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Kuratle Contracting Inc. v. Linden Green Condominium, Association

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

March 27, 2014

KURATLE CONTRACTING, INC., a Delaware Corporation Plaintiff,
LINDEN GREEN CONDOMINIUM, ASSOCIATION, a Delaware Corporation Defendant.

Submitted: January 8, 2014

Upon Plaintiff Kuratle's Motion for Additur or New Trial, DENIED.

Thomas C. Marconi, Esq., Losco & Marconi, P.A., Attorney for Plaintiff

Michael F. Duggan, Esq., and Marc Spotsato, Esq., Marks, O'Neill, O'Brien, Doherty & Kelly, P.C., Attorneys for Defendant


M. Jane Brady Superior Court Judge

I. Introduction

On December 12, 2013, Kurtale Contracting, Inc. ("Kuratle") filed a timely Motion for Additur or New Trial pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 59. Kuratle urges the Court to increase the jury award by exercising its additur authority or, in the alternative, grant a new trial. Linden Green Condominium Association's ("Linden Green") filed a response in opposition on December 23, 2013, and Kuratle filed a reply to Linden Green's opposition on January 8, 2014. Upon consideration of the evidence presented at trial, a review of Kuratle's motion, Linden Green response, and Kuratle's reply, Kuratle's motion is DENIED.

II. Background

Kuratle is engaged in the business of, inter alia, general contracting and managing, as well as maintaining, real property for condominium complexes. Linden Green manages the business and affairs of the Linden Green Condominiums, which are located in Wilmington, Delaware. In November of 2002, Kuratle and Linden Green entered into a written agreement ("2002 Agreement"), in which Linden Green employed Kuratle "to manage the maintenance, operations, landscaping, snow removal and finances of [Linden Green]."[1] In October 2007, the parties entered into a second contract ("2007 Agreement") and in September 2010, the parties entered into a third contract ("2010 Agreement"). Both the 2007 and 2010 Agreements were very similar to the 2002 Agreement; however, the 2010 Agreement increased the price paid to Kuratle and, notably, no longer required Kuratle—or any subcontractors it hired—to maintain insurance coverage.

Approximately one year after the 2010 Agreement was executed, Linden Green sent a letter to Kuratle, dated December 12, 2011, contending that Linden Green had submitted the 2010 Agreement to an attorney who advised that the agreement was "invalid and unenforceable."[2] Linden Green's letter further advised Kuratle that Linden Green was continuing to operate under the 2007 Agreement, and that the attorney also found "some problems" with the 2007 Agreement that prompted the Council to propose an "Addendum."[3] Linden Green requested Kuratle to "sign the Addendum and keep a copy for [its] records."[4] They further advised Kuratle that its failure to sign the Addendum would be considered a default, which could result in Linden Green terminating the 2007 Agreement.

In response to the December 12, 2011 letter from Linden Green, former counsel for Kuratle wrote a letter, dated December 23, 2011, to Linden Green, stating he had reviewed the 2010 Agreement and concluded it was valid and enforceable and advised that Linden Green's proposed Addendum was not acceptable to Kuratle.[5] "Kuratle expects to fully comply with its obligations under the 2010 contract . . . and it fully expects Linden Green to do so [as well]."[6] Linden Green thereafter, by letter dated January 16, 2012, declared Kuratle to be in default of the 2007 Agreement for failing to execute the Addendum within thirty days and advised Kuratle it was terminating their business relationship.

Kuratle filed suit against Linden Green on March 7, 2012, asserting Linden Green breached the 2010 and 2007 Agreements[7] by unilaterally terminating the parties' business relationship prematurely. Linden Green filed an answer, affirmative defenses, and a counterclaim to Kuratle's Complaint on April 13, 2012.[8]

Both parties filed cross motions for summary judgment, which the Court heard within a month of trial. The Court issued a written decision on November 19, 2013, based on the summary judgment motions, and concluded (1) the 2010 Agreement was valid and (2) Linden Green breached the 2010 Agreement when it unilaterally terminated the parties' business relationship in January 2012. The Court's November 19 decision did not, however, decide the duration of the 2010 Agreement, an important issue disputed by the parties. Therefore, the only issues for the jury to decide at trial were (1) the duration of the 2010 Agreement and (2) the damages, if any, to which Kuratle was entitled as a result of Linden Green's breach.

Trial commenced on December 1, 2013 and lasted two and one-half days. The jury heard testimony from Kuratle's expert, David J. Ford, CPA, who stated that, in his opinion, the lost profits suffered by Kuratle between the date of the breach, i.e., January 16, 2012, and December 31, 2017—reduced to net present value, including pre-judgment interest calculated to December 2, 2013—totaled, $518, 079. During cross-examination by Linden Green, Mr. Ford explained that he excluded certain expenses from his damages calculation because he did not find the expenses were directly related to the 2010 Agreement. Further, upon questioning by Linden Green, Mr. Ford conceded that he was ...

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