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Aluminicaste Fundicion De Mexico v. Aluminum Extrusions, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

June 13, 2017

ALUMINICASTE FUNDICION DE MEXICO, SOCIEDAD DE RESPONSABILIDAD LIMITADA DE CAPITAL VARIABLE Plaintiff
v.
ALUMINUM EXTRUSIONS, INC. Defendant

          ORDER

          MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI

         This cause comes before the court on the motion of plaintiff Aluminacaste Fundicion de Mexico (“Aluminicaste”) for partial summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Defendant Aluminum Extrusions, Inc. (“AE”) has responded in opposition to the motion, and the court, having considered the memoranda and submission of the parties, concludes that the motion is not well taken and should be denied.

         This is, in most respects, a rather straight-forward civil action in which plaintiff seeks recovery for a large quantity of aluminum billets which, it contends, it shipped to defendant. For its part, defendant does not deny having received the vast majority of the aluminum at issue, [1] but it argues that there are extenuating factors in this case which should, at the very least, limit plaintiff's recovery. Plaintiff disagrees, and it has accordingly filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that it is entitled to the full $1, 700, 062.53 which it claims to be owed, without the necessity of a trial. As explained below, however, while this court has some sympathy for plaintiff's position, it is not prepared at this juncture to simply award it the full amount in damages which it seeks.

         In the court's view, there are several reasons why it would be unwise to simply render judgment in plaintiff's favor. First, on a fundamental level, motions for summary judgment in which a plaintiff is seeking to be awarded a specific sum of damages, before trial or even a hearing, tend to be ones which courts are most cautious in granting. This is particularly true in a case where the plaintiff is seeking the hefty sum of $1, 700, 062.53. Indeed, this court notes that, even in default cases, “a judgment by default may not be entered without a hearing unless the amount claimed is a liquidated sum or one capable of mathematical calculation.” United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir. 1979). It appears to this court that this hesitance is based largely upon a recognition that the amount of damages recoverable in a particular case is an issue which is inherently difficult to conclusively resolve based on briefing alone. Indeed, if this court's review of the facts suggested that plaintiff was entitled to recover $1, 700, 000 instead of $1, 700, 062.53, then it would be improper to grant its motion for summary judgment.

         Plaintiff maintains that, notwithstanding the fact that defendant has actively opposed its summary judgment motion, the amount which it seeks in this case is, in fact, liquidated and should be considered undisputable. It appears to this court, however, that in seeking partial summary judgment on damages, plaintiff is attempting to excise a portion of an overall disputed issue of damages, and this court doubts that this piecemeal approach would prove to be the optimal way of resolving this case. In arguing otherwise, plaintiff writes in its brief that:

Aluminum Extrusions' admissions establish that it is liable to Aluminicaste in the amount of the principal balance of Aluminum Extrusions' account ($1, 740, 719.07) minus the price of the shipment that Aluminum Extrusions does not admit that it received ($40, 656.54): $1, 700, 062.53.

[Plaintiffs' brief at 9].

         Plaintiff thus appears to recognize that genuine fact issues exist regarding liability for a portion of the aluminum which it claims to have shipped to defendant, and, even if this court were to grant its motion for partial summary judgment, the issue of whether defendant actually received some of the goods would yet to be determined. In its brief, plaintiff is quite vague on how it envisions this action proceeding in the event that its motion for partial summary judgment is granted, and, as far as this court is aware, there may be yet more unresolved issues in this case which are not mentioned in the briefing. This fact makes this court even more hesitant to simply award plaintiff a portion of the damages it seeks in this case, since it seems much wiser to await the presentation of all the evidence before making an award of damages. This court simply does not see the advantage to making a definitive call on a damages issue which can be more reliably determined in a trial setting.

         This court's hesitance to simply grant plaintiff's motion is also influenced by the nature of the claims asserted in the complaint, which plaintiff summarizes as follows:

In this lawsuit, Aluminicaste asserts claims of breach of contract, account stated, open book account, goods sold and delivered, and unjust enrichment, and seeks to recover from Aluminum Extrusions $1, 740, 719.07, plus prejudgment and post-judgment interest on each outstanding invoice, attorney fees, and costs of collection.

[Plaintiff's brief at 8]. Thus, plaintiff's brief makes reference to no less than five separate claims, namely “breach of contract, account stated, open book account, goods sold and delivered, and unjust enrichment.” Moreover, in arguing that it is entitled to partial summary judgment, plaintiff writes that:

         As shown above, Aluminum Extrusions has admitted the following:

• Aluminum Extrusions' receipt of, failure to object to, and failure to pay forty-three invoices totaling $1, 836, 805.57 for the sale and delivery of the Goods to Aluminum Extrusions, (Ex. D, Def.'s Responses at RFA 87);
• The existence of Agreements for Aluminicaste's sale of Goods to Aluminum Extrusions, the latter of which governed the shipments at issue, (Ex. A, Compl. ¶ 8 and ...

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