United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
SOCIETE DAMENAGEMENT ET DE GESTION DE LABRI NAUTIQUE, Plaintiff,
MARINE TRAVELIFT INC., Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge
an action by a French corporation to recognize a judgment
entered by a French court against a Wisconsin corporation.
The underlying dispute arises out a the 2004 sale of a boat
hoist by Defendant Marine Travel Lift (MTI) to Plaintiff
Societe dAmenagement et de Gestion de lAbri Nautique (Sagan)
at its facility in Saint-Marie-La-Mere, France. Sagan filed
suit in a French court and ultimately obtained a judgment
against MTI. While MTI seeks to re-litigate the dispute in
this court, Sagan has filed a motion for summary judgment
seeking recognition of the judgment it has already obtained.
This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(2). For the reasons that follow, Sagan's motion
will be granted.
is a French corporation with its principal place of business
located in Saint-Marie-La-Mere, France. Plaintiff's
Proposed Findings of Fact (PPFOF), ECF No. 23, at ¶ 1.
MTI is a Wisconsin corporation with its principal place of
business located in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Id. at
¶ 2. In December 2003, Sagan ordered an MTI-manufactured
boat hoist and related equipment through a third-party
supplier, CEI. Id. at ¶ 3. The boat hoist was
installed and inspected at a marina in Saint-Marie-La-Mere,
France on April 22, 2004. Id. at ¶ 4;
Defendant's Proposed Findings of Fact (DPFOF), ECF No.
29, at ¶ 2. Sometime after the boat hoist was installed
and before April 2005, Sagan began to complain about
corrosion to CEI. PPFOF at ¶ 5. CEI ultimately contacted
MTI about the concerns. Id. at ¶ 6. By
mid-2006, CEI entered into bankruptcy receivership.
Id. at ¶ 8.
petitioned the Perpignan Commercial Court in France to
appoint an independent expert to inspect the boat hoist and
determine the cause of the defect. Id. On November
17, 2006, MTI was notified of the court-ordered expert
evaluation of the boat hoist. Id. at ¶ 9. On
December 4, 2006, a second inspection of the equipment took
place at MTI's request. Id. at ¶ 10. On
March 7, 2007, the court-ordered expert filed his report.
Court of Appeals of Versailles Op. (English translation), ECF
No. 24-4 at 2. The expert's report prompted Sagan to
initiate a product-liability suit against CEI and MTI in the
Commercial Court of Perpignan, alleging claims under Articles
and 1647 of the French Civil Code. PPFOF at ¶
13. The Commercial Court of Perpignan was later deemed an
incompetent court, and the case was transferred to the
Commercial Court of Chartres. Id. MTI appeared and
was represented by French counsel. Commercial Court of
Chartres Op. (English translation), ECF No. 24-3 at 3.
September 20, 2011, the Commercial Court of Chartres rendered
its judgment. Id. at 3. The Chartres Court found
Sagan's claim to be admissible but without merit and
dismissed the case. Id. Sagan appealed the decision
to the Versailles Court of Appeals. Versailles Opinion, ECF
No. 24-4 at 4. MTI, again represented by counsel,
participated in the Versailles Court of Appeals proceedings.
PPFOF at ¶ 22. The Versailles Court of Appeals
deliberated the case in a public hearing on January 29, 2013,
without objection from either party. Id. at ¶
23. On March 28, 2013, the Versailles Court issued its
decision, reversing the Chartres Court and finding MTI liable
for defects in the boat hoist. Id. at ¶ 24. The
Versailles Court declared MTI was liable to Sagan for 58, 665
€, not including tax, plus interest at the legal rate
beginning on April 9, 2004, plus 4, 000 € for non-legal
costs, and the costs of Sagan's attorneys' fees
throughout the proceedings, as set by the Court's
discretion. ECF No. 24-4 at 10-11. MTI did not appeal the
Versailles Judgment to the French Supreme Court. PPFOF at
¶ 29. To this date, MTI has not paid any of the damages
determined by the Versailles Court. Id. at ¶
30. On June 22, 2016, Sagan filed this complaint seeking
recognition of the Versailles Judgment. ECF No. 1. Sagan
amended its complaint on September 12, 2016. ECF No. 2. On
November 14, 2017, Sagan filed a motion for summary judgment
to recognize the Versailles Judgment. ECF No. 21. The matter
is fully briefed and ripe for decision.
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is
proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any
affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of material
fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “[T]he plain language of
Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317
the summary judgment stage, the facts must be viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is
‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.”
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). However, “when the moving party
has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do
more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt
as to the material facts . . . . Where the record is taken as
a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for
the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for
trial.'” Id. (citing Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87
(1986)). “The mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material
fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).
The French Judgment Is Final
is no dispute that this matter was fully litigated in France,
and Sagan obtained a final judgment in its favor against MTI
from the Court of Appeal of Versailles. Although MTI suggests
that a factual dispute exists as to “whether the French
decision constitutes a judgment that can be enforced in this
Court, ” MTI Br. in Opp'n, ECF No. 28 at 15, MTI
does not dispute that the Versailles Court of Appeals issued
a decision finding MTI liable and awarding Sagan damages,
attorneys' fees and costs. MTI Resp. to PPFOF, ECF No.
29, ¶¶ 24-28. Nor does MTI dispute that it did not
appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals to the French
Supreme Court. It thus follows that the judgment of the
Versailles Court of Appeals is a final judgment.
also suggests that it would be irregular for an appellate
decision to be considered a judgment within the United
States. While it may be unusual for an appellate court in the
United States to issue a judgment, the decision in question
was not issued by a United States appellate court; instead,
it was issued by an appellate court in France. MTI offers no
evidence or argument that it is irregular for appellate
courts in France to issue judgments. The appellate courts in
France routinely reexamine the entire case and partake in
fact-finding. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer,
France, Encyclopedia of International Commercial
Litigation § A1.43 (2015). It is not irregular for a
court that engages in fact-finding to issue a judgment. Mere
differences in legal systems are not sufficient, standing
alone, to support a refusal to recognize a final judgment.
French law, a judgment by the trial court, like the Chartres
Court, becomes definitive and enforceable if no appeal is
lodged; if an appeal is lodged, the judgment is stayed
pending the appellate court decision. Deringer,
supra § A11.2. In the case of an appellate
court decision, an appeal to the supreme court does not stay
the judgment: “As soon as an arrêt of a cour
d'appel [court of appeals] is rendered and notified, it
must be executed by the losing party.” Id.
§ A11.3. Additionally, the language of the Versailles
Judgment indicates that it is not only a decision explaining
the Versailles Court's rationale, but it is also “a
decision that is final and non-appealable” and orders
damages that MTI must pay Sagan. Court of Appeals of
Versailles Op. (English translation), ECF No. 24-4 at 10-11.
MTI did not appeal this decision, and even if it had, MTI was
required to execute the judgment upon its issuance. I
therefore conclude that the Versailles Judgment is a final
and enforceable judgment under French law, and turn to the
central question of whether it is entitled to recognition
under Wisconsin law.
Recognition of ...