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BCL-Equipment Leasing LLC v. Tom Spensley Trucking, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

March 17, 2016

BCL-EQUIPMENT LEASING LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
TOM SPENSLEY TRUCKING, INC. and TOM SPENSLEY, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

JAMES D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE

This is a replevin action in which plaintiff BCL-Equipment Leasing LLC seeks the return of collateral truck equipment. Defendants Tom Spensley Trucking, Inc. and Tom Spensley have defaulted on payments for the equipment, due under an agreement that the parties entered into in December 2014. Defendants acknowledge that they owe BCL money, but they would like to pay the entire amount due rather than surrender the collateral.

Two motions are pending before the court. First, defendants have moved to dismiss the case as moot. Dkt. 10. They contend that there is no longer a case or controversy because BCL rejected an offer of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 to pay BCL everything due under the parties’ agreement. Second, BCL has moved for an order of replevin, seeking possession of the collateral that defendants have refused to return. Dkt. 13. The court will deny defendants’ motion to dismiss and strike their improperly filed offer of judgment. The court will also defer ruling on BCL’s motion for replevin. Before the court can address the merits of the case, BCL must file an amended complaint that adequately alleges a basis from which the court can exercise subject matter jurisdiction.

ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

The court draws the following facts from the verified complaint and the exhibits attached to it. See Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999).

BCL is an Illinois limited liability company. All of BCL’s members are citizens of Illinois. Spensley Trucking is a Wisconsin corporation with a principal place of business in Platteville, Wisconsin. Tom Spensley is an individual who resides in Platteville, Wisconsin.

BCL and Spensley Trucking entered into an agreement on December 30, 2014. Dkt. 1-2. Under the agreement, BCL leased trucking equipment to Spensley Trucking for a term of three years, with the option to extend the lease for one additional year. At the end of the lease, Spensley Trucking had the option to purchase the equipment. Tom Spensley guarantied Spensley Trucking’s obligations.

In October 2015, Spensley Trucking failed to make its required monthly payment. The company then missed the next two months’ payments as well, and so BCL sent a demand letter to Tom Spensley. The letter stated that Spensley Trucking was in default, and it demanded the return of the collateral (i.e., the trucking equipment) and total payment for the remainder of the lease. BCL was able to repossess two pieces of equipment, but Spensley Trucking refused to return the other seven pieces or pay the amount demanded.

BCL filed suit in this court on January 6, 2016. At the time, Spensley Trucking had a past due balance of $35, 948.49, consisting of three missed payments, late charges, and repossession fees. Adding anticipated payments for the remainder of the lease-which became due immediately under the agreement’s acceleration clause-and attorney fees, BCL alleged that it had suffered damages in the amount of $278, 548.49.

Defendants have moved to dismiss BCL’s complaint as moot, principally relying on a rejected offer of judgment that they provided to BCL after the complaint was filed. BCL has filed a motion for an order directing defendants to return all of the collateral.

BCL alleges that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, because the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

ANALYSIS

The court must address two jurisdictional arguments before proceeding to the merits of BCL’s claims. First, defendants contend that this case is moot because BCL rejected their offer of judgment, which offered to pay BCL a “payoff amount” under the parties’ agreement. As an initial matter, the court will strike the rejected offer of judgment, Dkt. 14-3, which defendants improperly filed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 68(b) (“Evidence of an unaccepted offer is not admissible except in a proceeding to determine costs.”); Labuda v. Schmidt, No. 04-cv-1281, 2005 WL 2290247, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 19, 2005) (“Because plaintiffs never accepted the offer, however, it should never have been filed.”).

Regardless of defendants’ procedural faux pas, the Supreme Court recently held that “an unaccepted settlement offer or offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff’s case.” Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S.Ct. 663, 672 (2016), as revised, (Feb. 9, 2016). Defendants do not bother to distinguish this precedent in their reply (after BCL brought it to their attention in its opposition), nor can the court conceive of a way to do so. Because a rejected offer of ...


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