Gerald Bussey, a John Deere agricultural equipment dealer in Talladega, sued the John Deere Company for breach of a sales contract and breach of their dealership contract. A judgment based upon a jury verdict awarded Bussey $28,000 on his claim for breach of the sales contract; summary judgment was entered in favor of John Deere on the claim for breach of the dealership contract.
Bussey alleged that in March 1979 John Deere failed to assume the financing of a sales contract to an Oklahoma customer after a John Deere representative orally assured Bussey that the company would do so. Bussey testified that, relying upon John Deere's assurances, he sold three tractors to the customer and submitted the contract and the customer's promissory note to John Deere, but that John Deere refused to finance the transaction. John Deere's financial services manager testified that Bussey was told that final approval of the transaction depended upon approval of the customer's financial statement. John Deere received the executed contract and financial statement on March 13, 1979, and the contract was rejected that day. The customer subsequently defaulted.
Bussey also alleged that in October 1975 John Deere's division sales manager assured him through a series of letters that if he constructed a new building to house his dealership, John Deere would provide him with greater inventory for "however long it took to pay for the building," and that when he moved into the new building in 1977 John Deere failed to provide the greater inventory. John Deere countered with the defense that its dealership agreement, which could be altered or amended only by written agreement, provided that it would not be "responsible for delay or failure to ship caused by unavailability of Goods."
The issues prescribed for review are, first, whether the trial court erred in denying Bussey's motion for new trial on his claim for breach of the sales contract; second, whether the trial court erred in granting John Deere's motion for summary judgment on Bussey's claim for breach of the dealership agreement; and, third, whether the trial court erred in failing to either direct a verdict for John Deere or grant John Deere's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on Bussey's claim for breach of the sales contract.
Jury verdicts are presumed correct in Alabama, and this presumption is strengthened by the trial court's denial of a motion for new trial. Therefore, a judgment based on a jury verdict will not be reversed unless it is "plainly and palpably" wrong. Ashbee v. Brock, 510 So.2d 214 (Ala.1987). See, also, Jawad v. Granade, 497 So.2d 471 (Ala.1986).
In his motion for new trial, Bussey stated that improper communication between the court bailiff and members of the jury influenced the jury's verdict, and that the amount of the verdict was inadequate and inconsistent with evidence presented at trial. The trial court heard testimony on the motion and made the following findings:
Upon review of the order of the trial court specifying its reasons for denying the motion for new trial, we find it clear from the record that the jury verdict is supported by the evidence. Bussey has failed to overcome the presumption of correctness attached to the jury verdict and has failed to present plain and palpable evidence that the trial court erred in ruling on his motion for new trial.
In reviewing the disposition of a motion for summary judgment, we utilize the same standard as that of the trial court in determining whether the evidence before the court made out a genuine issue of material fact. Chiniche v. Smith, 374 So.2d 872 (Ala.1979). In other words, we test the "sufficiency" of the evidence "to determine if any real [factual] issue exists." Garrigan v. Hinton Beef & Provision Co., 425 So.2d 1091, 1093 (Ala.1983).
The trial court entered summary judgment for John Deere on Bussey's claim that John Deere breached its dealership contract with Bussey:
"In Colafrancesco v. Crown Pontiac-GMC, Inc., 485 So.2d 1131 (Ala.1986), the Court stated:
"`It is fundamental that the parol evidence rule prohibits the contradiction of a written agreement by evidence of a prior oral agreement. The rule provides, generally, that when the parties reduce a contract to writing intended to be a complete contract regarding the subject covered by the contract, no extrinsic evidence of prior or contemporaneous agreements will be admissible to change, alter or contradict such writing. Hartford Fire Insurance Company v. Shapiro, 270 Ala. 149, 117 So.2d 348 (1960).'
"Code 1975, § 8-9-2, provides in pertinent part as follows:
"`In the following cases, every agreement is void unless such agreement or some note or memorandum thereof expressing the consideration is in writing and subscribed by the party to be charged therewith or some other person by him thereunto lawfully authorized in writing:
"`(1) Every agreement, which, by its terms, is not to be performed within one year from the making thereof.'
"`(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section a contract for the sale of goods for the price of $500.00 or more is not enforceable by way of action or defense unless there is some writing sufficient to indicate that a contract for sale has been made between the parties and signed by the party against whom enforcement is sought or by his authorized agent or broker.'
We find no error in the trial court's findings of fact and its application of the law to the facts. Bussey failed to present any issue of material fact as to John Deere's alleged breach of contract, and, therefore, John Deere was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56, A.R.Civ.P.
The standard of review applicable to a motion for directed verdict or judgment notwithstanding the verdict is identical to the standard used by the trial court in granting or denying the motions initially. Turner v. Peoples Bank of Pell City, 378 So.2d 706 (Ala.1979). Thus, when reviewing the trial court's ruling on either motion, we determine whether there was sufficient evidence to produce a conflict warranting jury consideration. Baker v. Chastain, 389 So.2d 932 (Ala.1980). And, like the trial court, we must view any evidence most favorably to the non-movant. Ritch v. Waldrop, 428 So.2d 1 (Ala.1982).
John Deere asserts that the trial court erred in not granting it either a directed verdict at the close of the plaintiff's evidence or a JNOV, on grounds that Bussey failed to prove that John Deere's actions on the sales contract resulted in damage to him, an essential element of a cause of action for breach of contract. We find, upon examining the facts set out above,
The judgments are due to be affirmed.
TORBERT, C.J., and SHORES, ADAMS and STEAGALL, JJ., concur.