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Tattersalls, Ltd. v. DeHaven

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 21, 2014

TATTERSALLS, LTD., Incorporated in England, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JEFFREY DEHAVEN, Defendant-Appellant

Argued and Submitted February 7, 2014, Pasadena, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:11-cv-06311-SJO-SH. S. James Otero, District Judge, Presiding.

For Defendant-Appellant: Raymond E. Lee, Michael J. Chilleen, Roger Scott (argued), Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Irvine, California.

For Plaintiff-Appellee: Diana Courteau (argued), Courteau & Associates, El Segundo, California.

Before: Mary M. Schroeder and Richard R. Clifton, Circuit Judges, and Brian M. Cogan, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 1295

CLIFTON, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant Jeffrey DeHaven appeals the district court's grant of a Rule 60(a) motion in favor of plaintiff-appellee Tattersalls, Ltd., an auctioneer. DeHaven bought and took possession of a horse from Tattersalls but did not pay for it. When Tattersalls sued, the district court granted title and right of possession of the horse to Tattersalls. The court did not award damages for the reduction in the horse's value while she was held by DeHaven but instructed Tattersalls to move to amend the judgment under Rule 59(e), Fed. R. Civ. P., when it knew the amount of the damages. The district court overlooked the 28-day deadline for motions under Rule 59(e), however. After the deadline expired, the court held that it was permitted to correct the judgment under Rule 60(a), Fed. R. Civ. P., which does not have a time limit, to award monetary damages. We hold that, because the district court always intended to grant Tattersalls damages, this use of Rule 60(a) was proper, and we affirm.

I. Background

Tattersalls, Ltd., the plaintiff-appellee, is an English auctioneer of thoroughbred horses. The defendant-appellant, Jeffrey DeHaven, bought a horse, Singapore Lilly, from Tattersalls in November 2010 for $357,210 (210,000 guineas). DeHaven

Page 1296

shipped the horse to the United States and entered her into races but did not pay for her.

Tattersalls filed a complaint to recover the horse, the difference between her purchase price and the resale value, and other damages. DeHaven did not respond to the complaint, and the court entered a default judgment against DeHaven on September 30, 2011. The court noted that Tattersalls had a meritorious claim to title of the horse but that the amount of damages was uncertain. As the court observed, " Singapore Lilly has aged almost a full year since Defendant agreed to purchase her, so she is likely worth less now than when Plaintiff originally sold her to Defendant." Therefore, the court held, " [t]he proper measure of contract damages, in light of the fact that Plaintiff is also entitled to regain title to the horse, is the amount of the depreciation in the horse's value between the previous sale at auction and the present."

The court declined to award Tattersalls both the full purchase price and title to the horse, as Tattersalls had requested, because that would permit Tattersalls a double recovery. Even if Tattersalls promised to refund the horse's sale price to DeHaven, the company might not sell her speedily, allowing her to depreciate further, and it might also sell her at less than a fair market price. But the court noted that at that time it had no " credible evidence" of the horse's current worth. The court attempted to solve these problems by entering judgment granting title, ownership, and right of possession to Tattersalls so the company could try to resell the horse at the next available auction on November 6, 2011. It seems that the court wanted Tattersalls to have the opportunity to auction the horse before it assessed damages because the alternative--an expert appraisal of the horse's ...


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