod to Medalist in connection with the Agreement. Medalist did not submit a written order for delivery for the sod for the Project. Instead, Medalist obtained the sod it needed for the Project from another sod farm.

         Plaintiff denies that its sod was of inferior quality, as evidenced by inspections by third parties, including routine periodic inspections by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Medalist seeking damages for breach of contract and promissory estoppel. Medalist has moved for summary judgment on both claims.

         II. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Rule 56(c), a district court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that “there is no genuine issue as to material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 467 (1962). The burden is on the moving party. Mt. Pleasant, 838 F.2d at 273. After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth specific facts showing that there is sufficient evidence in its favor to allow a jury to return a verdict for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Buller v. Buechler, 706 F.2d 844, 846 (8th Cir. 1983). The Court is required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chem. Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir. 1976). With these principles in mind, the Court turns to the discussion.

         III. ...

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