Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chatelain v. Country Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

December 15, 2017

ROBERT CHATELAIN and JANET CHATELAIN, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTRY MUTUAL INSURANCE CO. Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL W. MOSMAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before me on Defendant Country Mutual Insurance Co.'s ("Country Mutual") Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, or in the Alternative, Motion for New Trial [174]. For the reasons below, I DENY Country Mutual's Motions.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Robert and Janet Chatelain own a dairy farm in Tillamook County. In 2009, they decided to retire and began leasing the farm to the Brauns. At the time of the lease, the dairy farm had 230 milking cows, 166 heifers, two bulls, and all equipment necessary to operate a dairy. In November 2013, the Brauns violated their lease agreement, and in December 2013, the Chatelains moved back to the dairy farm. On December 20, 2013, their first time milking the cows since moving back to the farm, the Chatelains noticed that 113 milking cows and 100 heifers were missing from the livestock. They also noticed that several pieces of equipment were missing and that substantial damage had been caused to the farm. The Chatelains notified the sheriff, sued the Brauns, and submitted an insurance claim to Country Mutual. Country Mutual denied the claim, and the Chatelains brought suit for breach of contract and breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing.

         After a four-day jury trial, the jury found for the Chatelains on both counts and awarded them $793, 375 in damages from stolen personal property, stolen livestock, loss of milk production, damages to structures, and vandalism. [152]. Country Mutual now renews its motion for judgment as a matter of law, made at the close of evidence during trial. Country Mutual argues: (1) the Chatelains did not prove an "occurrence" of theft took place during the relevant Policy period; (2) the Chatelains did not prove the cows were stolen; (3) the Policy does not cover lost milk production; and (4) the damages awarded for lost milk production were excessive. [174]. Country Mutual also moves for a new trial, arguing: (1) the Chatelains showed the jury a demonstrative chart that was inaccurate; and (2) the Chatelains did not show the damages to the main house were the result of vandalism. [174]. Alternatively, Country Mutual moves for remittitur. [174].

         LEGAL STANDARD

         "In considering a Rule 50(b)(3) motion for judgment as a matter of law, the district court must uphold the jury's award if there was any 'legally sufficient basis' to support it." Experience Hendrix L.L.C. v. Hendrixlicensing.com Ltd, 762 F.3d 829, 842 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Costa v. Desert Palace, Inc., 299 F.3d 838, 859 (9th Cir. 2002)). "In making that determination, the district court considers all of the evidence in the record, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party .. .; the court may not make any credibility determinations or reweigh the evidence." Id.

         "The court may, on motion, grant a new trial. .. after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1). "Historically recognized grounds include, but are not limited to, claims 'that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, that the damages are excessive, or that, for other reasons, the trial was not fair to the party moving.'" Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Montgomery Ward & Co. v. Duncan, 311 U.S. 243, 251 (1940)). "[T]he district court, in considering a Rule 59 motion for new trial, is not required to view the trial evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict. Instead, the district court can weigh the evidence and assess the credibility of the witnesses." Experience Hendrix, 762 F.3d at 842.

         "When the court, after viewing the evidence concerning damages in a light most favorable to the prevailing party, determines that the damages award is excessive, ... [i]t may grant defendant's motion for a new trial or deny the motion conditional upon the prevailing party accepting a remittitur. "Fenner v. Dependable Trucking Co., 716 F, 2d 598, 603 (9th Cir. 1983).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law A. Whether the Chatelains put forth sufficient evidence to prove an "occurrence" of theft took place under the Policy.

         I denied Country Mutual's motion for judgment as a matter of law on whether the Chatelains put forth sufficient evidence to prove an occurrence of theft at the close of evidence. Transcript [162] at 747-53. Country Mutual argues the Chatelains put forth insufficient evidence to show that a covered loss resulted from "an occurrence" during the relevant 12-month policy period at issue here, which began February 1, 2013. Motion [174] at 5 (quoting Thenell Decl. [175], Ex. 6 at 10). In particular, Country Mutual argues there was no evidence presented at trial that the theft of two tractors or a theft of cows "occurred" during the policy period.

         The Policy defines an "occurrence" as "the happening of an event, or series of events closely related in time and nature that give rise to a loss." Thenell Decl. [175], Ex. 6 at 10; see Interstate Fire & Cas. Co. v. Archdiocese of Portland in Or., 864 P.2d 346 (Or. 1993) ("[T]he number of covered 'occurrences'. .. begins with an examination of the words of the applicable provisions in the insurance policy, because the court's task in interpreting an insurance policy is to determine the intention of the parties. The intention of the parties is determined based on the terms and conditions of the policy.") (internal citations omitted). The Chatelains put forth evidence at trial that their losses resulted from one event or a series of closely-related events during the policy period: the Brauns taking their livestock and equipment in December 2013. Specifically, the Chatelains put forth evidence that the Brauns took the cows and tractors when they vacated the property in December 2013, including evidence refuting Country Mutual's argument that the Brauns sold the tractors in 2010. Langfitt Decl. [180], Trial Transcript at 9-11, 23-24, 33-34, 76. This evidence is sufficient for the jury to conclude that the cows and tractors were stolen during the relevant policy period of February 2013-2014.1 therefore DENY Country Mutual's renewed Motion for judgment as a matter of law on this issue.

         B. Whether the Chatelains put forth sufficient evidence to prove a theft of cows

         I denied Country Mutual's motion for judgment as a matter of law on whether the Chatelains put forth sufficient evidence to prove a theft of cows occurred at the close of evidence. Transcript [162] at 747-53. Country Mutual argues the Chatelains showed that there were cows missing at the end of the Brauns' lease, but did not show that the cows were stolen or where the cows ended up. Motion [174] at 6-9. The Chatelains respond that they presented the following evidence that a theft "likely" occurred, as required under the Policy here: (1) Mr. Chatelain's testimony that he saw roughly the correct number of cows on December 19, 2013, but that 113 milking cows and 100 heifers were missing the next morning; (2) Mrs. Chatelain's corroborating testimony; (3) Jeff Green's testimony that he saw the Brauns' cattle trailers near their second farm; (4) Country Mutual's denial letter stating Mr. Braun was in possession of the "Missing Tools/Equipment/Cattle"; and (5) Country ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.