United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO ALTER OR
AMEND JUDGMENT, MOTION TO AMEND COURT'S FINDINGS, MOTION
FOR NEW TRIAL, AND MOTION FOR FURTHER ACTION
E. SCHREIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Larry Moss challenges the court's memorandum opinion and
order holding that plaintiff, National Music Museum:
America's Shrine to Music (NMM), is the legal owner of a
Martin D-35 guitar once owned by Elvis Presley. Moss moves to
alter or amend the judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), to
amend the court's findings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(b), for
a new trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(b), and for further
action after a nonjury trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(2). The
court denies Moss's motions.
facts below relate to Moss's arguments on res judicata
and collateral estoppel. For a further recitation of the
facts, see the court's Memorandum Opinion and Order
case stems from the sale of a Martin D-35 guitar once owned
by Elvis Presley. NMM and Moss both claim ownership of the
Elvis guitar based on their respective agreements with
defendant Robert Johnson, the guitar's previous owner.
Moss entered into a contract with Johnson for the Elvis
guitar on February 12, 2008, and NMM entered into its
contract with Johnson on February 6, 2013.
surrounding the guitar began February 13, 2014, when Moss
filed a counterclaim against Johnson in Tennessee Chancery
Court for specific performance, breach of warranty, breach of
contract, and fraud. NMM was not a party to the suit. About
five months later, NMM began this case in South Dakota state
court, naming Johnson and Moss as defendants. Moss later
removed this case to federal court.
this case was pending before this court, the Tennessee
Chancery Court held a hearing on December 16, 2014, in the
case between Moss and Johnson. At the conclusion of the
Tennessee hearing, the court orally ordered that “Mr.
Moss is -- has the right to ownership of the [Elvis
guitar].” Docket 49-1 at 74-75. The court did not
discuss which section of Tennessee's commercial code
applied to the transaction. The court did not discuss the
applicability of Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-2-401(2) or Tenn.
Code Ann. § 47-2-401(3). After the court entered its
oral order, Moss's attorney replied:
If the Court, please, this is going to be a little tricky for
me because this order would be submitted to the Court in
South Dakota, so I want to make certain that I get the order
in a fashion that I need it to be if the Court, please. But
assuming that the Court agrees with me. But that Moss has the
right to enforce the contract all the way back until 2008, he
is therefore, the equitable owner of that guitar.
Docket 49-1 at 75.
court responded, “So ordered. . . . That Mr. Moss is
the rightful -- the equitable owner of the --.”
Id. Moss's attorney agreed to draft the
court's order. Again, no one discussed the application of
Tennessee's commercial code or the exact date title
passed from Johnson to Moss.
month after the hearing, on January 8, 2015, the Tennessee
Chancery Court issued its written order stating in part that
“Mr. Moss holds legal and equitable title to the Martin
D-35 guitar and the Gold Top ES-295 Gibson guitar, which were
specifically identified to the contract, relating back to the
date of contracting, February 12, 2008.” Exhibit 54 at
2. The order provided no legal citation for this conclusion.
case before this court, the parties previously filed cross
motions for summary judgment, and the court denied both
motions. Docket 43. The court's order also held that res
judicata and collateral estoppel did not apply to this case.
A bench trial was held on August 2, 2016, and the parties
filed post-trial briefs. The court issued its memorandum
opinion and order along with a judgment on January 23, 2017.
Moss now asks the court to reconsider its rulings.
decision to grant or deny Moss's motions is at the
court's discretion. See Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile
Grp., Inc., 827 F.3d 804, 807 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating
“[w]e review the district court's evidentiary
rulings and its denial of a new trial for clear and
prejudicial abuse of discretion” (citation omitted));
Burckhard v. BNSF Ry. Co., 837 F.3d 848, 857 (8th
Cir. 2016) (stating “[w]e accord a district court broad
discretion in determining whether to grant a motion to alter
or amend judgment, and we will not reverse absent a clear
abuse of discretion” (citation omitted)); Brewer v.
Jonesboro Police Dep't, 653 F. App'x 853 (8th
Cir. 2016) (indicating post-trial motions made under