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Ruiz Fajardo Ingenieros Asociados S.A.S. v. Flow International Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 24, 2019



          Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Flow International Corporation's (“Flow”) Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and Motion for a New Trial. Dkt. # 98. Plaintiff Ruiz Fajardo Ingenieros Asociados S.A.S. (“Ruiz Fajardo”) has opposed this Motion, and Defendant has filed a Reply. Dkt. ## 103, 105. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Flow's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 13, 2016, Ruiz Fajardo brought this action against Flow, asserting claims under Washington law against Flow for breach of contract and warranty arising out of the sale of a waterjet cutting machine. Dkt. # 1. Prior to trial, the parties submitted a joint statement of disputed jury instructions. Dkt. # 50. Flow proposed that the instruction defining defects in workmanship and materials include the following language: “A defect in workmanship or material does not include a design defect. A design defect exists when the product is built in accordance with its intended specifications, but the design itself is inherently defective.” Id. at 24. The Court did not include this language in its final instruction, which stated in full: “The express warranty in the sales contract is one for a defect in workmanship and materials. A defect in workmanship is a defect in the way some part of the machine is constructed. A defect in material is a defect in quality.” Dkt. # 67 at 18.

         The jury trial began on January 28, 2019 and concluded on February 6, 2019. Dkt. # 61-66. Shortly before the jury rendered its verdict, the jury asked the Court: “In lieu of lost profits may we award compensation in form of the amount of contract price of a Mach 4 $437, 830?” Dkt. # 72. After conferring with counsel, the Court responded: “You may award damages you believe are appropriate and recoverable in light of the instructions provided to you.” Id. at 2; see also Dkt. # 68. On February 7, 2019, the jury entered a verdict in favor of Ruiz Fajardo, awarding Ruiz Fajardo $437, 830 in unspecified damages. Dkt. # 74.

         The parties proceeded to file several post-trial motions. Ruiz Fajardo filed (1) a Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs (Dkt. # 84); and (2) a Motion for Bill of Costs (Dkt. # 89). The Court has not yet ruled on these motions. Flow filed (1) a Motion to Quash (Dkt. # 91); and (2) the present Motion. The Court granted Flow's Motion the Quash. Dkt. # 107.


         Flow's Motion contains three parts. First, Flow moves under Rule 50(b) for a renewed judgment as a matter of law. Dkt. # 98 at 7-10. Next, Flow moves under Rule 59 for a new trial. Id. at 11-16. Finally, Flow moves under Rule 62 for a stay of enforcement pending resolution of the parties' post-trial motions. Id. at 17. The Court addresses each in turn.

         A. Motion for Renewed Judgment as a Matter of Law

         On February 1, 2019, immediately after the close of Ruiz Fajardo's case, Flow brought an oral Rule 50(a) Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law on two bases: (1) Ruiz Fajardo had no legally sufficient basis to prove that the software issues it allegedly suffered were covered under the express warranty at issue in this case; and (2) Ruiz Fajardo had no legally sufficient basis to recover lost profits for a new business line. Dkt. # 81 at 96:5-107:21. The Court denied the motion, and Flow has now renewed it. See Id. at 107:20-21.

         After the jury has entered its verdict, judgment as a matter of law may be granted “only if the Court finds that no reasonable jury could have produced that verdict, even viewing the evidence and drawing all inferences in a manner most favorable to the prevailing party.” Morales v. Fry, C12-2235-JCC, 2014 WL 4966908, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 3, 2014), aff'd, 873 F.3d 817 (9th Cir. 2017). Judgment as a matter of law is “appropriate when the evidence presented at trail permits only one reasonable conclusion.” Torres v. City of Los Angeles, 548 F.3d 1197, 1205 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51 (1986). A party who moved for judgment as a matter of law during trial may renew his request for judgment as a matter of law after entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). After trial, a renewed motion may be granted only if the evidence, “permits only one reasonable conclusion, and that conclusion is contrary to the jury's verdict.” Josephs v. Pacific Bell, 443 F.3d 1050, 1062 (9th Cir. 2005). On motion for judgment as a matter of law, the “evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of that party.” LaLonde v. County of Riverside, 204 F.3d 947, 959 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 149-50 (2000).

         Flow's Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law focuses on one of the issues raised in its Rule 50(a) Motion: whether the Contract's limited warranty covered software defects, which Flow designates “design defects.” Dkt. # 98 at 7-10. Flow contends that there is no “legally sufficient basis” for a reasonable jury to find that the express warranty at issue in this case covered design defects, which Flow contends were “the only defects Plaintiff presented to the jury as the basis for its breach of warranty claim.” Dkt. # 98 at 8-10. The Court does not necessarily agree with either the premises or conclusion of this argument. First, the Court agrees with Ruiz Fajardo that the jury was presented with evidence of potential defects beyond the software “design defects” Flow identifies. See, e.g., Dkt. # 79 at 136:17-137:9 (identifying x-axis motor as potential cause of start-up issues); Ex. 21 (describing repairs by Flow including replacement of various machine parts); Ex. 38 (describing leaks in various parts and overheating power cord); Ex. 39 (describing needs for replacement of various parts). This evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Ruiz Fajardo, could have provided a basis for the jury's verdict separate from the software “design defect” issue. Second, the Court is still not convinced that Washington law mandates that software “design defects” be excluded from the parties' Limited Warranty in this case. Although Flow provides some cases distinguishing between defects in software design and defects in material quality (see Dkt. # 98 at 8-9), none of the authorities cited by Flow originate from Washington or address Washington law. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Thiokol Corp., 124 F.3d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1997) (analyzing California law); McCabe v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 100 Cal.App.4th 1111, 1120 (2002) (same); Bros. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., C-06-02254RMW, 2007 WL 485979, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 12, 2007) (same); see also Lombard Corp. v. Quality Aluminum Prod. Co., 261 F.2d 336, 338 (6th Cir. 1958) (analyzing Ohio law); Hughes v. Panasonic Consumer Elecs. Co., CIV.A. 10-846 SDW, 2011 WL 2976839, at *19 (D.N.J. July 21, 2011) (analyzing New Jersey law). Washington law applies to the parties' contractual dispute, and Flow fails to provide Washington authorities for its arguments here, or show that the authorities it cites have ever been applied in Washington. At this point in the litigation, the Court does not have a sufficient basis to reinterpret the terms of the parties' agreement, or create new Washington precedent when there is no compelling reason to do so.

         Accordingly, the Court DENIES Flow's Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law.

         B. Motion ...

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