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Rudd Equipment Company, Inc. v. John Deere Construction & Forestry Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

May 23, 2017

RUDD EQUIPMENT COMPANY, INC., Plaintiff
v.
JOHN DEERE CONSTRUCTION & FORESTRY COMPANY, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Colin Lindsay, Magistrate Judge United States District Court.

         The Court held an evidentiary hearing on April 10 and 11, 2017. During that hearing, Rudd Equipment Co. (“Rudd”) moved to admit two video depositions. John Deere Construction and Forestry Company (“Deere”) objected to their admission on relevance grounds. The Court reserved its rulings on their admissibility for in camera review.

         For the reasons below, the Court will deny Rudd's motions to admit the video depositions. Likewise, the Court will deny Rudd's motion to admit the exhibits tendered with the video depositions and Deere's alternative motion to admit the remainder of the exhibits.

         I. Background

         The procedural history of this case is complex. The Court will detail only what is necessary for understanding the parties' evidentiary dispute.

         Rudd is an independent dealer of Hitachi construction equipment. Deere is its supplier of Hitachi construction equipment. Deere seeks to terminate the dealer agreement with Rudd. In an arbitration proceeding, the parties are litigating whether the dealer agreement will terminate.

         On March 2, 2015, the Court signed an agreed order tendered by the parties. (DN 44.) In short, the agreed order seeks to maintain the status quo between the parties until the arbitration proceeding ends. (See id., #1590.) The agreed order says, “Deere will continue to treat Rudd as a dealer in accordance with the status quo under [the dealer agreement] as such status quo existed prior to the October 2, 2014 termination, except as follows … .” (Id. (brackets added).)

         On January 4, 2017, Rudd filed a motion to enforce the agreed order. (DN 80.) In general, Rudd argues that Deere violated the agreed order by requiring that Rudd submit Hitachi Purchase Orders (“Hitachi POs”) signed by the customer in order to receive discounts for selling Hitachi equipment. (Id., #2078.) Rudd also argues that Deere violated the agreed order by withholding discounts for previously sold equipment and by threatening to debit Rudd's account for past sales for which Rudd did not provide Hitachi POs with customer signatures. (Id.)

         Deere responds that requiring Rudd to submit Hitachi POs with customer signatures in order to obtain discounts does not violate the agreed order. (DN 93, #2351.) Rather, Deere argues that the agreed order requires Deere to treat Rudd like other Hitachi dealers, and other Hitachi dealers must submit Hitachi POs with customer signatures. (Id., 2356 - 58.)

         Rudd moves to admit the video depositions of Erik Frazier and Ken Gerondale. (DN 109, #2723.) Frazier and Gerondale are employees of Construction Machinery Industrial, LLC (“CMI”). The Court will refer to Frazier and Gerondale's depositions as the “CMI depositions.” CMI is an independent dealer of Hitachi equipment in Alaska. Deere is its distributor.

         Rudd moves to admit exhibits from Gerondale's deposition as Plaintiff's Exhibits 25, 26, 27, and 28 and one exhibit from Frazier's deposition as Plaintiff's Exhibit 29. (DN 109, #2729.)

         Deere objects to the CMI depositions and Rudd's proposed exhibits on relevance grounds. (DN 109, #2730.) As an alternative, if the Court is inclined to admit the CMI depositions, Deere moves to admit the remainder of the exhibits. (Id.; DN 106 #2561 - 62.) After the hearing, Deere emailed the Court and withdrew its motion to admit what is referred to in the hearing transcript as Defendant's Exhibits 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29. (See DN 106, #2561 - 62.) Thus, Deere seeks to admit Defendant's Exhibits 24, and 30 - 35. (Id., #2562.)

         A. Erik Frazier's Deposition

         Frazier is CMI's IT manager and equipment manager. On direct examination, Frazier testified that during 2014, 2015, and 2016, the “majority” of Hitachi PO forms were filled out by CMI employees, then the customer “when we can arrange it.” (08:37.23 - 08:44.27.) He said that to his knowledge, CMI had received no complaints from Deere about the fact that CMI was signing the Hitachi POs on behalf of customers. (09:37.22 - 09:51.6.) He also testified that to his knowledge, Deere had never withheld a discount based on CMI's handling of ...


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