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CISG CASE PRESENTATION

United States 29 August 2013 Federal District Court [State of Washington] (Simar Shipping Ltd. v. Global Fishing, Inc.)
[Cite as: http://cisgw3.law.pace.edu/cases/130829u1.html]

Primary source(s) of information for case presentation: Case text

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Case identification

DATE OF DECISION: 20130829 (29 August 2013)

JURISDICTION: United States [federal court]

TRIBUNAL: U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington [federal court of 1st instance]

JUDGE(S): McKeown and Clifton, Circuit Judges, and Rakoff, District Judge

CASE NUMBER/DOCKET NUMBER: 12-35471

CASE NAME: Simar Shipping Ltd. v. Global Fishing, Inc.

CASE HISTORY: Unavailable

SELLER'S COUNTRY: Cyprus (plaintiff)

BUYER'S COUNTRY: United States (defendant)

GOODS INVOLVED: Crab


Classification of issues present

APPLICATION OF CISG: [-]

APPLICABLE CISG PROVISIONS AND ISSUES

Key CISG provisions at issue: Articles 14(1) ; 18(1)

Classification of issues using UNCITRAL classification code numbers:

14A [Basic criterion - intention to be bound in case of acceptance];

18A [Criteria for acceptance]

Descriptors: Acceptance ; Offers

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Editorial remarks

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Citations to case abstracts, texts, and commentaries

CITATIONS TO ABSTRACTS OF DECISION

(a) UNCITRAL abstract: Unavailable

(b) Other abstracts

Unavailable

CITATIONS TO TEXT OF DECISION

Original language (English): Text presented below

Translation: Unavailable

CITATIONS TO COMMENTS ON DECISION

Unavailable

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Case text

United States District Court, Western District of [Seattle] Washington

Simar Shipping Limited, Plaintiff, v. Global Fishing, Inc., et al., Defendants

No. 12-35471
Submitted: August 29, 2013 [*]
Filed: September 9, 2013

Before: McKeown and Clifton, Circuit Judges, and Rakoff, District Judge[**]

Synopsis

BACKGROUND

Seller brought action against buyer for breach of contract and unjust enrichment arising from alleged non-payment for delivery of 505 metric tons of crab. After bench trial, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, 2012 WL 1673027, entered judgment in favor of buyer. Seller appealed.

HOLDINGS

The Court of Appeals held that:

  1. to establish valid contract for delivery of crab, seller was required to establish meeting of minds with buyer, and

  2. district court's findings were supported by sufficient evidence.

AFFIRMED.

[...].

Opinion

MEMORANDUM [***]

Simar Shipping Limited ("Simar") appeals from the district court's entry of judgment in favor of defendants following a bench trial of its claims for breach of contract, account stated, unjust enrichment, and fraudulent transfer. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. We review the district court's conclusions of law de novo and its findings of fact for clear error. See Lentini v. Cal. Ctr. for the Arts, 370 F.3d 837, 843 (9th Cir.2004). "[W]e will accept the lower court's findings of fact unless we are left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Id. We affirm the district court's judgment.

Simar has raised only its breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims on appeal. As to the district court's conclusions of law, Simar argues that the court committed reversible legal error in "not apply[ing] or even mention[ing]" the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, April 11, 1980, 1489 U.N.T.S. 3 ("CISG"). Here, the district court applied the legal principle that "[a] valid contract requires a meeting of the minds on essential terms," a proposition finding ample support in the CISG and at common law. See CISG, arts. 14(1) & 18(1); Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corp. v. Gunderson Bros. Eng'g Corp., 305 F.2d 659, 662 (9th Cir.1962) ("Offer and acceptance are the tools by which courts and contract negotiators arrive at the illusive contractual concept of 'a meeting of the minds.' "). Moreover, we find no support in the plain language of the CISG for appellant's claim that the Convention "impliedly" required the district court to employ a "hierarchy of proof" that would have required it to give decisive weight to Simar's evidence comprising "official foreign records." Consequently, we conclude that the district court committed no legal error.

As to the district court's findings of fact, we note that the district court's judgment followed a six-day bench trial, at which the court received evidence and heard testimony from, inter alia, four Simar-affiliated witnesses, four witnesses affiliated with appellee Global Fishing, Inc. ("Global"), and three experts. At the conclusion of trial, the court found that "the testimony Simar offered in support of the existence of ... a contract was not credible." Similarly, the court found that Simar's unjust enrichment claim must fail because "the evidence is inconsistent with Simar ever having had title to the crab shipment." These are precisely the types of findings that we are "especially reluctant to set aside," since they are based upon "the trial judge's evaluation of conflicting lay or expert oral testimony." Beech Aircraft Corp. v. United States, 51 F.3d 834, 838 (9th Cir.1995) (per curiam); see also Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N.C., 470 U.S. 564, 574, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985) ("Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the factfinder's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous. This is so even when the district court's findings do not rest on credibility determinations, but are based instead on physical or documentary evidence or inferences from other facts.") (internal citations omitted).

Moreover, the record in this case contains ample evidence to permit a rational trier of fact to conclude that the parties had never formed a new contract for the disputed delivery of crab. Among other evidence, the trial record included:

(1) evidence that the disputed delivery of crab was made by pursuant to a long-term "master contract" between Global and East Fish Resources ("East Fish"), an entity that appellees argue was related to Simar and one of its principals;
(2) testimony that the electronic "draft" of the putative Simar-Global contract had never been printed; and
(3) the testimony of the Global-affiliated witnesses denying that Global ever signed the alleged contract.

The record also contains more than enough evidence from which the district court could have rationally concluded that Simar never had title to the crab shipment and that Global in fact paid East Fish for delivery of the crab. The record contains, for example, documentary and testimonial evidence that would permit a reasonable factfinder to conclude that Global Fishing chartered the tramper vessel to which East Fish ships delivered the crab, to conclude that Simar did not itself harvest or pay for the crab, and to conclude that Global Fishing prepaid East Fish for this delivery, and other deliveries, of crab throughout 2007. The district court's findings of fact adequately supported its dismissal of Simar's claim for unjust enrichment. See Young v. Young, 164 Wash.2d 477, 191 P.3d 1258, 1262 (2008)

(the claim of unjust enrichment requires a showing that "(1) the defendant receive[d] a benefit,
(2) the received benefit is at the plaintiff's expense, and
(3) the circumstances make it unjust for the defendant to retain the benefit without payment.").

We thus conclude that the district court's factual findings were not clearly erroneous.

AFFIRMED.


FOOTNOTES

* The panel unanimously concludes this case is suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Fed. R.App. P. 34(a)(2).

** The Honorable Jed S. Rakoff, District Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, sitting by designation.

*** This disposition is not appropriate for publication and is not precedent except as provided by 9th Cir. R. 36-3.

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