After 10 years of litigation, a defendant finally paid up after backing out of a deal that led to a lawsuit. The case stems from a 1998 agreement between Cranpark, formerly a Youngstown area asphalt contractor and the defendant, Rogers Group, one of the largest producers/suppliers of aggregate in the country based in Nashville, Tennessee. The two parties agreed to join forces and create a rail-fed asphalt/concrete supply yard in Youngstown, Ohio. With complete belief that the deal was going forward, Cranpark incurred millions of dollars in capital costs and changed its existing model. After Cranpark put all the necessary pieces in place, Rogers backed out of the deal. Rogers’ breach caused Cranpark to hemorrhage money, culminating in a forced sale of the business at a significant loss. Cranpark, a once profitable company, in business since the late 1970’s, was destroyed.
In 2004 Cranpark filed its lawsuit in the federal District Court of Ohio Northern District, Eastern Division. After years of litigation and discovery battles, Rogers Group filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which Magistrate Judge George Limbert of the Federal District Court in Youngstown granted in 2010. Cranpark appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the trial court’s decision, and remanded the case for trial. Additional discovery and motion practice ensued. Finally, the case was set to be presented to a jury in Youngstown, Ohio in November 2013. As trial approached, Rogers made it clear that no settlement offer would come. National Trial Lawyers member Michael Pasternak and Jon Yarger of Cleveland Ohio tried the case on behalf of Cranpark. Harry Cornett and Tom Baker of Tucker Ellis, Cleveland, tried the case on behalf of Rogers Group.
On November 22, 2013 the jury returned a unanimous verdict of $15,600,000 on Cranpark’s claim of promissory estoppel. Cranpark immediate moved for prejudgment interest. Rogers then hired the Cleveland firm of Jones Day that prepared a slew of post-trial motions to have the verdict tossed out, or in the alternative, have the verdict reduced. The trial judge granted Rogers’ motion to dismiss the claim. The defendant’s motion was premised on the argument that our client did not have Article III standing. The jury verdict was erased.
Cranpark’s trial team then added David Mills to lead the appeal to the 6th Circuit. In April 2016, in a unanimous decision, the 6th Circuit reinstated the verdict and awarded prejudgment interest. Rogers filed a Motion for reconsideration and requested En Banc review, both of which were denied. The 6th Circuit ordered the case remanded to determine the amount of the prejudgment interest. Rogers began work on a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court and hired former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement to spearhead that effort.
Consistent with the 6th Circuit’s mandate, the trial court scheduled a hearing on prejudgment interest. The hearing turned into a mediation, which resulted in the case resolving. After over 10 years of litigation and almost 18 years since the deal was first signed, Rogers agreed to pay Cranpark the $15,600,000 verdict and pay an additional $8,400,000 in interest, totaling $24,000,000.
The resolution was a complete vindication for Cranpark and bittersweet for Cranpark’s trial team. Cranpark attorney Jon Yarger, who had been with the case for over 10 years, died suddenly in August of 2015. Jon died before the he could see the final result of his dedication, devotion and superior work.