910 F.2d 468 (7th Cir. 1990), 89-1579, Amplicon Leasing v. Coachmen Industries, Inc.

Docket Nº:89-1579.
Citation:910 F.2d 468
Party Name:AMPLICON LEASING, a financial service of Amplicon, Incorporated, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. COACHMEN INDUSTRIES, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:August 21, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 468

910 F.2d 468 (7th Cir. 1990)

AMPLICON LEASING, a financial service of Amplicon,

Incorporated, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

COACHMEN INDUSTRIES, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 89-1579.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 21, 1990

Argued Dec. 12, 1989.

Edmond Foley, Kent Wilson, South Bend, Ind., for plaintiff-appellee.

Page 469

T. Michael Pangburn, Elkhart, Ind., for defendant-appellant.

Before WOOD, Jr., CUDAHY and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

The appellee brought suit for breach of contract, alleging that the appellant had failed to provide the requisite advance notice of termination. A jury found for the appellee. The appellant appeals on the grounds: (1) that the district court should have directed a verdict in its favor; (2) that the district court erred by not interpreting a particular piece of written evidence as a matter of law; and (3) that the district court's announcement (an announcement it later recanted) that it thought the law was clear in appellant's favor had the effect of sandbagging the appellant's defense. We affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. Facts

The appellant, Coachmen Industries, entered into two long-term leases of computer word processing equipment with the appellee, Amplicon Leasing. The leases provided for a base term of 60 months, with the lease automatically continuing beyond the termination date unless written notice of termination was given 120 days in advance. The notice period was apparently necessary to give Amplicon, for example, time to remarket its used equipment and to give Coachmen, for example, time to arrange for alternate word processing equipment.

As the ends of the two leases were drawing near, the parties attempted, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a new lease for upgraded word processing equipment. In January of 1986, a representative of Coachmen indicated in a telephone conversation that the company was thinking of terminating the respective lease arrangements on their termination dates. In confirmation of this telephone conversation, Amplicon sent Coachmen a January 30, 1986 letter which confirmed that Coachmen was thinking of terminating the two leases when they expired. The letter also expressed Amplicon's desire to keep negotiating. Appellant's Appendix, Exhibit 12.

Subsequent to this January 30, 1986 letter Coachmen sent Amplicon a letter, dated February 10, 1986, which "requested a lease transaction summary" and "enclose[d] an equipment movement schedule for all the equipment concerned." Appellant's Appendix, Exhibit 9. This letter, among other things, also asked Amplicon for a price quote on some of the leased equipment. At trial, the parties disagreed over the meaning to be ascribed to the "equipment movement...

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