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Hiscox Dedicated Corporate Member, Ltd v. Matrix Group Limited

January 12, 2012

HISCOX DEDICATED CORPORATE MEMBER, LTD., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATRIX GROUP LIMITED, INC. AND LOUIS ORLOFF, DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

This cause comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff's Motion for Remittitur of Damages (Doc. # 397), which was filed on October 20, 2011. Defendants filed a Response in Opposition to the Remittitur Motion (Doc. # 407) on November 4, 2011, and Plaintiff filed a Reply Memorandum (Doc. # 414) on November 21, 2011. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (Doc. # 394), which was filed on October 20, 2011. Defendants filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (Doc. # 408) November 4, 2011. In addition, on January 9, 2012, Defendants filed a Motion for Entry of Judgment on Jury Verdict (Doc. # 416).

For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Plaintiff's Motion for Remittitur, denies Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, and grants Defendants' Motion for Entry of Judgment on Jury Verdict.

I. Motion for Remittitur

On October 13, 2011, following an eleven-day trial, the jury reached a verdict in favor of Defendants. Specifically, the jury determined that the July 5, 2009, fire at the Matrix building was not intentionally set, that Defendants did not commit fraud and did not intentionally misrepresent or conceal material facts, and that the Matrix building's burglar alarm was not suspended or impaired. (Doc. # 389). The jury awarded Defendants the following damages:

a. Damages to the Building: $702,600.00

b. Damages to the Inventory and Contents: $1,400,000.00

c. Damages due to Business Interruption: $600,000.00

d. Other Damages under the Policy: $12,500.00 Total Damages: $2,715,100.00 (Doc. # 389).

Plaintiff requests an order reducing the jury's verdict by $447,330.51, the amount Plaintiff previously paid to Superior Bank in satisfaction of the mortgage on the Matrix property. Plaintiff contends that remittitur is warranted to prevent a double recovery. Defendants, on the other hand, oppose remittitur because Plaintiff did not assert the affirmative defense of set-off against Defendants' counterclaims and because Plaintiff did not introduce evidence at trial regarding the amount Plaintiff paid to Superior Bank. Thus, Defendants argue, "there is no legal or evidentiary basis for the remittitur." (Doc. # 407 at 3).*fn1 The Court rejects Defendants' arguments.

The Eleventh Circuit has instructed that "[a]s a general rule, 'a remittitur order reducing a jury's award to the outer limit of the proof is the appropriate remedy where the jury's damage award exceeds the amount established by the evidence.'" Rodriguez v. Farm Stores Grocery, Inc., 518 F.3d 1259, 1266 (11th Cir. 2008)(citing Goldstein v. Manhattan Indus., Inc., 758 F.2d 1435, 1448 (11th Cir. 1985)).

Here, remittitur is mandated. This Court previously determined in a Order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff that Plaintiff paid the Defendants' mortgagee, Superior Bank, a net amount of $447,330.51. (Doc. # 221 at 1). In the absence of a remittitur order, Defendants would enjoy a substantial windfall and would be "in an even better position than their insurance contract allowed. That is, they would receive $447,330.51 more than they would have if Hiscox had accepted coverage and paid the claim before suit was filed." (Doc. # 414 at 1). As this Court set out in its jury instructions, Defendants are entitled to recover only those damages for breach of contact "that will put them in the same position they would have been in if Plaintiff had performed its duties under the Policy." (Doc. # 410 at 16). Indeed, under Florida law, a party cannot receive more in damages in a breach of contract action than he bargained for under the contract. See Feldkamp v. Long Bay Partners, LLC, 773 F. Supp. 2d 1273, 1285 (M.D. Fla. 2011)(citing Lindon v. Dalton Hotel Corp., 49 So. 3d 299, 305 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010)).

This Court grants the Motion for Remittitur and reduces that portion of the jury's verdict in which the jury awarded $702,600.00 for "Damages to the Building" by $447,330.51. Accordingly, the jury's award for "Damages to the Building" is reduced to $255,269.49, and the total award in this case is reduced from $2,715,100.00, to $2,267,769.49. Such remittitur is consistent with Eleventh Circuit law as well as Florida law and is necessary to due justice in this case.

II. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law Under Rule 50(a)

Plaintiff orally moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50(a), Fed. R. Civ. P., at the close of the evidence on October 11, 2011. (Doc. # 382). On October 20, 2011, Plaintiff filed a written memorandum in support of its Motion for ...


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