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Landmark Infrastructure Holding Company, LLC v. R.E.D. Investments, LLC

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

April 30, 2018



          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge

         For the reasons set forth below, the motion by defendants R.E.D. Investments, LLC and Bobby Van Stavern for a new trial or for remittitur or merger is denied.

         I. Background

         This case involves a purchase agreement between plaintiff Landmark Infrastructure Holding Company LLC and R.E.D.[1] The agreement provided that Landmark would pay R.E.D. $902, 358.11 in exchange for the right to receive base rents under a billboard lease and a 99-year easement over a portion of R.E.D.'s real property.

         Paragraph 4 of the Purchase Agreement contained a “Representation and Covenant” that “[R.E.D.] has not received notice of a rent reduction by the billboard tenant under the Billboard lease or notice of any fact, condition or circumstance that would result in a rent reduction.” However, the evidence showed that, at the time the Purchase Agreement was executed, R.E.D. and Van Stavern knew or had reason to know that the billboard tenant under the lease, Lamar Advertising, had requested or would be requesting a rent reduction.

         The case was tried before a jury beginning January 16, 2018. Three claims were submitted to the jury: fraudulent misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation claims against both defendants, and a breach of contract claim against R.E.D.

         On January 18, 2018, the jury returned a verdict in Landmark's favor on the negligent misrepresentation claim and assessed damages in Landmark's favor against both Defendants in the amount of $381, 234.11. The jury also returned a verdict in Landmark's favor on the breach of contract claim and assessed damages in Landmark's favor against R.E.D. in the amount of $156, 000.00.

         The Jury was instructed on each of these claims in separate packages. The damage instruction for the negligent representation claim and the contract claim were nearly identical. They instructed the jury to award “such sum as you believe will fairly and justly compensate Plaintiff for any damages you believe Plaintiff sustained as a direct result of the Defendants' [conduct].” Doc. 189, Jury Instruction Nos. 20 and 23.

         Defendants now move for a new trial or alternatively for remittitur or merger of the damage awards. Doc. 200. Defendants first argue that the Court erred in its evidentiary rulings and this resulted in manifest injustice. Defendants also argue that the damages awarded by the jury are excessive and against the clear weight of the evidence. A//s an alternative to a new trial, Defendants seek either remittitur or merger on the premise that $381, 234.11 is the maximum damages to which Landmark is entitled. In other words, the $156, 000 awarded for the breach of contract must be either remitted or merged with the $381, 234.11 award.

         II. Discussion

         A. Motion for New Trial

         Under Rule 59(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court may grant a motion for a new trial “on all or some of the issues.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1). A new trial may be granted when the first trial resulted in a miscarriage of justice, the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, the damages award was excessive, or there were legal errors at trial. Gray v. Bucknell, 86 F.3d 1472, 1480 (8th Cir. 1996). The Court should grant a new trial where erroneous evidentiary rulings “had a substantial influence on the jury's verdict.” Littleton v. McNeely, 562 F.3d 880, 888 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Harris v. Chand, 506 F.3d 1135, 1139 (8th Cir. 2007)). Furthermore, only if the jury's verdict is so against the great weight of the evidence that it constitutes a miscarriage of justice should a motion for a new trial be granted. Ogden v. Wax Works, Inc., 214 F.3d 999, 1010 (8th Cir. 2000).

         Defendants object to a number of the Court's pretrial evidentiary rulings. In their initial briefing, Defendants made conclusory statements about these rulings and presented no new facts or arguments. After Landmark had responded, Defendants substantially expanded their argument to discuss evidence presented at trial and an offer of proof. But at the time of its pretrial rulings, the Court was well aware of the Defendants' desire to have Mr. Moyers testify that the lease should have been shopped and their position that Landmark had failed to mitigate its damages. The Court's decision was not changed by the offer of proof that was submitted after the Court made its ruling. Further, the jury was aware that the Purchase Agreement gave Landmark the right to a 99-year easement in addition to the rents from the lease it purchased from the Defendants. The Court is unconvinced that it erred in its legal ruling and therefore finds no manifest injustice to correct.

         Defendants also suggest that the jury verdict was not supported by the evidence because the Purchase Agreement permitted the lessee, Lamar Advertising, to terminate the lease for any reason with ninety days' notice. Defendants conclude that Landmark therefore assumed the risk of termination and their damages were not caused by the Defendants' misrepresentation. But the evidence showed that Landmark would not have entered into the lease had they known Lamar Advertising intended to request a rent reduction. Thus, there was evidence to support Landmark's theory that it was induced to enter into the agreement by the ...

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