United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the Court on several post-judgment
motions. The appropriate responses and replies have been
filed and the matters are ripe for ruling.
Court dispenses with a full recitation of the procedural and
factual background of this matter, and incorporates by
reference its discussion found in its order entered April 14,
2016. [DE 81]. Following remand from the Court of appeals,
the matter proceeded to jury trial at Elizabeth City, North
Carolina on March 26, 2018. On March 28, 2018, the jury
returned a verdict finding by a preponderance of the evidence
that Albemarle acted in bad faith when raising the price of
methyl bromide to $8.49 beginning July 1, 2014, and that
Albemarle acted in bad faith when raising the price of methyl
bromide to $11.04 beginning April 1, 2015. [DE 140]. The jury
further found that Albemarle's bad faith conduct damaged
Bayer in the amount of $17, 628, 323.00. Id.
Judgment was thereafter entered in favor of Bayer and the
case was closed.
has filed a motion for attorney fees and a motion to alter or
amend the judgment to include pre-and-post-judgment interest.
Albemarle has filed a renewed motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50
for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative for a
new trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59.
Albemarle's motion for judgment as a matter of law
and for new trial
50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
where, as here, a party makes a renewed motion for judgment
as a matter of law under after the denial of such a motion
during trial, a court may (1) allow judgment on the verdict;
(2) order a new trial; or (3) direct the entry of judgment as
a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). A court may grant a
motion for judgment as a matter of law if it finds that a
reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient
evidentiary basis to find for the non-moving party.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). "[W]hen a jury has returned its
verdict, a court may grant judgment as a matter of law only
if, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the
non-moving party and drawing every legitimate inference in
that party's favor, the court determines that the
only conclusion a reasonable jury could have reached
is one in favor of the moving party." Saunders v.
Branch Banking And Tr. Co. OfVA, 526 F.3d 142, 147 (4th
Cir. 2008) (emphasis added). A court is not permitted to
weigh the evidence or evaluate the credibility of the
witnesses when deciding a Rule 50(b) motion. Bresler v.
Wilmington Tr. Co., 855 F.3d 178, 196 (4th Cir. 2017).
its core, Bayer's complaint alleges that Albemarle used
its contractual leverage-under the open-price provision-to
artificially inflate the price of methyl bromide in violation
of the good faith and fair dealing requirements of the
UCC." Bayer Cropscience LP v. Albemarle Corp.,
696 Fed.Appx. 617, 620 (4th Cir. 2017). As the court of
appeals has held in this case, whether or not Albemarle's
conduct in question was commercially unreasonable is a
fact-specific inquiry. Id. at 621. In support of
Bayer's claim that it was commercially unreasonable to
raise the price from $4.09 per pound to $8.49 per pound in
July 2014 and then from $8.49 per pound to $11.04 per pound
in April 2015, Bayer offered the testimony of its purchasing
manager Hemant Kandlur, who testified that he had never seen
such a dramatic price increase while working the last
twenty-three years for Bayer, especially when, as was the
case here, the price of the raw ingredient was stable or
declining. [DE 162] Trial Tr. 27 March 2018 at 68-69. Mr.
Kandlur testified that while Albemarle was charging $11.04
per pound for methyl bromide, Chemtura was charging Bayer
$2.49 per pound, for the same product from the same place.
Id. at 72.
witness Mr. Ware testified that he always had a very good
reason for raising the price charged to Bayer, and that the
$8.49 price increase was based on his value-in-use model
prepared as part of a "fresh look at the product"
Id. at 133; 136. Ware testified that the $8.49 price
increase also reflected his concern about Bayer's
honoring its commitment to purchase 80% of its methyl bromide
needs from Albemarle. Id. at 143. Mr. Ware testified
that he started working on his value-in-use analysis in
February 2014, and worked on it through May, June, and July,
but he could not explain why the computer file he used
indicated that it was created in July 2014. Id. at
204. Absent other evidence to support the price increase to
$8.49 just months after the increase to $4.09 per pound, a
reasonable jury could conclude that Mr. Ware's
justification was pretext for a commercially unreasonable
act. The same analysis may be applied to the $11.04 price
increase, which Mr. Ware testified was based on a
workers' strike in Israel, but he conceded that the price
of methyl bromide to Albemarle had not gone up when it
increased the price to Bayer. Id. at 148; 201.
Albemarle's argument that its value-in-use pricing model
was necessarily commercially reasonable because it was based
on calculations is unpersuasive. This Court and the court of
appeals have held that the $4.09 price increase was
reasonable as it was based on Mr. Ware's value-in-use
analysis and reflected a pass through of
Chemtura's increased tolling fee. That the subsequent
price increases were based on the same or similar multiple of
2.21 does not require a finding that they were
evidence are internal Albemarle emails, which appear to
reflect Albemarle's position that Bayer's
cancellation of its contract with Albemarle was
"awesome" and "excellent," and that
because methyl bromide sales would not continue for much
longer, Albemarle would treat it like a cash out business and
get everything it could out of it as soon as possible. [DE
161] Trial Tr. 26 March 2018 at 130. Viewing the facts in the
light most favorable to Bayer, and disregarding all evidence
in Albemarle's favor that the jury is not required to
believe - meaning that it is uncontradicted and unimpeached,
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod, Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 151 (2000) - the Court finds that there was sufficient
evidence for the jury to conclude that Albemarle acted in a
commercially unreasonable manner when it adopted its $8.49
and $11.04 price increases.
additional arguments in support of its challenge to the
jury's verdict are without merit. As to mitigation, the
jury heard testimony and argument about Bayer's alleged
failure to mitigate its damages by agreeing to lock in a
price with Albemarle in exchange for agreeing to purchase
100% of its methyl bromide from Albemarle. See,
e.g., [DE 163] Trial Tr. 28 March 2018 at 35. Albemarle
has not demonstrated that the Court's failure to instruct
the jury on mitigation was error, as it has failed to show
that such failure seriously impaired its ability to make its
case. See Noel v. Artson, 641 F.3d 580, 586 (4th
Cir. 2011) (failure to give a requested instruction is error
if the requested instruction was (1) correct, (2) not
substantially covered by the charge given, and (3) dealt with
some point so important that the failure to give the
instruction seriously impaired the moving party's ability
to make its case) (citation omitted). Here, the Court left
Albemarle "ample room to argue its case," and
Albemarle has not met its heavy burden to show that the Court
erred in failing to instruct the jury on mitigation.
Id. at 587.
Bayer has correctly argued, the parties to this matter
stipulated that they were the proper parties, correctly
designated, and that there was no question of
mis-or-non-joinder of parties. See [DE 113].
Albemarle cannot now argue that Bayer was not the proper
party-plaintiff to be awarded damages in this action.
Finally, Albemarle argues that the remaining jury
instructions and the verdict form were erroneous for the same
reasons that it has argued that it is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Albemarle contends that the instructions
placed an undue emphasis on the amount of the price increases
rather than the manner in which they were increased, and
failed to pay adequate attention to the express contract
between the parties. Considering the instructions given to
the jury as a whole, see United States v. Lighty,
616 F.3d 321, 366 (4th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted), the
Court finds that the instructions given provided accurate
statements of the law and that Albemarle was "permitted
more than enough room to argue the facts in light of that
standard." Noel, 641 F.3d at 587. For these
reasons, Albemarle's motion for judgment as a matter of
law is denied.
motion for new trial should be granted where "(1) the
verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, or (2)
is based upon evidence which is false, or (3) will result in
a miscarriage of justice, even though there may be
substantial evidence which would prevent the direction of a
verdict." Atlas Food Sys. & Servs., Inc. v.
Crane Nat'l Vendors, Inc.,99 F.3d 587, 594 (4th
Cir.1996); see also Cline v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,144 F.3d 294, 301 (4th Cir. 1998). A court is permitted to
weigh the ...