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Abels v. Iceland Products Inc.

January 28, 1960

MONROE W. ABELS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ICELAND PRODUCTS, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Author: Hastings

Before HASTINGS, Chief Judge, and DUFFY and MAJOR, Circuit Judges.

HASTINGS, Chief Judge.

This diversity case was brought by appellee, Monroe W. Abels (Abels), against appellant, Iceland Products, Inc. (Iceland) to recover commissions on Abels' brokerage of fish sold for Iceland. On this appeal, Iceland asserts error in the trial court's judgment for certain commissions and the allowance of interest thereon.

Iceland for some time had engaged in the business of importing into and selling in this country various seafoods, particularly fish. Until 1953, Iceland distributed its fish through a nationwide broker, North Star Fisheries, which in turn dealt with local brokers. Subsequently, Iceland dealt directly with local brokers.

Abels acted as broker in the Chicago, Illinois, area for Iceland commencing in 1951 and 1952 and concluding on November 8, 1954. Until June, 1954, he was a member of the partnership of Steele and Abels which acted first as sub-broker for North Star Fisheries and later as direct representative of Iceland. Upon termination of the partnership, Abels in his individual capacity served as Iceland's broker.

There was an oral contract between Iceland and Abels under which Abels was to receive a brokerage of five per cent. This agreement was terminated by Iceland on November 8, 1954 in a letter written by Olafsson, the president of Icealdn.

In his complaint, Abels charged that Iceland unreasonably terminated the brokerage agreement and that in subsequent sales Iceland thereby took advantage of Abels' special knowledge, skill and ability. He sought a judgment of $50,000, basing his claim of unjust enrichment on Iceland's sales to all its Chicago customers made after Abels' separation.

The trial court circumscribed the claim and allowed commissions of $8871.69 to Abels limited to sales to two customers, Booth Fisheries (Booth) and Independent Fish Company (Independent). It further granted Abels interest in the amount of $1500. The trial court justified this result on the grounds that Abels "procured these customers and arranged for the sales."

There is no contention before this court that the termination of the brokerage contract was unreasonable. The parties agree that the contract of employment was of indefinite duration and terminable at will. Abels argues that the sales on which the commissions were granted were either formally or informally concluded prior to November 8, 1954. Iceland contends that the sales in question were made incidental to contracts entered into subsequent to November 8, 1954, at which time it is conceded that Abels was no longer Iceland's broker.

The sales made to Booth after Abels' employment was terminated, on which a brokerage of $7252.74 was allowed, consisted of the following:

Date Inv. No. Item Lbs. Amount

11/26/54 6440 Cod 8/7 60,032 $14,959.97

12/15/54 6509 " 66,024 16,453.18

12/16/54 6515 " 33,992 ...


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