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Williams v. Medalist Golf, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 11, 2018

Chris Williams, doing business as Cane Creek Sod Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Medalist Golf, Inc. Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: September 27, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - Cape Girardeau

          Before WOLLMAN, KELLY, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          KELLY, Circuit Judge

         Chris Williams, doing business as Cane Creek Sod, appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Medalist Golf, Inc. Upon careful consideration of the issues presented, we affirm the judgment of the district court.[1]

         I

         Williams operates Cane Creek, which supplies, grows, and delivers sod. Medalist specializes in building high-end golf courses. Medalist's project manager, Todd Tilton, sought sod bids for the Gary Player Designed Golf Course, which Medalist agreed to build at Big Cedar Lodge for Ozarks Golf and Hunt Club, LLC. When requesting a bid from Cane Creek, Tilton informed Mark Woodard, a Cane Creek employee, that the sod was for use on a "high-end golf course for a very important client." In December 2015, Medalist received bids from both Cane Creek and another company, Green Acre Sod Farm, for the Gary Player-designed golf course. Cane Creek submitted a bid to supply Meyer Zoysia sod at $0.3233 per square foot. After receiving Green Acre's December 2015 bid, Medalist discontinued its discussions with Green Acre.

         In January 2016, Tilton wrote Woodard to say that Cane Creek was "in the driver's seat with regard to the [Meyer] Zoysia" sod, and that so long as Ozarks Golf's new director of agronomy approved of the sod, "then it look[ed] good for" Cane Creek. On February 16, Tilton wrote Woodard, saying: "We have finally gotten the word from [Ozarks Golf] and it is going to be Meyer [Zoysia]. I will send you an agreement this week. Don't sell it to anyone else." Tilton then drafted a document titled "Grass Supplier Agreement" (GSA), which he sent to Woodard on February 18, with a request to "[p]lease sign and send back to us for agreement execution." Tilton later testified that Medalist used these types of agreements "to reserve grasses" so that Medalist had enough sod for its projects and to "set[] the price."

         On February 23 and 24, representatives for Medalist and Cane Creek signed the GSA. Under the document's title, the GSA states, "Job: Gary Player Designed Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge." In relevant part, the GSA provides that Cane Creek "guarantees the quality and specification of the materials provided to" Medalist. In a section titled "Scope of Work," the GSA sets out a "Description of Materials to be provided," an "Estimated Quantity" of 914, 760 square feet, and a "Unit Price" of $0.3233 per square foot. The GSA further provides that "Estimated Quantities are a target and not a guaranteed amount," that Cane Creek "understands that golf courses may use more or less than estimated quantities based upon the direction of the golf course architects or owners of the project," and that Cane Creek "will hold unit prices for the duration of the project regardless of actual quantities delivered." Medalist did not make any payment to Cane Creek in connection with the GSA. Williams testified that he understood the provision of the GSA stating that Cane Creek "guarantees the quality and specification of the materials provided" to mean that he "was guaranteeing that they were going to get Meyer Zoysia and that it would be the quality that satisfied the customer," and if the customer was not satisfied, then Cane Creek "would fix it."

         Todd Bohn, director of agronomy for Big Cedar Lodge, also oversaw Ozarks Golf and was given authority to act on behalf of Ozarks Golf as it related to the construction of the Gary Player-designed golf course. Bohn instructed Jeff Lezon, the superintendent of the project, to visit Cane Creek. Around July 7, Woodard showed Lezon the 45-acre field of Meyer Zoysia from which Cane Creek planned to harvest sod for the project. Lezon inspected and took photographs of the sod, sent the photographs to Bohn, and provided Bohn with his own feedback regarding the sod. Bohn decided that the sod did not meet the quality standards for the Gary Player-designed golf course and instructed Medalist to reject it. On July 11, Tilton wrote to Green Acre, and Green Acre agreed to supply the sod required for the project at $3.25 per square yard. Green Acre supplied a total of 754, 488 square feet of Meyer Zoysia sod for the golf course.

         On July 14, Tilton wrote Woodard that Ozark Golf's representative had instructed Medalist to use a different source for the Meyer Zoysia sod in light of quality and contamination concerns. Tilton informed Woodard that "[b]ecause of this declaration by the owner you do not have to worry about meeting an obligation for any specific quantity for this project, so if you have another opportunity to sell this grass then you should avail yourself of that opportunity." Cane Creek then attempted to sell its Meyer Zoysia to others, and did sell some of it to another golf course, but was unable to sell all of the sod it had set aside for use in the Gary Player-designed golf course.

         Williams brought suit against Medalist seeking damages for breach of contract and promissory estoppel. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Medalist on both claims. Williams appeals.

         II

         This court reviews the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. See Dick v. Dickinson State Univ., 826 F.3d 1054, 1058 (8th Cir. 2016). "Summary judgment is proper only when 'there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). "A fact is 'material' if it may affect the outcome of the lawsuit." TCF Nat'l Bank v. Mkt. Intelligence, Inc., 812 F.3d 701, 707 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). "[W]e give the nonmoving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences which may be drawn without resorting to speculation." Johnson v. Securitas Sec. Servs. USA, Inc., 769 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. ...


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