Court Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Sept. 15

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.


Bell v. Sorin CRM USA

Brianna Bell was an independent sales representative for Sorin CRM from May 2014 to April 2017. As a sales representative, Bell sold different types of cardiac-rhythm management, or CRM, devices like pacemakers. CRM devices are prescribed by physicians for implantation in patients, but trial evidence established hospitals actually purchase the devices and hospital administrators are responsible for purchasing specific CRM devices. 

Prior to working for Sorin, Bell was a sales representative for Medtronic, the largest CRM device company in the U.S. She believed many physicians from her network would be willing to shift to Sorin devices with her, but she was aware she might be unable to complete the sales unless Sorin had a contractual relationship with the 14 hospitals where her network of physicians performed implantations.

Bell asked Sorin’s directors if the company had contractual access to these hospitals and only signed her independent sales representative contract after she was reassured there would be no issues with this access or with her anticipated volume of sales. Once she began working though, she discovered Sorin didn’t have a contract with the hospitals in question and the implants requested by her network physicians were denied by hospital administrators. 

During her three-year period as an independent Sorin sales representative, Bell sold 135 devices and received $418,667.73 in commissions and $88,300 in bonuses. Her commissions were calculated based on a contractual formula that took into account the year of the sale, devices sold and sale price. Both the devices sold and Bell’s commissions varied widely. 

Sorin declined to renew Bell’s contract and she sued Sorin on various theories of liability.

In district court, the jury found Sorin liable for fraudulent inducement and awarded Bell  $1,380,745.47 in damages. Sorin filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, arguing Bell failed to present sufficient fraud evidence and she hadn’t established damages to a reasonable degree of certainty. The district court denied the motion, and Sorin appealed, challenging the evidence in support of the fraud and evidence of damages. Bell filed a cross-appeal, in which she argued she should’ve been awarded more damages for her lost opportunity to work a fourth year. 

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Bell failed to prove damages with reasonable certainty because her trial evidence failed to provide a reasonable basis upon which the jury could determine her damages. Bell argued the jury could estimate damages by multiplying an intended annual volume of sales from a physician by an average commission rate, but the 10th Circuit wrote there was no evidence to support an inference that Bell’s actual sales were representative of potential sales if Sorin’s representations were true. 

The 10th Circuit reversed the judgment in Bell’s favor, remanded the case back to the district court and ruled that Bell’s cross-appeal was denied as moot. 

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