DCK TTEC, LLC v. Postel Industries, Inc., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 2775 (3d Cir. Feb. 25, 2015)

This action arose out of the construction of two maintenance hangars at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona (the “Project”).  The Navy hired DCK TTEC, LLC (“DCK”) as the general contractor for the construction of the Project.  In November 2010, Postel Industries, Inc. (“Postel”) submitted a bid to DCK to supply and erect fabricated steel for the Project, and in May 2011, Postel and DCK met and signed a letter of intent.

The parties later disagreed as to whether Postel received the complete scope of work and the schedule of work at that May 2011 meeting.  In July 2011, DCK sent Postel a final version of a proposed subcontract, but negotiations broke down and Postel never signed the subcontract.  Nearing its deadline with the Navy, DCK hired other subcontractors at an additional cost of nearly $2.4 million from Postel’s initial bid.

In October 2011, DCK filed an action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania for breach of contract and promissory estoppel.  The District Court denied Postel’s pretrial motion for summary judgment on DCK’s promissory estoppel claim and the matter proceeded to trial.  At the completion of a three-day trial, the jury found that DCK and Postel had not reached an agreement on all of the material terms of a contract, but entered a judgment in favor of DCK on its promissory estopped claim and awarded DCK its $2,378,563 in additional costs.

Postel appealed, arguing inter alia that the District Court should have granted its motion for summary judgment on DCK’s promissory estoppel claim.   A three-judge panel from the Third Circuit disagreed with Postel. The panel ruled that Postel could not appeal the summary judgment denial after the full trial.  Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ortiz v. Jordan, the panel concluded that a party cannot appeal in instances where summary judgment is denied over factual disputes.
“Postel’s motion for summary judgment was fact-bound, hinging in large part on whether the parties agreed at [a May 2011] meeting on the scope of the work and the schedule for the work,” the panel said. “Thus, Postel cannot challenge the denial of its pretrial motion for summary judgment.”

Consequently, Postel was held to its proposal on grounds of promissory estoppel.

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