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Sunrise Helicopters, Inc v. Alexair

May 29, 2012

SUNRISE HELICOPTERS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALEXAIR, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING (1) ALEXAIR, INC.'S ORAL MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW RE: AIRWORTHINESS OF ENGINE; (2) ALEXAIR, INC.'S ORAL MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW RE: ATTORNEYS' FEES; (3) SUNRISE HELICOPTERS, INC.'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW RE: NEGLIGENCE CLAIM; AND (4) SUNRISE HELICOPTERS, INC.'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW RE: CONTRACTUAL WAIVER OF DAMAGES

Before the Court are four motions for judgment as a matter of law. Defendant/Counterclaim Plaintiff Alexair, Inc. ("Alexair"), by and through its counsel, Thomas Sylvester, Esq., presented its two motions orally on May 8, 2012 regarding (1) the airworthiness of the subject engine and (2) the reasonableness of attorneys' fees, and the Court took both motions under advisement. On May 9, 2012, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Sunrise Helicopters, Inc. ("Sunrise Helicopters"), by and through its counsel, Christopher Collings Esq. and Shannon Lau, Esq., submitted in writing its (1) Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law Regarding Defendant/Counterclaimant Alexair, Inc.'s Negligence Claim [dkt. no. 105], and (2) Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law Regarding Defendant/Counterclaimant Alexair, Inc.'s Contractual Waiver of Damages [dkt. no. 106], and the Court took those motions under advisement. On May 10, 2012, Sunrise Helicopters filed its Response to Defendant/Counterclaimant Alexair, Inc.'s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law Regarding Attorneys['] Fees in Third Party Case and in the Alternative Motion to Reopen [dkt. no. 104], and Alexair filed its Opposition to Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Sunrise Helicopter Inc.'s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law Regarding Defendant/Counterclaimant Alexair, Inc.'s Negligence Claim [dkt. no. 107] and Opposition to Plaintiff Counterclaim Defendant Sunrise Helicopters, Inc.'s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law Regarding Defendant/Counterclaimant Alexair, Inc.'s Contractual Waiver of Damage [dkt. no. 108]. After careful consideration of the motions, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the arguments of counsel, the motions are HEREBY DENIED for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

I. Alexair's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law re: Airworthiness of Engine

A. Alexair's Motion

At the conclusion of Sunrise Helicopters' case-in-chief, counsel for Alexair orally moved for judgment as a matter of law, arguing that Sunrise Helicopters had failed to prove that it had provided Alexair a serviceable engine. Alexair argues that there was no evidence that the engine was airworthy, and in fact the evidence indicated that the engine was not airworthy based on its failure after thirteen hours of use. Alexair requests that the Court find as a matter of law that Sunrise Helicopters breached the rental agreement in issue and is therefore not entitled to damages.

B. Sunrise Helicopters' Response

Sunrise Helicopters did not provide a written response

to Alexair's motion, but counsel offered a brief oral response at the hearing on this motion. Sunrise Helicopters states that the issuance of the airworthiness tag as reflected in Trial Exhibit 6, in and of itself, defeats Alexair's argument that the engine was not airworthy. It also argues that, at a bare minimum, Sunrise Helicopters raised factual issues for the jury to decide.

II. Alexair's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law re: Reasonableness of Attorneys' Fees

A. Alexair's Motion

Alexair made a second oral motion for judgment as a matter of law, arguing that Sunrise Helicopters had failed to show the reasonableness of its requested attorneys' fees. It requests that the Court strike Exhibits 49, 50, and 53 relating to Sunrise Helicopters' attorneys' fees, because (1) they were incurred in another case, and (2) Sunrise Helicopters did not establish that the requested attorneys' fees were reasonable.

B. Sunrise Helicopters' Response

At the hearing on this motion, counsel for Sunrise Helicopters orally opposed the motion, arguing that Alexair had stipulated to Exhibits 49, 50, and 53 being received into evidence, and that Alexair can argue for the reasonableness of the fees during its closing arguments. Sunrise Helicopters further argued that it is entitled to recover attorneys' fees because Alexair's wrongful acts forced it to incur costs in a previous suit.

Additionally, in its written response, Sunrise Helicopters argues that, under Texas law, there is a presumption that the usual and customary attorneys' fees are reasonable.*fn1

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 38.001, 38.003. This presumption remains unrebutted when there has been no challenge to the attorneys' fees submitted and entered as evidence. Haden v. Sacks, 332 S.W.3d 503, 513 (Tex. App. 2009). It argues that

(1) the parties already stipulated to the admissibility of trial evidence and cannot now move to strike such evidence; and

(2) Alexair's motion is unsupported by any competent evidence. Alternatively, Sunrise Helicopters requests that the Court reopen the evidence to allow it an opportunity to introduce evidence that its attorneys fees were reasonable and necessary.

III. Sunrise Helicopters' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law re: Alexair's Negligence Claim

A. Sunrise Helicopters' Motion

On May 9, 2012, Sunrise Helicopters submitted two written motions for judgment as a matter of law. In its first motion, it argues that Alexair cannot recover on its negligence claim because it is barred by Hawaii's two-year statute of limitations contained in Hawai'i Revised Statutes §§ 657-3 and 657-7.

Sunrise Helicopters argues that Alexair and its witnesses testified that Alexair knew of the engine failure on January 29, 2006, the date of the subject incident. Sunrise Helicopters contends that Alexair's negligence claim accrued on January 29, 2006, and that its counterclaim, filed on August 5, 2010, is outside of the two-year statute of limitations.

Alternatively, Sunrise Helicopters argues that Alexair should have reasonably discovered the alleged defect by January 31, 2008, when the National Transit Safety Board ("NTSB") ...


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