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Mignone Sally N'jie and Edward B. Mendy v. Mei Cheung

March 1, 2011

MIGNONE SALLY N'JIE AND EDWARD B. MENDY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MEI CHEUNG, JIN LOK, ABC INSURANCE COMPANY AND XYZ INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on motion for summary judgment by Defendants Mei Cheung, Jin Lok, ABC Insurance Company, and XYZ Insurance Company (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiffs have opposed the motion. The Court has opted to rule based on the papers submitted and without oral argument, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

Very briefly, this case arises from a landlord/tenant dispute pertaining to an option-to-buy term in a lease agreement between the parties. On March 3, 2009, Mignone Sally N'Jie and Edward B. Mendy (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed the Complaint in this action, asserting fourteen claims against Defendants which generally relate to the allegation that Mei Cheung (hereinafter "Cheung") has breached the lease. Eight of Plaintiffs' claims were dismissed by this Court in a July 13, 2009 order and Defendants now move for summary judgment on the remaining six counts.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate under FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a) when the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the evidence establishes the moving party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence 'is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'" Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

"When the moving party has the burden of proof at trial, that party must show affirmatively the absence of a genuine issue of material fact: it must show that, on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." In re Bressman, 327 F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428, 1438 (11th Cir. 1991)).

"[W]ith respect to an issue on which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof . . . the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing' -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.

Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the party opposing the motion must establish that a genuine issue as to a material fact exists. Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Lacey Township, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109 (3d Cir. 1985). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot rest on mere allegations and instead must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1130-31 (3d Cir. 1995). "[U]nsupported allegations . . . and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment." Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990). "A nonmoving party has created a genuine issue of material fact if it has provided sufficient evidence to allow a jury to find in its favor at trial." Gleason v. Norwest Mortg., Inc., 243 F.3d 130, 138 (3d Cir. 2001).

If the nonmoving party has failed "to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, . . . there can be 'no genuine issue of material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Katz v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 972 F.2d 53, 55 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23).

B. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

1. First Count: Breach of Contract

Defendants move for summary judgment on the First Count of the Complaint for breach of contract based on two grounds: 1) Cheung's reason for declining to renew the lease agreement fits within a statutorily enumerated "good cause" ground; and 2) Cheung acted in accordance with the terms of the contract when she refused to sell Plaintiffs the apartment. In opposition, Plaintiffs dispute Defendants' motivations for wanting to personally occupy the unit, alleging they are pretextual and the eviction, therefore, is unlawful. In addition, Plaintiffs argue that the option-to-buy provision of ...


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