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Southern California Stroke Reha v. Nautilus

September 21, 2012

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA STROKE REHA- BILITATION ASSOCIATES, INC. A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NAUTILUS, INC., DBA THE NAUTILUS GROUP, INC., A WASHINGTON CORPORATION, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 10, INCLUSIVE,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING NAUTILUS, INC.'S MOTION FOR A JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW AND FINAL JUDGMENT [Doc No. 177]

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Defendant Nautilus, Inc.'s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law ("JMOL") pursuant to Rule 50 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which Defendant brought at the close of Plaintiff's evidence. [Doc. No. 177.] Plaintiff opposed the motion. [Doc. No 178.] Defendant brought the motion on two alternative grounds. First, that all three of Plaintiff's claims (Breach of Express Warranty, Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability, and Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability) are barred by principles of Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel because the Plaintiff did not proffer evidence at trial of "new" defects on the subject Nautilus equipment that had not already been fully litigated in the prior Direct Focus litigation. [See Case No. 00-cv-304-LAB (AJB)] Second, Defendant argues that all three claims should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to proffer evidence that he gave notice of the breach to Defendant -- an essential element of all three claims.

The Court heard oral argument on the motion on September 13, 2012, and after offering its tentative ruling, afforded the parties the opportunity to submit supplemental briefing. The parties did so. [Doc Nos. 180-182.] Defendant proceeded to call its own witness and present its own evidence to the jury on September 17, 2012. Following the close of evidence, the jury was excused for lunch, and oral argument the JMOL resumed, focusing primarily on the notice issue. The Court gave Plaintiff the opportunity to reopen its case and introduce any additional evidence that would demonstrate, or at least create a factual dispute for the jury to resolve, whether or not the Plaintiff gave reasonable notice to Defendant of the breach warranties prior to filing this lawsuit. Plaintiff offered nothing additional. For the reasons stated on the bench, and as set forth below, the Court found that JMOL was appropriate and accordingly GRANTED the motion and dismissed the jury.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 50 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in pertinent part: If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:

(A) resolve the issue against the party; and

(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim...that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.

Fed. Rules Civ. Proc. 50(a)(1).

Judgment as a matter of law is proper if the evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, allows only one reasonable conclusion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250--251 (1986). In ruling on a JMOL, the Court many not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence, as these are jury functions. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150-151 (2000).

III. ANALYSIS

All three of Plaintiff's causes of action for breach of express and implied warranties expressly require an essential element of each claim that the buyer provide the seller with reasonable notice of the breach.

Cal. Comm. Code ยง 2607(3)(A) ("Where a tender has been accepted, the buyer must, within a reasonable time after he or she discovers or should have discovered any breach, notify the seller of breach be barred from any remedy.") (emphasis added). See also Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions ("CACI") Nos. 1230 (express warranty); 1231 (implied warranty of merchantability); 1232 (implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose). Notice must be given prior to the filing of a lawsuit. Alvarez v. Chevron Corp., 656 F.3d 925, 932 (9th Cir. 2011). Indeed, "[t]he purpose of giving notice of breach is to allow the breaching party to cure the breach and thereby avoid the necessity of litigating the matter in court," which would be "completely undermined if it could be satisfied with the giving of post-suit notice." Id., citing Cardinal Health 301, Inc. v. Tyco Elecs. Corp., 169 Cal.App.4th 116, 135 (2008). As buyer, Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that it gave reasonable notice to Nautilus of the alleged breaches of ...


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