• January 13, 2020

Last month, we noted a lawsuit over technology in the sugar industry, “reclaimers” built inside sugar silos, to illustrate a basic point about the complexity of legal damages (Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (“SMBC”) v. Agri Systems (“ASI”). Unsophisticated litigants think “the sky’s the limit” and one can argue any amount of damages one feels appropriate. All civil litigators know that damages analysis is generally a lot more limiting and rigorous than that.

Soon after our post last month, U.S. District Court Judge Wilhemina M. Wright (D. Minn.) ruled on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment (that is, the motion by ASI, “a Montana corporation that designs and constructs storage facilities.”

Judge Wright made short work of ASI’s motion, which seemed to be in the nature of house-keeping or clean-up rather than reflecting any decisive change in the substance of the lawsuit. In a nutshell, ASI brought motions to dismiss four of SMBC’s claims, got rid of two, but will have to continue to defend two.

The case appears reminiscent of some older Minnesota Litigator posts, “Can it Box Pasta or Not?,” or “the case of the egg carton machine that couldn’t…” (LEI Packaging v. Emery Silfurtun) — that is, these are all basic business disputes in which complex and expensive machines failed and the buyer and seller businesses, rather than negotiating some mutually acceptible payment in recognition of the failure, are sucked into the expensive and almost pointless vortex of civil litigation. Great news for civil litigators and bad news for the parties…