MBI Motor Co., Inc. v. Lotus/East, Inc., No. 74-1234

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore PHILLIPS, Chief Judge, MILLER, Circuit Judge, and McALLISTER; PHILLIPS
Citation506 F.2d 709
PartiesMBI MOTOR COMPANY, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. LOTUS/EAST, INC., Defendant-Appellant, and Dutchess Auto Company, Defendant.
Decision Date10 December 1974
Docket NumberNo. 74-1234

Page 709

506 F.2d 709
MBI MOTOR COMPANY, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
LOTUS/EAST, INC., Defendant-Appellant, and Dutchess Auto
Company, Defendant.
No. 74-1234.
United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.
Dec. 10, 1974.

Harold B. Stone, Stone & Bozeman, Knoxville, Tenn., Lea, Goldberg & Goldsmith, Lola S. Lea, New York City, for appellant.

Allen B. Johnson, Wallace F. Burroughs, Knoxville, Tenn., for appellee.

Before PHILLIPS, Chief Judge, MILLER, Circuit Judge, and McALLISTER, Senior Circuit Judge.

PHILLIPS, Chief Judge.

In this diversity case, MBI Motor Company, Inc., filed suit against Lotus/East, Inc., in connection with five automobiles

Page 710

it purchased at wholesale from that defendant. After a trial to the court sitting without a jury, the District Judge entered judgment in favor of MBI and against Lotus/East based on a theory of liability not mentioned in the complaint or in the pretrial order. Lotus/East appeals from this judgment. For the reasons stated below, we vacate the judgment of the District Court and remand for further proceedings.

Lotus/East is a distributor of Lotus automobiles, and MBI was an authorized Lotus dealer located in Maryville, Tennessee. Between November 1970 and June 1971 Lotus/East sold to MBI five Lotus cars, of which four eventually were resold to retail customers. Each car at the time of sale had, or subsequently developed, substantial mechanical defects that required repeated servicing by MBI. The four customers were dissatisfied with their cars, and each has taken steps to recover the purchase price from MBI.

On July 24, 1972, MBI filed a complaint against Lotus/East in the Chancery Court for Blount County, Tennessee, alleging misrepresentation in that the cars were not new 1971 model Lotus automobiles as stated by Lotus/East, but were in fact used 1969 model cars. MBI also claimed that it had not been reimbursed for repair work that it performed on these cars pursuant to the parts and service warranty running from Lotus/East to retail purchasers.

Lotus/East removed the case to the District Court, and after further pleading, the District Judge entered a pretrial order that described the theories upon which MBI expected to recover as follows:

'Defendants sold to plaintiffs five Lotus automobiles, billing and warranting the same to be new automobiles and of a 1971 year model; which said five automobiles were not a 1971 year model, and were used automobiles; that warranties were performed by plaintiffs on the five Lotus automobiles; however, plaintiffs were not reimbursed by defendants for said warranties.

'Plaintiffs have conducted themselves in a proper manner, have not damaged any reputation of the Lotus automobile by their actions; but that plaintiffs have been damaged by the misrepresentation and failure to comply with their agreements by the defendants for which plaintiffs sued for damages.'

The order also characterized defendant's theory of nonliability in the following manner: 'Defendant Lotus/East, Inc., has neither misrepresented any products sold to the plaintiffs, nor has it breached any contract entered into with plaintiffs.' The order framed the issues for trial as follows:

'(1) Were the five automobiles which plaintiff purchased from Lotus/East, Inc., new 1971 model automobiles or were they demonstrators?

'(2) If defendant breached his contract with the plaintiff, what is the amount of damages?'

After the trial, the court entered a memorandum opinion holding that Lotus/East had not misrepresented the nature and vintage of the five automobiles. The court concluded, however, that the cars were materially defective at the time of delivery to MBI and that, therefore, Lotus/East breached the implied warranty of merchantability created by 2-314 of the Uniform Commercial Code. T.C.A. 47-2-314 (1964). 1 Accordingly,

Page 711

the court gave judgment for MBI in the amount of $7,165, denied Lotus/East's motion to reopen for additional proof, and deemed the pleadings amended to conform to the evidence.

Lotus/East complains that the warranty of merchantability was not an issue in the case until the court rendered its opinion and that it would have pursued a different trial strategy and presented additional evidence had it realized its exposure to warranty liability. Defendant relies upon Jackson v. Crockarell, 475 F.2d 746, 747 (6th Cir. 1973), in which we said:

'A review of the record of this case indicates that the statements of counsel in setting out his theory of defense and the charge of the Court to the jury on these points goes well beyond the theory of defense as set out in the pleadings and the pre-trial order. The pleadings under which this case was tried did not raise the defense of the right to kill to prevent the escape of a felon. Since the practice deprives the opposing party of an opportunity to present evidence to counter the new theory, it is reversible error for a court to give instructions concerning an issue not raised by the pleadings.'

MBI points out, however, that in Jackson there was little or no evidence in the record to support the newly raised defense theory. MBI insists that in the case at bar the merchantability issue was tried by the implied consent of the parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(b). Therefore, the argument goes, the court was fully justified in basing its decision on that theory and in...

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46 practice notes
  • Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., Nos. 74-1791 and 75-1334
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 8, 1977
    ...inquiry is the understanding of the parties as to whether the unpleaded issue was being contested. MBI Motor Co. v. Lotus East, Inc., 506 F.2d 709, 711 (6th Cir. 1974). See Joiner Sys., Inc. v. AVM Corp., 517 F.2d 45, 49 (3d Cir. 1975). See also Kanelos v. Kettler, 132 U.S.App.D.C. 133, 136......
  • Ross v. Coleman Co., Inc., No. 16295
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 27, 1988
    ...it must appear that the parties understood the evidence to be aimed at the unpleaded issue.' MBI Motor Co., Inc. v. Lotus/East, Inc., 506 F.2d 709, 711 (6th "Where nothing in the record indicates that an unpleaded issue was litigated at trial, it is error for the trial court to base its dec......
  • Puget Sound Gillnetters Ass'n v. U.S. Dist. Court for Western Dist. of Wash., Nos. 77-3129
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 24, 1978
    ...agrees, if the parties understood that the evidence was directed to the unpleaded issue. MBI Motor Company, Inc. v. Lotus/East, Inc., 506 F.2d 709 (6th Cir. 1974). The Fifth Circuit points out that in these circumstances allowing the amendment is mandatory. Wallin v. Fuller, 476 F.2d 1204 (......
  • United States v. LOC. 560, INTERN. BRO. OF TEAMSTERS, Civ. A. No. 82-689.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • March 8, 1984
    ...accordingly base its decision on this theory and may deem the pleadings amended accordingly. MBI Motor Company, Inc. v. Lotus/East, Inc., 506 F.2d 709 (6th Cir.1974); Smith v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 247 F.2d 761, 766 (3d Cir.1957). I further note that the government has elected not to press ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., Nos. 74-1791 and 75-1334
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 8, 1977
    ...inquiry is the understanding of the parties as to whether the unpleaded issue was being contested. MBI Motor Co. v. Lotus East, Inc., 506 F.2d 709, 711 (6th Cir. 1974). See Joiner Sys., Inc. v. AVM Corp., 517 F.2d 45, 49 (3d Cir. 1975). See also Kanelos v. Kettler, 132 U.S.App.D.C. 133, 136......
  • Ross v. Coleman Co., Inc., No. 16295
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 27, 1988
    ...it must appear that the parties understood the evidence to be aimed at the unpleaded issue.' MBI Motor Co., Inc. v. Lotus/East, Inc., 506 F.2d 709, 711 (6th "Where nothing in the record indicates that an unpleaded issue was litigated at trial, it is error for the trial court to base its dec......
  • Puget Sound Gillnetters Ass'n v. U.S. Dist. Court for Western Dist. of Wash., Nos. 77-3129
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 24, 1978
    ...agrees, if the parties understood that the evidence was directed to the unpleaded issue. MBI Motor Company, Inc. v. Lotus/East, Inc., 506 F.2d 709 (6th Cir. 1974). The Fifth Circuit points out that in these circumstances allowing the amendment is mandatory. Wallin v. Fuller, 476 F.2d 1204 (......
  • United States v. LOC. 560, INTERN. BRO. OF TEAMSTERS, Civ. A. No. 82-689.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • March 8, 1984
    ...accordingly base its decision on this theory and may deem the pleadings amended accordingly. MBI Motor Company, Inc. v. Lotus/East, Inc., 506 F.2d 709 (6th Cir.1974); Smith v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 247 F.2d 761, 766 (3d Cir.1957). I further note that the government has elected not to press ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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