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Mayport Farmers Co-Op, Plaintiff and Appellant v. St. Hilaire Seed Company

December 18, 2012

MAYPORT FARMERS CO-OP, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT
v.
ST. HILAIRE SEED COMPANY, INC.,
DEFENDANT AND APPELLEE



Appeal from the District Court of Traill County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable John Charles Irby, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crothers, Justice.

N.D. Supreme CourtMayPort Farmers Co-Op v. St. Hilaire Seed Company, Inc.,

2012 ND 257

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

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AFFIRMED.

Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] MayPort Farmers Co-Op appeals from the judgment entered after trial and from the district court's order denying MayPort's motion to amend findings of fact and conclusions of law and to amend judgment. We affirm, concluding the district court's findings of fact were not clearly erroneous and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying MayPort's motion to amend.

I

[¶2] MayPort sued St. Hilaire Seed Co., Inc., alleging St. Hilaire owed MayPort money for storage of edible beans St. Hilaire purchased from MayPort. MayPort contracts with various growers to buy edible beans. MayPort receives the beans, cleans them and prepares them for transportation. These beans are sold to bean buyers such as St. Hilaire. St. Hilaire markets the beans to end users such as bean packaging or bean canning plants. St. Hilaire then instructs MayPort to ship the beans to St. Hilaire's customers. If St. Hilaire does not find a buyer for the beans bought from MayPort, MayPort holds the beans in storage. If MayPort was unable to fill an order from St. Hilaire, St. Hilaire would not send shipping instructions. MayPort's claim for storage fees arose from beans St. Hilaire purchased from MayPort from the 2008 harvest. MayPort had shipment delays in the winter of 2008 and spring of 2009 because of installation of new equipment, cold and wet weather and lack of rail access in the spring. Consequently, St. Hilaire never sent shipping instructions for some beans stored by MayPort.

[¶3] MayPort billed St. Hilaire for storage of the beans, and St. Hilaire disputed the charges. MayPort sued St. Hilaire. St. Hilaire counterclaimed, alleging a shipment of beans from MayPort was contaminated. The district court found the contract between MayPort and St. Hilaire did not contain a provision regarding storage charges. The district court concluded "usage of trade" applied as a gap-filler and found industry custom and standards rendered storage charges inappropriate because MayPort's inability to perform caused the need for storage. The district court dismissed MayPort's complaint and St. Hilaire's counterclaim. MayPort filed a motion to amend the district court's findings of fact and conclusion of law and to amend judgment, which the district court denied.

II

[¶4] MayPort argues the district court clearly erred by finding MayPort's inability to ship when requested caused the beans to remain in storage past the contracted shipping dates. "This Court's review of a district court's findings of fact in a bench trial is governed by the clearly erroneous standard under N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(a)." Wheeler v. Southport Seven Planned Unit Dev., 2012 ND 201, ¶ 23, 821 N.W.2d 746. "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, there is no evidence to support it, or if . . . on the entire evidence this Court is left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made." Id. (quotation omitted). "We do 'not reweigh evidence or reassess witness credibility when the evidence supports the court's findings.'" Id. (quotation omitted).

[ΒΆ5] MayPort argues this Court should use a less deferential standard of review when reviewing a district court's findings based on documentary evidence. We disagree. The district court's findings were not based solely on documentary evidence. The findings also were based on testimony from multiple witnesses. Furthermore, the clearly erroneous standard "governs appellate review of factual findings based upon ...


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