Burke and Callicoat Apply Judicial Estoppel and Defeat Federal Court Warehouse/Trucking Claim

Shareholders Thomas P. Burke and Jason Callicoat recently won summary judgment in a federal lawsuit filed against their client, a warehousing company. Plaintiff alleged the company had negligently lost two truckloads of copper cathodes, valued at approximately $282,000. Plaintiff alleged the warehousing company caused the loads to be lost or stolen, rather than releasing them to the appropriate carrier that Plaintiff had designated to pick up the loads.

Tom and Jason moved for summary judgment, arguing that the Plaintiff’s alleged facts directly contradicted the facts Plaintiff had alleged in a prior lawsuit pertaining to the same shipments. In the prior lawsuit, Plaintiff alleged that the loads were released to the appropriate carrier, and the carrier lost the loads in transit. Plaintiff obtained a default judgment against the carrier in that prior lawsuit. Plaintiff then continued with its lawsuit against Querrey & Harrow’s client, maintaining the assertion that the client never gave the shipments to the appropriate carrier.

Tom and Jason argued the doctrine of judicial estoppel should be applied. That doctrine prevents a Plaintiff from obtaining a judgment in one lawsuit by proving a certain set of facts, and then turning around and obtaining another judgment in a second lawsuit based on a contrary position. The doctrine prevents fraud on the courts, by barring Plaintiffs from recovering in two different cases based on two different sets of facts that cannot both be true. The court agreed with Querrey & Harrow’s argument and granted summary judgment in favor of the warehousing company, based on the prior judgment Plaintiff obtained by representing it was the carrier that lost the shipments.