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Top v. Ocean Petroleum

August 3, 2010

HACI I. TOP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OCEAN PETROLEUM, LLC. AND BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA, INC. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Ocean Petroleum's motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [Docket Item 6]. In the Complaint, Plaintiff Haci Top, proceeding without a lawyer, asserts that Defendant has refused to sell BP branded fuel to him, and that in so doing, it has breached certain, unspecified contractual obligations. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Defendant upon which relief can be granted, and therefore, that Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Haci Top brings this lawsuit seeking injunctive relief and damages against Defendant Ocean Petroleum for its refusal to provide Plaintiff with BP branded fuel that he could sell at a service station located at Route 130 and Kings Highway in Brooklawn, New Jersey.*fn1 Defendant Ocean Petroleum is a "wholesale distributor of motor fuels who markets motor fuel products to dealers, like the [P]laintiff, under a number of brands, including the BP brand." (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss 2.)

According to the Complaint, Top Enterprises LCC acquired a ground lease from Amoco Oil Company ("Amoco") in 2001. (Compl. ¶ 23.) That lease contained a restrictive covenant requiring the sale of Amoco branded fuels at the Brooklawn property through September 26, 2011.*fn2 (Id.) At some point during the lease, BP Products North America, Inc. ("BP") acquired Amoco, and the covenant was presumably updated to reflect this acquisition so as to require the sale of BP branded fuel on the Brooklawn property, not Amoco branded fuel.

On June 1, 2009, Plaintiff assumed Top Enterprises' lease, including the restrictive covenant. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 33.) Plaintiff contacted Defendant about supplying BP branded fuel through September 26, 2011, but Defendant insisted on a ten-year agreement, something which Plaintiff was not willing to accept. (Id. ¶ 10.) Subsequent attempts by the parties to reach an agreement were ineffective and no agreement was reached. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 20.)

Plaintiff asserts that at some point BP sold certain fuel "rights" to Defendant, which made it the exclusive distributor of BP branded fuels to the Brooklawn property. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss 2.) Plaintiff does not explain what "rights" Defendant purchased from BP but claims that these rights resulted in an "indirect contractual agreement" between Plaintiff and Defendant requiring Defendant to sell Plaintiff BP branded fuel. (Id.) Plaintiff requests discovery so that he can substantiate his assertions against Defendant of contractual breach. (Id.)

Defendant, in turn, contends that Plaintiff has not provided a factual basis in the Complaint that would make his claim of contractual breach plausible. As such, Defendant moves for the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

This Court has subject matter jurisdiction due to the parties' diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

In deciding Defendant Ocean Petroleum's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). Since Plaintiff is pro se, his "complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). "A document filed pro se is 'to be liberally construed.'" Erickson, 127 S.Ct. at 2200 (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106).

Thus, "to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements ...


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