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Richard B. Melbye v. Accelerated Payment Technologies

November 27, 2012

RICHARD B. MELBYE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ACCELERATED PAYMENT TECHNOLOGIES, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR LAW, A NEW TRIAL, OR TO JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF ALTER THE JUDGMENT [Doc. No. 149]

Before the Court is Defendant Accelerated Payment Technologies, Inc. ("APT")'s motion for judgment as a matter of law, a new trial, or to alter the judgment. [Doc. No. 149.] Though Defendant's opening brief references these three separate bases,*fn1 neither party's briefing distinctly argues the separate legal standards applicable thereto. Nevertheless, because the record contains sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict under each of these standards, the Court hereby DENIES Defendant's motion in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

This is a breach of contract case. Plaintiff was a salesman for Defendant and its predecessor ("CAM"), paid largely on commission for revenue generated by his marketing of "X-Charge," a software program for processing credit cards directly from computerized cash registers. Plaintiff alleged an oral or implied in fact contract, entered into with the former CEO of CAM, Geoff Knapp, for the continued payment of his X-Charge commissions post-termination as long as he was not terminated for cause. Great Hill Partners, a private equity firm, purchased CAM in 2008, renamed the company APT, and on March 31, 2010, APT terminated Plaintiff without cause, refusing to pay commissions for revenue received beyond that date.

Plaintiff brought suit in the Superior Court for the County of San Diego on September 2, 2010, alleging nine claims, all of which revolved around the principal allegation that APT's failure to pay post-termination commissions constitutes a breach of an oral or implied in fact contract. [See Doc. No. 1.] On September 30, 2012, Defendant removed to this Court on the basis of diversity. [Id.] On November 18, 2011, Defendant moved for summary judgment on all claims. [Doc. No. 35.] On January 11, 2012, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant's motion, leaving Plaintiff with the following six claims: (1) breach of an oral or implied in fact contract; (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (3) unfair competition under California Business and Professions Code § 17200; (4) failure to pay wages when due under the California Labor Code; (5) penalties pursuant to California Labor Code § 203; and (6) declaratory relief. [Doc. No. 48.]

Trial by jury on these remaining claims commenced on September 11, 2012. [Doc. No. 117.] On September 17, 2012, at the close of Plaintiff's case, Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a), which the Court largely denied but granted as to Plaintiff's claims for unpaid wages and penalties claims under the California Labor Code. [See Doc. Nos. 128, 147.] The Court also ruled that Plaintiff's unfair competition and declaratory relief claims were equitable and thus to be decided by the Court after the jury reached a verdict. [See Tr. Transcript, 9/17/12, 73:24-74:13.] That left only two claims for the jury: (1) breach of an oral or implied-in-fact contract; and (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

On September 20, 2012, a jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that Defendant breached an oral or implied in fact contract with Plaintiff for post-termination commissions and awarded him $6,225,000 in damages. [Doc. No. 136.] The Court entered judgment on October 10, 2012, [Doc. No. 148], and on October 12, 2012, Defendant timely filed the present motion, [Doc. No. 149].

DISCUSSION

Defendant argues that "no evidence supports an implied agreement to pay Plaintiff post-termination commissions," and thus that the Court should either enter judgment as a matter of law, order a new trial, or alter the damages award. [See, e.g., Doc. No. 149 at 1, 10, 17.]

On a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, courts "review a jury's verdict for substantial evidence," i.e., "'evidence adequate to support the jury's conclusion, even if it is also possible todraw a contrary conclusion.'" E.E.O.C. v. Go Daddy Software, Inc., 581 F.3d 951, 961, 963(9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Pavao v. Pagay, 307 F.3d 915, 918 (9th Cir. 2002)). "Although the court should review the record as a whole, it must disregard evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe, and may not substitute its view of the evidence for that of the jury." Pavao, 307 F.3d at 918 (internal quotation omitted). "The test applied is whether the evidence permits only one reasonable conclusion, and that conclusion is contrary to the jury's verdict." E.E.O.C., 581 F.3d at 961.

Motions for a new trial are subject to the more lenient standard of whether the "verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence." Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007). Under this standard, "the district court has the duty to weigh the evidence as the court saw it, and to set aside the verdict of the jury, even though supported by substantial evidence, where, in the court's conscientious opinion, the verdict is contrary to the clear weight of the evidence." Id. (internal quotation omitted). Motions to alter or amend a judgment "should not be granted . . . unless the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling law." Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003). Nor may such motions "be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment." Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 485 n. 5 (2008) (citations omitted).

Under each of these standards, the record here contains sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict.*fn2 The principal claim litigated was for breach of an implied contract, of which the required elements are: the existence of an implied in fact contract; plaintiff's performance under that contract; defendant's breach of that contract; and resulting damages.*fn3 See Hamilton v. Greenwich Investors XXVI, LLC, 195 Cal.App.4th 1602, 1614 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d. 2011). On this motion, Defendant challenges the contract's existence, breach, and damages. As discussed below, each of these elements is supported by sufficient evidence in the record.

A. The Alleged Contract's Existence is Supported by the Evidence

Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to support the existence of the alleged implied in fact contract. Most directly, Plaintiff explicitly ...


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