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Bonjorno v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp.

filed: January 9, 1989.

BONJORNO, JOSEPH A., KERR, GEORGE M., AND CLISBY, BARBARA K., AS TRANSFEREES IN LIQUIDATION AND DISSOLUTION OF COLUMBIA METAL CULVERT CO., INC., APPELLANTS NO. 88-1318
v.
KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL CORPORATION AND KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL SALES, INC.; BONJORNO, JOSEPH A., KERR, GEORGE M., AND CLISBY, BARBARA K., AS TRANSFEREES IN LIQUIDATION AND DISSOLUTION OF COLUMBIA METAL CULVERT CO., INC. V. KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL CORPORATION AND KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL SALES, INC., APPELLANTS NO. 88-1396



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil No. 74-0122.

Stapleton, Scirica and Cowen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cowen

Opinion OF THE COURT

COWEN, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises from an order of the district court granting plaintiff's motion for post-judgment interest. Upon review, we conclude that the district court erred with respect to some aspects of its application of the relevant statute. We will affirm the district court's determination of the date from which interest runs. We will reverse the district court's grant of post-judgment interest in the amount of $2,632,886.30 because it incorrectly determined that the applicable rate under the post-judgment interest statute is Pennsylvania's six-percent simple interest rate, rather than the higher T-bill rate imposed by 28 U.S.C. § 1961 (1982).

I.

This appeal involves a determination of (1) the applicable rate of post-judgment interest, and (2) the date from which post-judgment interest should run.*fn1 Plaintiffs Joseph A. Bonjorno, George M. Kerr, Jr. and Barbara K. Clisby ("Bonjorno"), trustees in liquidation and dissolution of Columbia Metal Culvert Co., Inc. ("Columbia"), filed a motion for award of post-judgment interest under 28 U.S.C. § 1961 against defendants Kaiser Aluminum Chemical Corp. and Kaiser Aluminum Chemical Sales, Inc. ("Kaiser").*fn2 The merits of the underlying case are not relevant for purposes of this appeal.*fn3 However, a statement of the procedural history of the case is necessary in order to resolve the issues presented.

The complaint in this case was filed in January, 1974. At the first trial, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania directed a verdict for Kaiser at the conclusion of Bonjorno's evidence. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed, holding that there was sufficient evidence to go to the jury. Columbia Metal Culvert Co. v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp., 579 F.2d 20, 37 (3d Cir. 1978).

A second trial held in 1979 resulted in a jury verdict for Bonjorno. On August 21, 1979, the jury awarded Bonjorno damages in the trebled amount of $5,445,000.00 and the judgment was entered on August 22, 1979. Kaiser then filed motions for a new trial and judgment NOV.

On June 17, 1981, the district court denied Kaiser's motions as to the jury's prior liability verdict, but concluded that the evidence did not support the jury's damage award and granted Kaiser's motion for a new trial as to damages only. Bonjorno v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp., 518 F. Supp. 102, 109, 119 (E.D. Pa. 1981).*fn4 Additionally, the district court granted Kaiser's motion for judgment NOV as to a portion of the damages previously awarded by the jury in 1979. Id. at 114.

The limited retrial on damages was conducted in 1981 and resulted in a December 2, 1981 jury award for Bonjorno for damages in the trebled amount of $9,567,939.00. The judgment was entered on December 4, 1981. Once again, Kaiser filed motions for a new trial and judgment NOV. On January 17, 1983, the district court granted Kaiser's motion for judgment NOV as to a portion of the damages awarded by the jury, thereby reducing the judgment to $4,651,560.00 after trebling. Bonjorno v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp., 559 F. Supp. 922 (E.D. Pa. 1983). This judgment was entered on January 18, 1983.

Bonjorno then appealed the reduction of the damage award, and Kaiser cross-appealed the failure of the district court to grant a new trial or to grant in full its motion for judgment NOV. On December 27, 1984, the Court of Appeals reversed the district court's partial grant of Kaiser's motion for judgment NOV as to damages, vacated the judgment entered on January 18, 1983, and reinstated and affirmed the entire $9,567,939.00 judgment entered on the jury's verdict of December 2, 1981. Bonjorno v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp. 752 F.2d 802, 815 (3d Cir. 1984). Kaiser's petition for rehearing in banc was denied, as was its subsequent petition for certiorari. Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp. v. Bonjorno, 477 U.S. 908, 91 L. Ed. 2d 572, 106 S. Ct. 3284 (1986).

Because the Court of Appeals' December 27, 1984 opinion was silent as to the allowance of post-judgment interest, Bonjorno petitioned this Court on June 24, 1985 for instructions to be included in the mandate pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 37 regarding interest.*fn5 Before this petition was acted upon by this Court, counsel for both parties entered into a stipulation providing that the district court first address all issues of interest allowable under 28 U.S.C. § 1961 and Fed. R. App. P. 37. This Court approved that stipulation on July 1, 1986 and certified the judgment in lieu of a formal mandate.

On July 1, 1986, the mandate of this Court, which had been stayed pending disposition of Kaiser's petition for a writ of certiorari, was issued to the district court. On July 3, 1986, Kaiser paid $9,567,939.00 to Bonjorno. This Court's certified judgment did not instruct the district court on the issues of post-judgment interest.

After full briefing, the district court heard oral argument on the post-judgment interest issues on December 23, 1986. On April 11, 1988, it issued its Memorandum and Order awarding $2,632,886.30 in post-judgment interest to Bonjorno. App. at 770. The district court held that interest ran from December 2, 1981, the date of the damage verdict on which the correct judgment would have been entered but for the district court's partial grant of judgment NOV.

The district court next addressed the question of whether the amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 1961 apply to money judgments entered prior to October 1, 1982, the effective date of the amendments. Specifically, having determined that the interest should run from December 2, 1981, the district court was faced with the question of whether the higher interest rate imposed by the amended version of 28 U.S.C. § 1961 should apply from December 2, 1981 -- ten months before the effective date of the amendments. Interpreting Bradley v. School Board of the City of Richmond, 416 U.S. 696, 40 L. Ed. 2d 476, 94 S. Ct. 2006 (1974), the district court refused to apply the amended statute "retroactively" and, instead, applied the version of the statute which was in effect on the December 2, 1981 jury verdict date. App. at 784.

The federal statute governing awards of post-judgment interest in effect from the time Columbia filed its complaint on December 23, 1974 through December 2, 1981 provided:

Interest shall be allowed on any money judgment in a civil case recovered in a district court. Execution therefor may be levied by the marshal, in any case where, by the law of the State in which such court is held, execution may be levied for interest on judgments recovered in the courts of the State. Such interest shall be calculated from the date of the entry of judgment at the rate allowed by State law.

28 U.S.C. § 1961 (1976) (amended 1982).

On April 2, 1982, Congress passed the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982 ("FCIA"), Pub. L. No. 97-164, 96 Stat. 25 (1982) which amended 28 U.S.C. § 1961 (effective October 1, 1982). The amended statute states in pertinent part:

(a) Interest shall be allowed on any money judgment in a civil case recovered in a district court. Execution therefor may be levied by the marshal, in any case where, by the law of the State in which such court is held, execution may be levied for interest on judgments recovered in the courts of the State. Such interest shall be calculated from the date of the entry of the judgment, at a rate equal to the coupon issue yield equivalent (as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury) of the average accepted auction price for the last auction of fifty-two week United States Treasury bills settled immediately prior to the date of the judgment. The Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts shall distribute notice of that rate and any changes in it to all federal judges.

(b) Interest shall be computed daily to the date of payment except as provided in section 2516(b) of this title and section 1304(b) of title ...


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