Simplot contends that Central States is estopped from pursuing its claim because it chose to do business with PSA after it became aware of PSA's financial difficulties. We will not estop Central States here because Simplot makes no allegation that Central States made any misrepresentation to it upon which it relied.
An estoppel arises when one party makes a misleading representation to another party and the other party reasonably relies to his detriment on that representation. Black v. TIC Invest. Corp., 900 F.2d 112, 115 (7th Cir. 1990). Here, we are not aware of any misrepresentation on the part of Central States on which Simplot relied. Simplot's citation to Consolidated Freightways Corp. v. Admiral Corp., 442 F.2d 56 (7th Cir. 1971) is misplaced because in that case the Seventh Circuit found a misrepresentation.
In Consolidated, the motor carrier tendered bills of lading marked prepaid to a freight handler for payment. The freight handler in turn tendered the bills of lading to the shipper for payment. Unbeknownst to the shipper, the carrier had not collected payment but instead had extended credit to the freight handler. The freight handler became insolvent and could not pay the carrier. The carrier then sued the shipper for its freight charges. Consolidated, 442 F.2d at 58-60.
In finding the carrier estopped from recovering its freight charges, the Seventh Circuit held that by marking its bills of lading as prepaid, the carrier was misrepresenting to the shipper that it had received payment for its freight charges. The court found that the shipper had relied upon those bills of lading in paying the freight handler. Since the shipper had no way to protect itself from the freight handler's conversions, the court estopped the carrier from bringing the collection action. Consolidated, 442 F.2d at 60.
In our situation, we do not find Central States' continuing to do business with PSA, alone, to be a misrepresentation sufficient for estoppel. Since Central States made no misrepresentation to Simplot, we will not estop Central from collecting its rates.
Simplot argues for a reduction in Central States' $ 249,962.55 damage claim by an amount corresponding to any charges for repositioning empty trailers. Simplot contends it never agreed to pay for this service. This is a question of fact which we resolve in favor of Central States.
As we noted above in our findings of fact, a portion of the amount PSA charged Simplot for door-to-door service included repositioning by motor carriers of the empty trailers. We therefore find Simplot liable for the full amount of those charges which total $ 249,962.55.
Central States asserts it is entitled to prejudgment interest from the date of each shipment until the date the judgment is paid because it has not had use of the money to which it was entitled. Simplot contends that prejudgment interest is not appropriate in this instance because courts should award it only to prevent a party from using the litigation process as a means to coerce credit based upon the time value of money. Since it had already paid the shipping charges to PSA, Simplot concludes it has not coerced Central States by forcing it to sue for payment.
Prejudgment interest is a form of compensation and the decision to award it rests in the sound discretion of the court. Michaels v. Michaels, 767 F.2d 1185, 1204 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1057, 88 L. Ed. 2d 774, 106 S. Ct. 797 (1986). The decision to award prejudgment interest requires a balancing of the equities between the parties under the circumstances of the case. Michaels, 767 F.2d at 1204. The Michaels ' rule applies in the context of disputes arising from the shipment of goods in interstate commerce by common carriers. Co-Operative Shippers, Inc. v. Atchison, T., and S. F. Ry. Co., 840 F.2d 447 (7th Cir. 1988) (Seventh Circuit denied shipper prejudgment interest because the common carrier had not had the use of monies which were awarded to the shipper); Inman Freight Systems, Inc. v. Boise Cascade Corp., 691 F. Supp. 146 (N.D. Ill. 1988) (award of prejudgment interest was found appropriate because the common carrier waited seven years, between provision of services and court's decision, to be paid for undercharges), aff'd on other grounds, 881 F.2d 475 (7th Cir. 1989).
In our case, it would be inequitable to charge Simplot with prejudgment interest. Simplot derived no time value from the money withheld by PSA from Central States, and thereby has not used the litigation process as a means to coerce credit from Central States. Moreover, we find Simplot, prior to our decision, had no notice of any law in this district which would have required it to pay Central States' shipping charges. We therefore deny Central States' request for prejudgment interest.
Based upon the above findings of fact and conclusions of law, we enter judgment in favor of Central States in the amount of $ 249,962.55. Central States is not entitled to prejudgment interest but is entitled to its costs as the prevailing party pursuant to Rule 54(d).