After Final Ruling, Jeld-Wen and Steves Continue to Spar

February 11th, 2019 by Drew Vass

After a lengthy legal battle between door manufacturers Jeld-Wen and Steves and Sons Inc. looked to end in December 2018, sparring continues over potential delays associated with a request for retrial. The initial trial-by-jury ruling was upheld by Federal Judge Robert E. Payne, requiring Jeld-Wen to divest its Towanda, Pa.-based manufacturing plant, in order to restore competition to the market for door skins. But unless that process happens in a timely manner, officials for Steves and Sons now say their company could have the ultimate price to pay for it: closure. In a tit for tat motion, a memorandum of opposition was filed January 30, in which officials for Steves urged the court to move forward as quickly as possible with the actions required by judgment. In a separate filing, the company also objects to Jeld-Wen’s motion for a new trial. The court responded today by appointing the Honorable Lawrence F. Stengel, retired Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as a Special Master—overseeing execution of original court orders.

Firmly maintaining that his company hasn’t violated any antitrust laws, “We will use all of our available resources to continue to challenge the erroneous antitrust verdict,” stated Gary S. Michel, Jeld-Wen’s president and CEO, following the trial-by-jury ruling in October 2018. Officials for Steves and Sons suggest, however, that, if allowed, Jeld-Wen’s appeal process could stretch beyond the expiration date of a key supply contract held between the two companies—at which time, they suggest, if Jeld-Wen’s factory isn’t sold, their company could be forced to shut down.

“The court has already found that, absent an equitable remedy, Steves will suffer irreparable injury in the form of the loss of its business once the long term supply agreement with Jeld-Wen expires in September 2021,” officials for Steves suggest. “Jeld-Wen’s ‘understanding’ that the final judgment is designed to allow Jeld-Wen, through its appeal, to run out the clock on Steves and thereby bring about the precise irreparable harm that the final judgment seeks to avoid is nonsensical.”

In a response filed January 30, 2019, officials for Steves and Sons urged the court to move forward with the actions required by its final judgment, appealing for prompt appointment of a Special Master to supervise Jeld-Wen’s management of its Towanda plant through appeal and until final divestiture. The court responded today by appointing Stengel. In an additional memorandum filed February 1, with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, officials for Steves officially oppose Jeld-Wen’s motion for a new trial, suggesting that such actions would negate the original ruling’s intent, if the company is allowed to delay the court-ordered sale.

“Jeld-Wen’s explanation for why the Challenged Order warrants a new trial is unclear, but what is clear is that nothing in the Order justifies a new trial,” the filing suggests. “Jeld-Wen’s ‘understanding’ appears to be part of a transparent strategy to delay divestiture by dragging out the appeals process,” it adds.

According to today’s court filing, by February 15, 2019, both parties must submit their suggestions for the specific duties and role of the court appointed Special Master.

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