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Giant files an appeal to overturn a $3.5 million award to a Florida dealer

Published March 21, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. (BRAIN) — Giant Bicycles officially filed an appeal of a jury's decision to award a Florida retailer $3.25 million over allegations of fraud.

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In a two-page notice filed Friday, Giant's attorneys will argue that the appeals court should overturn the jury's verdict. The case, now before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, could take up to a year before the court hands down a final ruling.

Last September a Tampa jury found that the West Coast company had fraudulently induced Frances Kane, owner of Flying Fish Bikes, to place an order for $120,000 worth of bicycles while secretly planning to terminate their relationship and open a Giant store less than two miles from his operation.

Giant's attorneys had argued that there was no basis for a claim of fraud. Instead, they say the case should have been viewed as a contract dispute — that Kane had breached his duties under an existing dealer agreement by failing to pay $109,479 toward the $120,000 order.

Giant's attorneys also argued that Giant's nonexclusive dealer agreement with Kane contained no geographical or noncompete restrictions.

The agreement also did not require Giant to disclose confidential conversations Giant executives were having with Steve Tavanese, a Clearwater, Florida, dealer, to open the new store, Giant's attorneys argued.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Merryday denied Giant's efforts to position the case as a contract dispute and allowed the case to go to the jury based on allegations of fraudulent inducement.

In early March, Merryday, a senior judge for the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, denied Giant's request for a new trial and a request that he reduce the $3 million punitive award. Merryday's 43-page ruling excoriated Giant's behavior in the case.

This is the final round in a more than two-year-long battle over the jury's decision to award Kane $250,000 in compensatory damages plus $3 million in punitive damages.

 

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