Appleton Elec. Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc., No. 79-1640

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore PELL; JOHN W. PECK
Citation635 F.2d 603
PartiesAPPLETON ELECTRIC COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. GRAVES TRUCK LINE, INC., Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 79-1640
Decision Date02 December 1980

Page 603

635 F.2d 603
APPLETON ELECTRIC COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GRAVES TRUCK LINE, INC., Defendant-Appellant.
No. 79-1640.
United States Court of Appeals,
Seventh Circuit.
Argued Jan. 8, 1980.
Decided Nov. 25, 1980.
As Corrected Dec. 2, 1980.

Page 605

Martha A. Mills, Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellant.

Jay A. Canel, Rudnick & Wolfe, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before PELL, Circuit Judge, PECK, * Senior Circuit Judge, and TONE, ** Circuit Judge.

JOHN W. PECK, Senior Circuit Judge.

This appeal considers whether 282 default judgments taken against appellant in a class action suit are void due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction or because the damages awarded exceeded the amount prayed for in plaintiff's demand for relief. And, if the first two issues are answered in the negative, whether the trial court abused its discretion in not setting aside a number of the default judgments that appellant contends come within the purview of Rule 60(b)5, Fed.R.Civ.P.

I

This case arises out of overcharges made pursuant to a tariff filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission to which appellant Graves Truck Line, Inc., (Graves), a motor common carrier, was a party. This action has a long and complicated history, the early part of which is chronicled in detail in Appleton Electric Co. v. Advance-United Expressways, 494 F.2d 126 (7th Cir. 1974), a previous decision in this case. We borrow as much of the description set forth there as will facilitate a basic understanding of the background of this dispute:

The Middlewest Motor Freight Bureau, Inc., filed and published proposed rate increases on behalf of its motor carrier members to take effect on April 1, 1968. The Interstate Commerce Commission permitted the rates to go into effect as scheduled but, because of protests by various parties, instituted an investigation of the lawfulness of the increased rates without suspending them. By order of April 3, 1968, the Commission ordered specific information and data to be filed, prescribed special procedures and set the matter for hearing on May 20.

494 F.2d at 128.

In response to the carriers' request, the Commission postponed the hearing date, but did so conditioned upon the carriers' agreement to refund any portion of the rate

Page 606

increase subsequently disapproved. Following the postponed hearing, the Commission found that the increases were not just and reasonable, and ordered the carriers to refund the excess charges. The Commission later amended the order to require refunds to be made upon presentation of shippers' claims supported by paid freight bills or other appropriate evidence.

The carriers sought judicial review of the Commission's order of June 5, 1969, as modified by its order of August 29, 1969, by filing a complaint on January 26, 1970, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, seeking a declaration that the orders were invalid and an injunction against enforcement of the refund obligation by a three-judge court in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2325. On June 19, 1970, the district court granted a motion for a temporary restraining order. (Footnotes omitted.)

Id. at 129.

The three-judge court dismissed the complaint and entered judgment against the carriers, thereby upholding the Commission's order. Admiral Merchants Motor Freight, Inc. v. United States, 321 F.Supp. 353 (D.Colo.1971). The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the judgment on appeal without opinion at 404 U.S. 802, 92 S.Ct. 51, 30 L.Ed.2d 37, rehearing denied, 404 U.S. 987, 92 S.Ct. 443, 30 L.Ed.2d 371 (1971).

This complaint was filed on June 15, 1970 by Appleton Electric Company and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated who shipped goods from May 20, 1968 through August 29, 1969 covered by the rates involved in Interstate Commerce Commission Docket No. 34971. Originally the complaint was directed against seventeen named motor carrier defendants, but the named plaintiff moved to amend the complaint on its face in order to add to the list of defendants the words "individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated." At the same time, plaintiff moved for a determination that the action be maintained as a class action.

494 F.2d at 131.

The district judge found that the action was properly maintainable as a class action and defined both the plaintiff class and the defendant class on February 25, 1972.

Although the complaint originally relied for jurisdiction on 49 U.S.C. § 304a (reparation proceedings), the plaintiffs on June 20, 1972 moved for summary judgment on the basis of 49 U.S.C. §§ 16(2) and 305(g) (enforcement of Commission order for payment of money). On November 21, 1972, the court issued its memorandum, and on December 7, 1972, its order, granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs on the issue of liability and continuing the case on the issue of damages only. 1

On December 20, 1972, the court appointed independent counsel to represent the defendant class other than the seventeen named defendants. On January 18, 1973, the court appointed the two attorneys previously representing the named plaintiff and another attorney to represent the plaintiff class.

On April 17 and 18, 1973, the court held an evidentiary hearing to determine reasonable methods of ascertaining and notifying class members. On June 18, 1973, the court ordered that notice be sent to members of the plaintiff class by first-class mail and to members of the defendant class by certified mail....

Id. at 132.

We granted defendants' petition for leave to appeal from the June 18 order pursuant

Page 607

to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). We affirmed the district court's judgment order, holding that the district judge had not abused his discretion in certifying this suit as a class action suit, and that the notice contemplated by the June 18 order satisfied due process requirements. Appleton Electric Co., supra, at 139-40.

Appellant Graves received formal notice of its inclusion in the defendant class in August, 1973. The notice provided that any member of the defendant class could request exclusion from the class pursuant to the provisions of Rule 23(c)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P. Graves opted out of the class on October 23, 1973. On June 21, 1974, eight months after it opted out, appellant was served with a summons and complaint.

Graves did not answer the complaint and did not otherwise appear. On or about August 14, 1975, Graves was served with a motion for a "default order" together with a proposed order. The proposed order provided that shippers should file refund claims with counsel for plaintiff, and authorized the clerk of the district court to enter a default judgment in the amount claimed, together with interest and attorneys' fees equal to 331/3% of the claim, upon application by the plaintiff-representative.

Again Graves failed to respond, and, on September 25, 1975, the district court entered the proposed order. On November 5, 1975, the first default judgment was entered against Graves. The district court refused to vacate the judgment, but stayed its enforcement pending final determination of all matters in the case.

The court subsequently certified, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), that the procedure by which the September 25 default order was entered involved a controlling question of law, thus permitting immediate appeal from that order to this Court. We granted leave to appeal, and on April 17, 1978, this Court rendered its decision from the bench, affirming the district court's order. 2 Speaking from the bench, we said that Graves's jurisdictional defense should have been raised affirmatively at the pleading stage, and had, therefore, been waived. We further stated that the rules governing the entry of default judgments are satisfied where the district court utilizes a formula by which it can compute the exact amount of damages. In addition, we observed that Graves had notice of the formula to be used in computing damages, and that, with regard to the single judgment before us at that time, Graves conceded that it was accurate.

Thereafter, 282 default judgments were entered against Graves. After all judgments became final, appellant moved for relief from the judgments; this motion was denied by the district court. Graves appeals to this Court, again raising the issues disposed of on its last appeal. Additionally, Graves argues that at least 100 of the judgments are voidable for various reasons under Rule 60(b)(5), Fed.R.Civ.P.

II

The first question to be addressed is what effect we must give to our disposition on the prior appeal of issues that appellant urges us to reconsider here. We have long held that "matters decided on appeal become the law of the case to be followed ... on second appeal, in the appellate court, unless there is plain error of law in the original decision." Kaku Nagano v. Brownell, 212 F.2d 262, 263 (7th Cir. 1954). The "law of the case" rule is not a limitation on this Court's power to reconsider its prior rulings in a case, but is:

based on the salutary and sound public policy that litigation should come to an end. It is predicated on the premise that "there would be no end to a suit if every obstinate litigant could, by repeated appeals, compel a court to listen to criticisms on their opinions or speculate of chances from changes in its members," and that it would be impossible for an appellate court "to perform its duties satisfactorily and efficiently" and expeditiously

Page 608

"if a question, once considered and decided by it were to be litigated anew in the same case upon any and every subsequent appeal" thereof.

White v. Murtha, 377 F.2d 428, 431 (5th Cir. 1967), quoting Roberts v. Cooper, 20 How., 61 U.S. 467, 481, 15 L.Ed. 969 (1858). Because "law of the case" is not an immutable rule, we have, on a limited number of occasions reconsidered a previous adjudication where we concluded that our...

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53 practice notes
  • Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., No. 81-2483
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • June 16, 1982
    ...appeal, absent clear and convincing reasons to reexamine the prior ruling. See, e.g., Appleton Electric Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc., 635 F.2d 603, 607-08 (7th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 451 U.S. 976, 101 S.Ct. 2058, 68 L.Ed.2d 357 (1981). Second, an inferior court must apply the decision ......
  • Jolly v. Eli Lilly & Co., S.F. 25045
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 7, 1988
    ...of repose and certainty behind statutes of limitations. [Citation.]" (Appleton Elec. Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc. (7th Cir.1980) 635 F.2d 603, 609, cert. den. (1981) 451 U.S. 976, 101 S.Ct. 2058, 68 L.Ed.2d 357; see, e.g., Green v. United States Steel Corp. (E.D.Pa.1979) 481 F.Supp. 295, ......
  • Chapman v. Pickett, Nos. 84-2842
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 25, 1986
    ...876, 880 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 836, 105 S.Ct. 130, 83 L.Ed.2d 71 (1984); Appleton Electric Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc., 635 F.2d 603, 607 (7th Cir.1980) ("we have long held that 'matters decided on appeal become the law of the case to be followed ... on second appeal, in the......
  • Christensen v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 02136 Sept. Term, 2003.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 8, 2005
    ...are designed to promote"). Many federal court decisions are also persuasive. See, e.g., Appleton Elec. Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc., 635 F.2d 603, 608 (7th Cir.1980) (recognizing that achieving litigation efficiency, which FRCP 23 was designed to effectuate, "transcends the policies of re......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
53 cases
  • Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., No. 81-2483
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • June 16, 1982
    ...appeal, absent clear and convincing reasons to reexamine the prior ruling. See, e.g., Appleton Electric Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc., 635 F.2d 603, 607-08 (7th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 451 U.S. 976, 101 S.Ct. 2058, 68 L.Ed.2d 357 (1981). Second, an inferior court must apply the decision ......
  • Jolly v. Eli Lilly & Co., S.F. 25045
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 7, 1988
    ...of repose and certainty behind statutes of limitations. [Citation.]" (Appleton Elec. Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc. (7th Cir.1980) 635 F.2d 603, 609, cert. den. (1981) 451 U.S. 976, 101 S.Ct. 2058, 68 L.Ed.2d 357; see, e.g., Green v. United States Steel Corp. (E.D.Pa.1979) 481 F.Supp. 295, ......
  • Chapman v. Pickett, Nos. 84-2842
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 25, 1986
    ...876, 880 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 836, 105 S.Ct. 130, 83 L.Ed.2d 71 (1984); Appleton Electric Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc., 635 F.2d 603, 607 (7th Cir.1980) ("we have long held that 'matters decided on appeal become the law of the case to be followed ... on second appeal, in the......
  • Christensen v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 02136 Sept. Term, 2003.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 8, 2005
    ...are designed to promote"). Many federal court decisions are also persuasive. See, e.g., Appleton Elec. Co. v. Graves Truck Line, Inc., 635 F.2d 603, 608 (7th Cir.1980) (recognizing that achieving litigation efficiency, which FRCP 23 was designed to effectuate, "transcends the policies of re......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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