United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
PEERLESS INSURANCE COMPANY, a/s/o CELLAR ADVISORS LLC, Third-Party Plaintiff,
SATARIA ACQUISITION LLC d/b/a FLAGSHIP LOGISTICS GROUP, Third-Party Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Zagel United States District Judge
case is about a shipment of wine that went awry. After Gideon
and Nancy Searle hired Cellar Advisors (“CA”) to
organize and ship roughly 20, 000 bottles of wine from
Illinois to Florida, CA contracted with Sataria Acquisition
LLC d/b/a Flagship Logistics Group (“Flagship”)
to arrange the actual transportation in three shipments.
Alleging that the wine had been damaged during the trip, the
Searles collected an insurance claim of over $2 million. As
subrogee of the Searles, Plaintiff Great Northern Insurance
Company-who paid out the $2 million claim-filed suit against
CA, and CA subsequently filed a third-party claim against
Third-Party Defendant Flagship. Flagship then filed a
counterclaim against CA for unpaid invoices and
the parties in this lawsuit settled before trial. The only
dispute that did not settle was between CA and Flagship over
one of the wine shipments. On March 22, 2016, following a
four-day trial, the jury reached a verdict in favor of CA on
both CA’s claim against Flagship and Flagship’s
counterclaim, and awarded CA with $538, 000 in damages.
before me are two post-trial motions filed by Flagship.
Flagship’s first motion seeks a new trial pursuant to
Rule 59 and reconsideration of my judgment as a matter of law
on its counterclaim. Flagship’s second motion seeks an
order of remittitur of the jury’s award of damages. For
the following reasons, I am denying both of these motions in
Civ. Proc. 59(a)(1)(A) authorizes the Court “to grant a
new trial on all or some of the issues . . . after a jury
trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore
been granted in an action at law in federal court.”
United States v. McClinton, 135 F.3d 1178, 1186 (7th
Cir. 1998). Under Rule 59(a), “the district judge must
determine if the verdict is against the weight of the
evidence, the damages are excessive, or if for other reasons
the trial was not fair to the moving party.”
Frizzell v. Szabo, 647 F.3d 698, 702 (7th Cir.
2011). A court should grant a new trial for improperly
admitted evidence or erroneously excluded evidence if the
evidence had substantial influence over the jury and the jury
result was contrary to substantial justice. Shick v. Ill.
Dept. of Hum. Svcs., 307 F.3d 605, 611 (7th Cir. 2002).
the main evidentiary issues underlying Flagship’s
arguments for a new trial have already been considered and
ruled upon. In support of its argument for a new trial,
Flagship contends that I incorrectly allowed three
witnesses-Lauren McIntosh, Marc Lazar, and Joe Mooney-to
testify about the effects of heat on wine in general and how
the faulty transportation in this case would affect their
ability to sell this wine in the high-end wine market. As I
ruled before and during trial, Federal Rule of Evidence 701
allows a lay person to testify to matters within his or her
personal knowledge as long as such testimony is helpful to
clearly understand the witnesses’ testimony or to
determine an issue of fact. One person’s experiences
and personal knowledge may be different than another, but if
the testimony is based on the witnesses’ own personal
experience, it is considered lay testimony. These witnesses
testified regarding their own daily lives and work, and their
testimony was properly admitted.
also argues that I incorrectly allowed Marc Lazar to testify
that Bill Edgerton-an expert who prepared a report but was
not allowed to testify himself because CA did not disclose
him as their expert-agreed with his opinion that the wine was
worthless and not salable. I allowed this testimony to come
into evidence because Flagship opened the door during their
cross-examination of Lazar by inferring that CA did not name
Edgerton as an expert because Edgerton did not hold the same
opinions as Lazar. Lazar testified that this was not true
during re-direct, and this testimony was properly admitted.
Flagship argues that I erred by excluding any evidence about
an alleged offer to settle the case made by Mr. Searle. Under
Federal Rule of Evidence 408, offers made during settlement
negotiations are inadmissible.
motion for a new trial is therefore denied.
also seeks reconsideration of my decision granting judgment
as a matter of law on Flagship’s counterclaim. I based
this decision on the testimony adduced during trial, the
applicable statutes and definitions, and the authoritative
case law regarding the determination of a broker.
not a broker as defined by 49 U.S.C. § 13102 and
interpreted by Interstate Commerce Commission v. Chicago
Food Mfrs. Pool Car Group, 39 F.Supp. 283 (N.D. Ill.
1941). Nor is CA subject to liability under 49 USC §
14704(a)(2) given the Supreme Court’s ruling in Red
Ball Motor Freight, Inc. v. Shannon, 377 U.S. 311
(1964). Because there was no evidence that CA was acting as a
carrier subject to 49 USC 13501 et seq let alone a
carrier evading ICC regulation subject to liability under 49
USC 14704(a)(2), Flagship’s motion is denied.