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Summary Judgment – Sufficiency of Evidence

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Continental Vineyard, LLC, et al., v. Vinifera Wine Co., LLC, et al.,

Case No.: 19-2089; 19-2173

Officials: RIPPLE, WOOD, and SCUDDER, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Summary Judgment – Sufficiency of Evidence

This case pits two wine enterprises against one another. In one corner, we have Gerald Forsythe, who formed Indeck-Paso Robles, LLC (“Indeck”) for the purpose of creating and managing a wine-grape vineyard. In the other, we have Randy Dzierzawski, who started out as Forsythe’s business associate and vice-president and later branched out on his own. In time, Forsythe became convinced that Dzierzawski and his company stole valuable business opportunities from Forsythe’s operations. Litigation ensued, with an ultimate outcome largely favoring Dzierzawski, but also giving Forsythe’s company $285,731 as disgorgement.

Forsythe and his related companies have appealed from the judgment in favor of the Dzierzawski parties, largely on the ground of allegedly fatal inconsistencies in the jury’s verdict. Dzierzawski has cross-appealed from the disgorgement order. Forsythe argues that Dzierzawski stole a corporate opportunity from his company, but we agree with the district court that the evidence does not support such a finding. As for the verdicts, we are left to make the best of a bad thing. They are hard to reconcile at first glance, but neither party made any objection until several weeks after the jury was disbanded. Without such a contemporaneous objection, the court was left on its own. It resolved the uncertainties in a way that respected what the jury said. Finally, with respect to the cross-appeal, we see no reversible error in the disgorgement order. Although the case is something of a procedural mess, we conclude in the final analysis that the judgment of the district court should be affirmed.

Affirmed

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Derek A Hawkins is trademark corporate counsel for Harley-Davidson. Hawkins oversees the prosecution and maintenance of the Harley-Davidson’s international trademark portfolio in emerging markets.

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