United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the Renewed Motion for Judgment as a
Matter of Law made by Defendants Larry Wright and Phenix
Services (the “moving Defendants”) (Dkt. No.
275.) Plaintiff has responded and the Motion is now at issue.
close of Plaintiff's evidence at trial, Defendants
Wright, Phenix Services, and Brunswick Companies orally moved
for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
50(a). The Court allowed Defendants to make an abbreviated
argument in support of the motion, then granted the motion as
to Brunswick and reserved its ruling concerning Wright and
Phenix Services. Prior to the argument, Defendants supplied
the Court with a written memorandum on the motion but it was
not filed or provided to Plaintiff. Instead of requiring the
first memorandum be filed, the Court allowed the moving
Defendants to file a post-trial written memorandum in support
of their oral motion for judgment as a matter of law at a
briefing was complete, the Court denied the Motion for
Judgment as a Matter of Law and rejected Defendants'
argument that Plaintiff cannot pursue both a fraud and breach
of contract claim because the issue had not been raised at
trial. Defendants argue the issue was present in the unfiled
memorandum. Plaintiff argues (1) the simultaneous
contract/fraud issue cannot be considered because they were
not allowed to respond nor did Defendants address the facts
and law in open court before the case was submitted to the
jury, and (2) because the post-trial memorandum in support of
the motion was submitted after the jury returned its verdict
it must be considered a renewed motion made pursuant to
Defendants' word as truth that the document now filed is
equivalent to the written memorandum presented at trial, the
Court will consider the argument on its merits. (Unfiled
Defs.' Mot. for Directed Verdict, Dkt. No. 275-1.) It
would be unfair to refuse to hear Defendants' arguments
based on the timing outlined in Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) when the
Court directed Defendants to file the supplement after the
jury rendered its verdict. Plaintiff has fully responded to
the simultaneous contract/fraud issue.
may hear a motion for judgment as a matter of law after
“a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury
trial” and the motion will be granted if the
“court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a
legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on
that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). Therefore,
“[j]udgment as a matter of law is appropriate only if
the evidence points but one way and is susceptible to no
reasonable inferences which may support the nonmoving
party's position.” Etherton v. Owners Ins.
Co., 829 F.3d 1209, 1224 (10th Cir. 2016) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). The Court draws all
evidentiary inferences in favor of the non-moving party and
does not “weigh the evidence or judge witness
credibility.” Id. (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
argue Oklahoma law prevents the simultaneous pursuit of fraud
and breach of contract claims where the two claims are based
upon the same facts or are not sufficiently distinct. See
McGregor v. Nat'l Steak Processors, Inc., No.
11-CV-0570-CVE-TLW, 2012 WL 314059, at *3 (N.D. Okla. Feb. 1,
2012) (stating “the facts alleged in a plaintiff's
tort claim are precisely the same as those alleged in his
contract claim, a separate tort claim will not be
allowed” (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted) (quoting Isler v. Texas Oil & Gas
Corp., 749 F.2d 22, 24 (10th Cir. 1984))). Here,
Plaintiff brought a breach of contract claim against
Defendant First Mountain Bancorp (“FMB”) for its
failure to pay the guarantee. Defendants argue the underlying
fraud in Plaintiff's conspiracy to commit fraud claim
against the moving Defendants rests upon FMB's promise
with no intent to pay. Plaintiff presents no distinct facts
other than the conspiracy to conceal FMB's intent to
breach the contract, and this is a conversion of a breach of
contract claim into a fraud claim.
counters that it did rely on distinct facts to form the basis
for its conspiracy to commit fraud claim. Plaintiff presented
evidence that the moving Defendants and Defendant Brunswick
Companies failed to determine the reliability of the FMB
guarantee and the moving Defendants failed to investigate the
ability of Turhan's Bay to pay for the wheat.
Court finds Plaintiff did present evidence of sufficiently
distinct facts from the breach of contract claim. In sum,
this case involved a conspiracy to commit fraud claim
asserted against a group of Defendants involved with the
transaction that ultimately resulted in FMB's failure to
pay the guarantee, not simply a breach of contract and fraud
claim asserted against a single Defendant. Plaintiff
presented evidence of the moving Defendants' actions
other than concealing FMB's intent to breach upon which
the jury could have based the conspiracy to commit fraud
verdict. Defendants failed to show the “evidence points
but one way” and the Motion is denied.
reasons stated, Defendants' Renewed Motion for Judgment
as a ...