Choose your own law?

A litigator’s dream; choice of laws, statutes of limitation and evidentiary issues. Bombardier Aerospace Corporation versus Signature Flight Support Corporation.

Bombardier manages an 83-aircraft fleet for use by its clients across the United States. Signature is a Fixed Base Operator (“FBO”), providing ground services to aircraft owners/operators at airports nationwide. Bombardier and Signature entered into a FBO Services Agreement for Signature to perform FBO services on Bombardier’s aircraft fleet at numerous airports in the United States. Between 2004 and 2006, Signature damaged six aircraft in Bombardier’s fleet.

There was a trial and Signature won! But, they lost on a statute of limitations claim. Bombardier appealed and so did Signature. First, the court found that Florida law allows contracts to use the law of another state, in this case, Texas. Then, the court found that Signature was injured when the trial court judge used the Florida statute of limitations rather than the Texas one. Three of the six claims were tossed out. Then, the court looked at a rather nifty Texas law provision. “Under Texas law, if a claimant makes an excessive demand, the claimant may forfeit its right to attorney’s fees in the ensuing litigation.” The Florida trial court, however, allowed the jury to consider the excessive demand as an affirmative defense to the whole claim. “The Texas
doctrine of excessive demand is an affirmative defense only to an award of attorney’s fees.” So, if in Texas, you make an excessive demand, you still get your money; you just lose the right to get fees for getting your money.

The court kicked out claims for damage to three planes; but, remanded for a trial on damages for the other three. One is reminded of poor King Pyrrhus. For a brief period (280-275 BC), the Epirote leader Pyrrhus managed to make Epirus the most powerful state in the Greek world, and his armies marched against Rome during an unsuccessful campaign in Italy. Pyrrus smashed the Roman Legion at Heraclea in 280 BC and whipped them again at Asculum in 279 BC. Plutarch commented the he lost, a “great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.

His lieutenant came up to Pyrrhus and congratulated him on his victory. Then Pyrrhus said, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”

Good luck at the re-trial boys.

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