United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
ORDER AND ENTRY: (1) SETTING FORTH THE COURT'S
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW; (2) DIRECTING THAT
FINAL JUDGMENT BE ENTERED IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF CENTRAL
TRANSPORT, LLC, FOR $87, 288.26; AND (3) TERMINATING THIS
CASE ON THE COURT'S DOCKET
Michael J. Newman, United States Magistrate Judge.
civil consent case came before the Court for a bench trial on
April 3, 2017. Doc. 34. Attorney Robert Buchbinder
represented Plaintiff Central Transport, LLC
(“Central”) at trial. Id. Attorney
Jeffrey Jurca represented Defendant Balram Trucking, Ltd.
(“Balram”) at trial. Id. Following trial
and preparation of the trial transcript, the parties
simultaneously filed proposed findings of fact and
conclusions of law. Docs. 35, 36. The Court has carefully
considered all of the foregoing, as well the evidence
admitted at trial, and this case is now ripe for issuance of
the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law as
required under Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a)(1).
case arises out of a multi-vehicle collision on August 28,
2013 that occurred on southbound I-75 near Tipp City, Ohio.
See docs. 35, 36. The facts of the accident and
Balram's liability for that accident are not in dispute.
Doc. 35 at PageID 669; doc. 36 at PageID 681. The sole
dispute presented for the Court's resolution is whether
Central -- an Indiana limited liability company -- is
entitled to recover the full extent of the $87, 342.26 sought
from Balram (who concedes that Central is entitled to recover
at least $57, 427.66 in damages). Id.
accident occurred when Dial Jhutti, while driving a
tractor-trailer within the course and scope of his employment
for Balram, failed to brake and ultimately struck the rear of
a tractor-trailer driven by Michael Moore, a driver for
Plaintiff Central. As a result of the collision, both
tractor-trailers caught on fire and both Moore and Jhutti
died in the accident. (This action concerns only claims of
property damage and does not concern any damages related to
the death of either driver).
parties having agreed that Central is entitled to recover at
least $57, 427.66 for property damage resulting from the
accident, the limited dispute presented for the Court's
resolution at trial is whether or not Central has standing to
recover for the property damage sustained to the tractor
($22, 960.60) and trailer ($6, 900) driven by Moore, which
were determined to be total losses.
undisputed that Central never owned the tractor or the
trailer. Instead, Central leased the tractor and trailer from
the owner, GLS Leaseco (“GLS”), who is not a
party to this lawsuit. Despite not being the owner of the
tractor or trailer, Central argues that it has standing to
recover damages for the tractor and trailer by virtue of: (1)
its lease agreement with GLS, under which Central bore
responsibility to pay for damage to the tractor and trailer;
and (2) an assignment executed by GLS assigning to Central
all of its claims arising out of the accident. Doc. 36 at
argues that the lease agreement between the parties does not
specifically assign property damage claims to Central.
Id. at PageID 670-72. Balram also argues that a
separate assignment of claims from GLS to Central is invalid.
With regard to the validity of the assignment, Balram
contends that Fred Calderone, who executed the assignment on
behalf of GLS, did not possess the requisite authority
because, based upon his own deposition testimony, he did not
become GLS's president until April 2016, i.e.,
after Central filed this lawsuit on July 6, 2015 and after
expiration of the two-year limitations period on August 28,
2015. Doc. 35 at PageID 674-77.
the Court's perspective, in light of a number of
stipulations by the parties (doc. 34 at PageID 603-08), there
are only two factual issues required for resolution at trial,
namely: (1) the date upon which Calderone became president of
GLS (thus gaining authority to bind GLS to the assignment of
claims); and (2) the date upon which Calderone executed the
assignment. See docs. 35-36.
Court finds Calderone's trial testimony credible and
concludes that, at deposition, he mistakenly testified that
he became GLS's president in April 2016 when, in fact, he
became GLS's president in April 2015. Doc. 34 at PageID
636, 651. The Court also finds that Calderone executed the
assignment in the summer of 2015 -- albeit, there is no
evidence upon which the Court can conclude that the
assignment was executed before the filing of this action on
July 6, 2015, or before expiration of the two-year
limitations period on August 28, 2015. Doc. 34 PageID 630.
are two issues of law for the Court's resolution: (1)
whether Central has standing to pursue damages to the leased
tractor and trailer under its lease agreement with GLS; and,
if not, (2) whether Central has such standing under the
assignment executed in its favor by GLS.
lease agreement between Central and GLS with regard to the
subject tractor and trailer was signed on December 21, 2009
and reads, in part, that, “[Central] agrees to
self-insure the [the tractor and trailer] against the hazards
of fire, theft, vandalism, physical damage or loss.” JX
1. The lease also reads that, “[i]n the event of loss
or damage of any kind” to the tractor and trailer,
Central “shall use all reasonable efforts to place
[them] in good repair, condition and working order to the
satisfaction of [GLS][.]” Id. In the
circumstance where the tractor and trailer have “been