Golf course wins summary judgement after allegedly backing out of deal with sod company

By Charmaine Little | Dec 21, 2018

ST. LOUIS — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth District affirmed a summary judgement in favor of a golf course builder accused of breaking its contract with a sod supplier.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in Cape Girardeau had already granted Medalist Golf summary judgement in a case brought by Chris Williams, who does business as Cane Creek Sod.

Medalist had agreed to develop Gary Player Designed Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge for Ozarks Golf and Hunt Club. Medalist’s project manager, Todd Tilton, selected to procure sod from Cane Creek Sod and purportedly told Cane Creek to set aside sod for the project.

However, the director of agronomy for Big Cedar Lodge shut down the agreement, saying Cane Creek’s sod wasn’t up to par, and the project went with a Cane Creek competitor.

Cane Creek was only able to sell a portion of the sod it had set aside for Medalist, and sued Medalist for breach of contract and promissory estoppel.

Cane Creek brought expert court testimony saying that its sod was of high quality and free of weeds—including an evaluation from the Missouri Department of Agriculture—but the courts ruled it had failed to show that Medalist had erred when it rejected the sod, and Medalist was granted summary judgement for breach of contract.

The courts said there was no issue of material fact regarding whether Cane Creek had tendered conforming goods.

The court also sided with Medalist on the promissory estoppel claims.

“But even if a claim of promissory estoppel were available to Williams, this is not the extreme case that entitles Williams to the extraordinary remedy of promissory estoppel—Williams has not shown an ‘injustice’ that resulted from Medalist’s actions,” the court said. Medalist didn’t break an agreement. Instead, Ozarks Golf didn’t approve, which is what the contract depended on, the court said.

Circuit Judge Ralph R. Erickson authored the ruling, issued on Dec. 11. Circuit Judges Roger Wollman and Jane Kelly concurred. 

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