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Northern Truck Equipment Co. v. Omaha Standard, LLC

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

November 16, 2015

NORTHERN TRUCK EQUIPMENT CO., Plaintiff,
v.
OMAHA STANDARD, LLC, a/k/a OMAHA STANDARD PALFINGER, a/k/a EAGLE LIFT PALFINGER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN E. SCHREIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff, Northern Truck Equipment Co., brings this action against defendant, Omaha Standard, LLC, seeking damages from the following claims: unfair cancellation, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. Northern Truck seeks compensatory and punitive damages from these claims. Omaha Standard now moves for summary judgment on all causes of action. Docket 18. Alternatively, Omaha Standard moves the court for an order limiting the potential damages available to Northern Truck. Id. Northern Truck resists Omaha Standard’s motion and moves for summary judgment on the unfair cancellation claim. Docket 22. Additionally, Northern Truck moves the court to preclude the introduction of evidence related to revenue it obtains from the sale of Knapheide products. Docket 23. For the following reasons, the court denies Omaha Standard’s motion for summary judgment and its motion to limit damages. The court also denies Northern Truck’s motion for summary judgment and its motion to exclude evidence related to revenue obtained from the sale of Knapheide products.

BACKGROUND

Northern Truck[1] is a full-line truck equipment distributor. Omaha Standard is a truck body and truck equipment manufacturer. In the late 1980’s, Northern Truck and Omaha Standard agreed that Northern Truck would distribute and sell Omaha Standard’s truck body and equipment products in South Dakota.

Written correspondence between the two companies outlines the nature of the agreement. In the first letter, dated March 23, 1990, Dean Wegner, of Omaha Standard, welcomed Dean Wartenbee, President of Northern Truck, as a new Omaha Standard distributor and delineated his understanding of the agreement. The letter included the following terms:

1. I will cancel Tomark Equipment, Sioux Falls; Safety Service, Aberdeen; and Hills Brake, Rapid City as Omaha Standard distributors.
2. Safety Service, Aberdeen, would be able to buy Omaha Standard products from you at a low mark-up to accommodate his personal customers.
3. You have committed to selling Omaha Standard Eagle dump bodies instead of Heil dump bodies, in the 2-3 yard and 3-4 yard sizes.
4. You have committed to selling all Omaha Standard hoists instead of Heil, Harsh or any other brand of hoists.
5. You have committed to selling Omaha service bodies instead of Knapheide service bodies, phasing out of Knapheide as our product line expands.
6. You will still manufacture platforms, wood sides, and steel sides, but will also sell Omaha Standard platforms with steel sides and stakeless steel sides.
7. You will promote, quote and try to sell Eagle Lift liftgates instead of Tommy Gate.

Docket 21-3, at 1. Wartenbee responded to this letter on March 26, 1990, and confirmed the content of the agreement with the following minor changes:

1. No problems
2. No problems
3. The determining factors between the Omaha Standard Eagle dump and the Heil dump, in the 2-3 yard and 3-4 yard sizes will be the price, availability, customer preference and freight[.]
4. Only hoist would be 2TM53102 Twin Heil, otherwise you are correct. (Only on customer preference).
5. Knapheide called today - they are looking for ...

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