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Lamos v. Mastro

August 5, 2010

PETER DE LAMOS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DENNIS MASTRO; JOHN DOE (1-12) BEING FICTITIOUS PERSONS MALE OR FEMALE WHICH IDENTITY IS UNKNOWN AT THE PRESENT TIME; AND X AND Y CORPORATIONS 1 THRU 10 INCLUSIVE (BEING INDIVIDUAL WHETHER MALE OF FEMALE AND/OR BUSINESS ENTITIES OF WHATEVER LEGAL FORM) DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiff Peter De Lamos brings this action against Defendant Dennis Mastro alleging damages stemming from a partnership agreement with the Defendant. Plaintiff alleges claims of breach of fiduciary duty, accounting, conversion, unjust enrichment, theft and embezzlement, fraud and civil conspiracy to commit fraud. This Court has original jurisdiction to hear this dispute pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because this case is a civil action between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

Presently before the Court is both Defendant's motion to dismiss and motion to transfer this matter to the District of Arizona pursuant to U.S.C. § 1404. The Court decides the matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. The Court has carefully considered the submissions of the parties and, for the reasons below, Defendant Mastro's motion to transfer venue to the District Arizona shall be granted.

I. Background

Plaintiff Peter De Lamos has brought this action against Defendant Dennis Mastro, alleging that Mastro used assets obtained from joint business ventures for his own personal use. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 8. Plaintiff alleges that Mastro controlled these assets, used them for purposes unrelated to the business, and did so without keeping appropriate records of the transactions or seeking approval from the other partners. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10.

Plaintiff De Lamos is a resident of New Jersey. Id. ¶ 3. Defendant Mastro is a resident of Arizona and has substantial business relations in Nevada. Id. ¶ 4. De Lamos and Mastro have been business partners and have owned and operated businesses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky, and Nevada since 1974. Id. ¶ 25. However, the business in controversy in this suit is Scott Park and Golf Center located in Arizona. Id. ¶ 16. Since this is the only property at issue in the Plaintiff's Complaint, it is the only property that will be discussed and considered by the Court in this matter.*fn1

During the course of their ongoing business relationship, the parties purchased Scott Park and Golf Center. Id. ¶ 16. De Lamos and Mastro were initially partners with an agreement to share ownership and profits equally. Id. This agreement was modified to include Oscar Goodman, Esq., the current mayor of Las Vegas, as a partner. Id. ¶¶ 16, 17. The final business agreement for profit and ownership distribution was changed to a shared interest of 25% for De Lamos, 25% for Goodman, and 50% for Mastro. Id. In addition to the partnership arrangement, De Lamos agreed to give Mastro several loans for the modeling and completion of Scott Park and Golf Center, totaling several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Id. ¶ 18. De Lamos obtained some of these loans from banks and investments in New Jersey. Id. ¶32.

In 1999, Scott Park was acquired by the Municipality of Scottsdale, Arizona through eminent domain. Id. ¶ 36. Plaintiff asserts that Mastro claimed that the net proceeds of this transaction equaled $600,000 when the net proceeds were allegedly $1,261,008.35. Id. ¶¶ 36, 37. De Lamos discovered the alleged discrepancy in 2008 due to other legal actions being brought against Mastro. Id. ¶ 38. Mastro purportedly hid the difference by lying about the proceeds of the sale of Scott Park, and by altering documents to reduce the amount of taxes owed for this property. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Mastro used these funds to purchase other properties in Arizona and California, and is therefore entitled to an interest in these properties. Id. ¶¶ 22-24, 37, 40-43. Plaintiff also asserts that money is still owed to him from the loans he gave Mastro for Scott Park. Id. ¶ 33.

Defendant argues that this case should be transferred to Arizona because virtually every aspect of the business transactions involving Scott Park and Golf Center took place in Arizona.*fn2

Scott Park, the projects that were purchased from the sale of Scott Park, and the communication surrounding this property had no connection to the state of New Jersey. Def.'s Br. 6-9. Additionally, all parties involved in this suit (witnesses, former employees, accountants, and bookkeepers) reside in or near the state of Arizona, except the Plaintiff. Def.'s Br. 11, 12.

Plaintiff, on the other hand, opposes the transfer. Plaintiff argues that the District of New Jersey is the proper venue for the case. Pl.'s Br. 5. However, instead of refuting Defendant's justification for transfer, the Plaintiff proposes that if the Court chooses to transfer the case the transfer should be to Nevada where he alleges there is more contact and relations to this case than in Arizona. Pl.'s Br. 5--7.

II. Legal Standard

This Court has the authority to transfer this action, in its discretion, to the District of Arizona pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) provides that a district court may transfer a civil action "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice" to a district in which the action might have been brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).However, the plaintiff's choice of forum should not be lightly disturbed. See Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). Accordingly, the moving party has the burden to establish that the proposed transferee forum is a proper forum and that a balancing of the proper interests weighs in favor of transferring the case there. See id. at 879; see also Job Haines Home for the Aged v. Young, 936 F. Supp. 223, 227 (D.N.J. 1996) ("The moving party [pursuant to ...


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