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LimoLiner, Inc. v. Dattco, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

December 23, 2015

LIMOLINER, INC., Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
DATTCO, INC., Defendant, Appellee

As Amended December 31, 2015.

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Jennifer C. Boal, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

Robert E. Curtis, Jr., with whom James S. Singer and Rudolph Friedmann LLP were on brief, for appellant.

Christopher S. Williams, with whom Williams & Associates was on brief, for appellee.

Before Kayatta, Stahl, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 34

BARRON, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises out of a suit over repair work on a luxury motor coach. The company that owns the vehicle, LimoLiner, Inc., contracted with an automotive repair company, Dattco, Inc., to do the work. The parties do not contest the finding below that Dattco breached the repair contract by failing to do all of the work that LimoLiner had requested. But LimoLiner does appeal the rulings below that Dattco may not be held liable under a Massachusetts regulation for certain actions and omissions that occurred on the job; that Dattco did not breach the parties' oral contract to make the repairs in a timely manner; and that Dattco owes damages only for the loss of use of the vehicle for one limited period of time.

We certify a question concerning the Massachusetts regulation's intended scope to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, and we thus do not decide the merits of LimoLiner's regulatory claims. We otherwise affirm.

I.

LimoLiner is a Massachusetts corporation that owns and operates a fleet of luxury motor coaches that are known as " Liners." Dattco is a Connecticut corporation that repairs and services motor vehicles,

Page 35

including buses and coaches. The undisputed facts are as follows.

On May 30, 2011, two LimoLiner employees met with two Dattco representatives to discuss the possible need to repair one of the Liners, Liner 3001. That vehicle had been out of service for about a year and needed extensive repair work.

At the May 30th meeting, Dattco orally agreed to repair Liner 3001 by, among other things, replacing or repairing a part of the vehicle called the inverter. The parties agreed that Liner 3001 would be towed to Dattco's facility in Massachusetts for inspection and that Dattco would provide a list of repairs following inspection. During that meeting, LimoLiner's general manager told Dattco's sales manager that LimoLiner wanted Liner 3001 to be repaired " as soon as possible."

Following that meeting, Dattco generated a list of repairs, though that list did not include the inverter work that the Magistrate Judge found that Dattco had actually agreed to perform. The two parties used this list to divide the responsibility for each repair between each party. Dattco was to undertake the bulk of the repair work with the rest left for LimoLiner's own mechanics.

After Dattco took hold of Liner 3001, LimoLiner became concerned about the time Dattco was taking to repair the vehicle. On August 4, 2011, at an in-person meeting, the representatives from LimoLiner demanded compensation from Dattco for the monetary losses LimoLiner claimed it had sustained up to that point as a result of its inability to use Liner 3001. On August 8, 2011, LimoLiner followed up by letter and " complained about the level of attention, time and resources assigned to the job" by Dattco and specifically demanded $42,000 in compensation. LimoLiner, Inc. v. Dattco, Inc., No. 11-11877-JCB, 2014 WL 4823877, at *4 (D. Mass. Sept. 24, 2014). That letter also contained an offer to pay Dattco a certain amount for its services if Dattco delivered Liner 3001 by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 12, 2011.

Dattco responded to that letter by email on August 25, 2011. In doing so, Dattco informed LimoLiner that Liner 3001 was ready for pickup. Attached to the email was an invoice for $10,404.

LimoLiner refused to pay, but offered to put the money in escrow in exchange for the return of Liner 3001. Dattco did not accept that offer.

On October 5, 2011, LimoLiner filed this action in Massachusetts Superior Court. The suit alleged breach of contract, misrepresentation, negligence, replevin, and violation of 940 C.M.R. § 5.05, a regulation promulgated by the Massachusetts Attorney General pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, § 2 (" Chapter 93A" ). LimoLiner also moved for an order directing Dattco to return Liner 3001.

The court issued the requested order after first requiring LimoLiner to submit a $10,404 deposit to the Clerk's Office. Dattco complied with the court's order and returned Liner 3001 to LimoLiner on October 12, 2011.

Dattco removed the case to federal district court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, answered, and counterclaimed for breach of contract and quantum meruit. A Magistrate Judge, presiding by consent over a bench trial, found that Dattco had expressly agreed to repair Liner 3001's inverter ...


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