United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
KOCH FOODS, INC. PLAINTIFF
PATE DAWSON CO., et al. DEFENDANTS
ORDER AND OPINION
BRAMLETTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law urged
by the Defendants, Malcolm Sullivan, Micah Sullivan, and Mike
Pate, Jr, at the close of Plaintiff Koch Foods, Inc.'s
reasons that follow, in addition to those stated in Court on
the record on May 2, 2018, the Court GRANTS the
Defendants' Motion, as to all of the Defendants, on
Koch's claims for (1) breach of a free-standing fiduciary
duty, (2) civil conspiracy, (3) violations of North
Carolina's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and
(4) punitive damages. The Court reserves ruling on the
Defendants' Motion as to Koch's remaining claim for
constructive fraud based on a breach of fiduciary duty.
Foods, an unsecured creditor of a now-defunct foodservice
distributor that was known as the Pate Dawson Company, sued
four of the company's former officers and directors -
Malcolm Sullivan, Micah Sullivan, and Mike Pate, Jr. - for
breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, civil
conspiracy, and violations of North Carolina's Unfair and
Deceptive Trade Practices Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-1.1.
of this action began on April 30, 2018. In its casein-chief,
Koch called (1) Lance Buckert, Koch's chief financial
officer, (2) Malcolm Sullivan, (3) Micah Sullivan, and (4) H.
Kenneth LeFoldt, Koch's solvency expert. Koch also
offered into evidence the deposition testimony of David
Stansfield, the former president of the Pate Dawson Company,
and Huron Consulting Group's Jamie Lisac and Hugh Sawyer.
Koch rested at about 10:30 A.M. on May 2, 2018.
Koch finished its case-in-chief, all of the Defendants moved
for judgment as a matter of law on all of Koch's claims.
Court is empowered, after fully hearing a party on an issue
during a jury trial, to grant a motion for judgment as a
matter of law against that party if the Court finds that a
reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient
evidentiary basis to find for the party on the issue.
is no legally sufficient evidence upon which a jury could
find for a party “where the facts and inferences point
so strongly and overwhelmingly in favor of the moving party
that reasonable jurors could not arrive at a contrary
verdict.” Herster v. Bd. Of Supervisors of
Louisiana Stat Univ., 887 F.3d 177, 184 (5th Cir. 2018).
United States Supreme Court has for nearly a century required
that a plaintiff offer more than a mere scintilla of evidence
to present an issue to a jury. See Gunning v.
Cooley, 281 U.S. 90, 93-94 (1930) (“[I]n every
case, before the evidence is left to the jury, there is a
preliminary question for the judge, not whether there is
literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a
jury can properly proceed to find a verdict for the party
evaluating the Defendants' Rule 50(a) Motion, the Court
draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Koch, and
refrains from determining witness credibility and from
weighing the evidence. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prod., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (Ginsburg, J.).
alleges each of the Defendants violated North Carolina's
Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 75-1.1 (“UDTPA”). To recover under the
UDTPA, Koch must prove (1) a Defendant committed an unfair or
deceptive act or practice, (2) in or affecting commerce, and
(3) Koch was injured as a result. N.C. Gen. Stat. §
question whether an act is unfair or deceptive under the
UDTPA is an issue of law for the Court. Dalton v.
Camp, 548 S.E.2d 704, 711 ( N.C. 2001). And the
Court's analysis must consider the “impact the
practice has on the marketplace.” Shepard v. Bonita
Vista Properties, L.P., 664 S.E.2d 388, 395 ( N.C. Ct.
App. 2008). A party violates the UDTPA if its conduct amounts
to “an inequitable assertion ...