Jeld-Wen Delivers on Promise to Appeal

April 24th, 2019 by Drew Vass

The latest moves in a legal battle between door manufacturers Jeld-Wen and Steves and Sons Inc. (Steves) took an expected turn recently, when Jeld-Wen walked forward its promise to appeal. The case, through which Jeld-Wen was found guilty of anti-trust violations, dates back to a complaint filed in June 2016.

After an initial trial-by-jury ruling came down in Steves’ favor in October 2018, that ruling was later upheld by Federal Judge Robert E. Payne. In a final judgment issued December 5, 2018, to restore competition to the market for door skins, Payne ordered Jeld-Wen to divest its Towanda, Pa.-based manufacturing plant. A subsequent request for a new trial (by Jeld-Wen) was officially denied on March 13.

In a memorandum of opinion, the court addressed numerous points posited by Jeld-Wen’s representation—including an argument against the decision to bifurcate the trial of Steves’ antitrust claims and breach of contract claims from Jeld-Wen. That ruling, court documents said, partly resulted from “the high risk of jury confusion presented by having a jury sort through the very different, but complex claims,” which court officials said, “was clearly the right decision.” Regarding evidence respecting trade secrets misappropriation, “Jeld-Wen erroneously argues that the court excluded wholesale evidence of Steves’ theft of Jeld-Wen’s trade secrets,” the court memo stated, further declaring, “That simply is incorrect.”

Throught additional rebutals, court documents said that, while Jeld-Wen did not breach its contract with Steves by reducing the quality of its doors, “it can be held accountable under the Clayton Act for reducing the quality to hurt Steves as a competitor. Thus, Jeld-Wen’s argument is without merit.”

Steves presented substantial evidence, a court memorandum said, including that Jeld-Wen doorskin prices increased after a merger, including prices charged to Steves. Steves also showed convincingly, the court document stated, “that Jeld-Wen, Masonite, and CMI competed aggressively for Steves’ business before the merger,” a competition that ended thereafter, it suggested. Price increases were not caused by higher costs or by capacity shortages, the document declared.

In the end, the court responded to a motion for judgment as a matter of law against Steves by declaring that it, “remains of the view that Steves proved both antitrust injury and its damages by a preponderance of the evidence,” thereby denying Jeld-Wen’s request.

In a press release distributed October 6, 2018, officials for Jeld-Wen said the company would “appeal any judgment that may be entered awarding damages to the Steves.” The company made good on that promise, by filing an official notice of appeal on April 12.

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