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Phoenix Bond & Indem. Co., et al v. John Bridge

January 24, 2012

PHOENIX BOND & INDEM. CO., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JOHN BRIDGE, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS. BCS SERVS., INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HEARTWOOD 88, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Court has considered the parties' arguments regarding setoff and entry of judgment.

Prior determinations by the Court

1. The Court previously determined that the BG defendants are not entitled to a setoff based on settlements the plaintiffs obtained from other defendants. Phoenix Bond & Indem. Co. v. Bridge, Nos. 05 C 4095 & 07 C 1367, 2012 WL 8706, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 2, 2012).

2. The Court also determined that the Sass defendants are entitled to a setoff based on the so-called "one satisfaction" doctrine. Specifically, the Court ruled that the total amount the plaintiffs are entitled to recover from the Sass defendants on the RICO claims (including trebled damages, attorney's fees, and costs) should be offset by amounts the plaintiffs obtained via settlement from other members of the Sabre Enterprise, in which the Sass defendants were alleged to have participated. Id. at *1-2.

3. The Court further determined that the punitive damages awards that the jury made against the Sass defendants on the tortious interference claim are not subject to setoff and that plaintiffs are entitled to recover those amounts over and above whatever they recover on the RICO claims. Id. at *2.

Plaintiffs' additional setoff argument

4. Plaintiffs contend that a setoff is inappropriate because the jury was asked to award only damages caused by the Sass defendants themselves, not the Sabre enterprise. Plaintiffs' first argument, involving the name change from "Sabre defendants" to "Sass defendants" on the verdict form that the Court made at the last minute, is without merit. The Court made this change to avoid unfair prejudice against the Sass defendants (who had been called the "Sass defendants" throughout the trial), not to affect how the jury considered and awarded damages.

Plaintiffs' second argument is based on a comparison between the compensatory damages awarded and the amount they requested. The jury was told to award damages caused by "the defendant's wrongful conduct." Plaintiffs' damages evidence as presented at trial was based on damages caused by the Sabre Enterprise as a whole. The jury awarded BCS Services about fifty-six percent of the compensatory damages it sought from the Sass defendants ($1,232,500 / $2,200,000) and awarded Phoenix Bond about forty-eight percent of the compensatory damages it sought from those defendants ($875,000 / $1,818,000). Plaintiffs infer from these differentials that the jury was attempting to parse out the damages caused by the Sass defendants as distinct from those caused by other members of the enterprise.

The Court notes that with regard to the BG defendants (who, like the Sass defendants, constituted some but not all of the members of the RICO enterprise in which they were alleged to have participated), the jury awarded BCS Services about seventy-seven percent of the damages it sought from the BG defendants ($363,000 / $468,000) and awarded Phoenix Bond about seventy percent of the damages it sought from those defendants ($304,625 / $455,000).

Though plaintiffs have offered an arguably plausible interpretation of the jury's decision, it is not the only plausible interpretation. The other is that the jury was unpersuaded that plaintiffs had proven the full amount of damages they sought. Given the fact that the disparities between the requested amounts and the awards against the Sass defendants are not uniform with regard to the two plaintiffs, the Court believes that the latter interpretation is the most reasonable. For this reason, the Court rejects plaintiffs' contention that a setoff is inappropriate.

The jury's award

5. The jury's compensatory damages award in favor of each plaintiff and against various defendants was, for each plaintiff, a single award that covered both the RICO and tortious interference ...


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