Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Court reviews whether trial court properly ruled a contract unenforceable due to one party's not having a broker's license


Christenberry Trucking & Farm, Inc., initiated this litigation against F&M Marketing Services, Inc., with a complaint seeking a declaration that Christenberry had not contracted to pay F&M a commission on loads Christenberry hauled for UPS/Dell Computer ("the UPS/Dell account"). F&M filed an answer and counterclaim asking for a determination that there was a contract with respect to the UPS/Dell account under which Christenberry was obligated to pay F&M a commission of 6%. F&M's counterclaim also asked for an accounting and attorney's fees. The case was tried without a jury, after which Christenberry was allowed to amend its pleadings to allege that if there was a contract it was illegal and unenforceable because F&M is not licensed as a broker by the Interstate Commerce Commission ("the ICC").

The trial court found that there was a contract between Christenberry and F&M, but that the contract was rendered illegal and unenforceable because of F&M's lack of a broker's license. F&M hired new counsel who filed a notice of appeal that did not contain the signature of its trial counsel. Christenberry filed a motion with the trial court to strike the notice of appeal. Six days later, F&M filed an amended notice of appeal which bore, in addition to the signature of its new appellate counsel, the signature of its counsel of record in the trial court. F&M argues on appeal that it was not required to be licensed and, alternatively, that the contract should not be nullified for its lack of a license, even if one was required. Christenberry argues that the notice of appeal is ineffective. We vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Opinion may be found at: