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L&T Fashion, Inc. v. Best Items International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 15, 2019

L&T FASHION, INC.,
v.
BEST ITEMS INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         On July 17, 2018, a one day bench trial was conducted on this matter. The Court has jurisdiction in this case based on diversity of citizenship as Plaintiff L & T Fashion, Inc. (L&T) is incorporated in the State of Florida, Best Items International, Inc. ("Best Items") is incorporated in New Jersey, and Textiles Met, A.A., DE C.V. ("Textiles Met") is incorporated in Mexico. The amount in controversy is approximately $1.8 million. In addition to this trial, there is a pending motion for default judgment against Textiles Met (ECF No. 51). The motion will be addressed separately.

         I.

         At a bench trial, the Court has three roles. First, as trier of fact, the Court's duty is to decide the facts from the evidence that was heard and seen in court during the trial. The second duty is to apply the law to the facts. Lastly, the Court must clearly explain the facts and the legal principles underpinning its decision.

         As a jury is instructed, the Court performed its duties fairly and impartially, and it considered all of the evidence presented and used common sense, in light of everyday experience with people and events to determine the credible facts. As such, the Court gave the evidence whatever weight it believed it deserved. See Third Circuit Model Jury Charge § 1.5.

         Since this is a civil case, L&T Fashions, the Plaintiff, has the burden of proving its case by the preponderance of the evidence against Best Items. That is, Plaintiff must show its claims are more likely so than not so. See, Third Circuit Model Jury Charge §1.10. If Plaintiff fails to meet this burden, the verdict must be for defendant. Id. In determining what has been proven by the preponderance of evidence, the Court considered the testimony of the sole witness (A.V. Ramakrishna, President of L&T Fashions), and the many documents submitted into evidence by L&T.

         In this case, one of the Court's chief functions was to assess the credibility of the testimony of Mr. Ramakrishna. To do so, the Court considered a number of factors including:

(1) the opportunity and ability of the witness to see or hear or know the things the witness testifies to;
(2) the quality of the witness's understanding and memory;
(3) the witness's manner while testifying;
(4) whether the witness has an interest in the outcome of the case or any motive, bias or prejudice;
(5) whether the witness is contradicted by anything the witness said or wrote before trial or by other evidence;
(6) how reasonable the witness's testimony is when considered in the light of other evidence that you believe; and
(7)any other factors that bear on believability.

         Third Circuit Model Jury Charge §1.7.

         In that assessment, Mr. Ramakrishna's testimony was credible in part. However, some of his testimony was exaggerated, especially as to the amount of losses associated with Best Items. In addition, the exhibits entered into evidence were not adequately explained nor related precisely to Ramakrishna's testimony. When assessing credibility, the trier of fact may accept all or part of the witness's testimony as credible. A portion, but not all, of Ramakrishna's testimony was credible. This credibility assessment is explained in the following statement of facts and analysis.

         II.

         Although Plaintiff presents this case as a simple book account, Defendant Best Items argues that there was no contractual relationship between L&T and Best Items because there was no consideration between Best Items and L&T. Defendant's counsel argued in his letter brief:

The parties appeared for trial on July 17, 2018 before Your Honor. Plaintiff contracted with Textiles Met for the sale of goods. Textiles Met is owned by Jimmy Abadi. In the midst of the professional relationship, Plaintiff required that it deal with a company based in the United States or else it would cease all business with Textiles Met. Therefore, Best Items agreed that all invoices should be addressed to it. Best Items is owned by David Abadi. The only connection between Best Items and Textiles Met is that the owner of Best Items is the father of the owner of Textiles Met. These two companies are wholly separate and apart from each other and do not economically benefit from one another. The original contract for the sale of goods was between Plaintiff and Textiles Met. The goods have always been purchased by Textiles Met and were delivered to Textiles Met.
It is Defendant's position that the Plaintiff has no claim against it for unpaid goods purchased and delivered to Textiles Met because Plaintiff gave no consideration to Best Items which is required for the existence of a valid contract. Plaintiff claims that the consideration given to Best Items is that the contract benefits, the son of the owner of Best Items ...
Love and affection, unaccompanied by a pecuniary or material benefit, will not constitute sufficient consideration to support a contract or an action to redress its breach. In re Kirschenbaum 's Estate, 44 N.J.Super. 391, 400 (App. Div. 1957).

         At trial, the issues were twofold: (1) whether there was any consideration between L&T and Best Items sufficient to substantiate a breach of contract claim; and (2) whether there was sufficient evidence to prove damages of approximately $1, 885, 000 by a preponderance of the evidence.

         III.

         Before setting forth the facts, the Court reviewed the matter to determine if there was consideration between L&T and Best Items to show a breach of contract[1]. Although there was no jury, the Court used the Model Civil Jury Charge § 4.10(c) and (d) (Existence of a Legally Enforceable Contract) as approved by the New Jersey courts, to guide its deliberations. The Model Civil Jury Charge sets forth elements that the Plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence to prevail. This specific charge was employed because it explains the element of consideration which defendant argues has not been proven. The charge reads:

         4.10 BILATERAL CONTRACTS

         C. EXISTENCE OF A LEGALLY ENFORCEABLE CONTRACT (Approved 5/98)

         A contract is a legally enforceable agreement to do or not to do something.

         Plaintiff claims that [party] and [party] entered into a contract to [explain terms alleged]. The defendant claims [explain terms alleged]. To establish that this ...


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