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Willow International, Inc. v. Standard Casing Company, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 18, 2013

WILLOW INTERNATIONAL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
THE STANDARD CASING COMPANY, INC., Defendant.

OPINION

KEVIN McNULTY, District Judge.

Before this Court is an unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the plaintiff, Willow International, Inc. ("Willow"), against the defendant, The Standard Casing Company, Inc. ("Standard"). I have carefully reviewed Willow's submissions, which demonstrate that Willow is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Willow asserts two claims: breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Willow's statement of undisputed facts and supporting materials demonstrate that Willow, as purchaser, and Standard, as supplier, entered into a valid and enforceable supply contract for natural sausage casings. At Standard's request, Willow entrusted Standard with a deposit of cash that was to serve as an "evergreen" retainer. Standard was thus secured against the risk of nonpayment, while Willow was guaranteed product availability and favorable pricing. The parties' course of behavior establishes that they intended the deposit to be refundable, and there is no evidence that it was non-refundable. Standard's failure to return the deposit thus constitutes a breach of contract, entitling Willow to judgment as a matter of law. In the alternative, Standard's retention of the deposit is inequitable, and Willow is entitled to judgment under a theory of unjust enrichment. Judgment will be entered in favor of Willow.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Willow, a Turks and Caicos corporation, is an agent that facilitates the sale of food products to end-users and distributors in Eastern Europe and Russia. Standard, a New Jersey corporation, is a supplier of natural sausage casings.

After the parties' relationship fell apart, Willow commenced this action on March 21, 2012. Docket No. 1 ("Compl."). Defendant initially defaulted, Docket No. 6, but subsequently appeared and filed an answer. Docket No. 7. Willow consented to vacating the default. Docket No. 12.

Following discovery, Judge Arleo set a briefing schedule for summary judgment motions. Willow filed this motion for summary judgment on March 1, 2013. The return date was set for May 6, 2013. Standard did not file an opposition brief.

By Text Order dated November 20, 2013, the Court advised Standard that, if no opposition was filed by December 9, 2013, Willow's summary judgment motion would be considered unopposed. Docket No. 25. To date, no such opposition has been filed.

II. DISCUSSION

This matter is properly before this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332 because there is complete diversity and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. I will apply New Jersey substantive law to Willow's breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims. See generally Erie R.R. v. Tompkins , 304 U.S. 64 (1938). Federal law supplies the procedural standards governing summary judgment.

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248; Kreschollek v. S. Stevedoring Co., 223 F.3d 202, 204 (3d Cir. 2000). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Boyle v. County of Allegheny Pennsylvania, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing Peters v. Delaware River Port Auth. of Pa. & N.J., 16 F.3d 1346, 1349 (3d Cir. 1994)). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact remains. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). "[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 met that threshold burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The opposing party must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) (setting forth types of evidence on which nonmoving party must rely to support its assertion that genuine issues of material fact exist). "[U]nsupported allegations... and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment." Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Gleason v. Norwest Mortg., Inc., 243 F.3d 130, 138 (3d Cir. 2001) ("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."). 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).

Where, as here, a party fails to address the other party's properly supported assertion of fact, the court may consider "grant[ing] summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Local Civil Rule 56.1(a) deems a movant's statement of material facts undisputed where a party does not respond or file a counterstatement. L. Civ. R. 56(a). A failure to dispute a party's statement of material facts, however, "is not alone a sufficient basis for the entry of a summary judgment." See Anchorage Assocs. v. Virgin Islands Bd. of Tax Review, 922 F.2d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 1990) (holding that even where a local rule deeming unopposed motions to be conceded, the court was still required to analyze the movant's summary judgment motion under the standard prescribed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)); see also Muskett v. Certegy Check Servs., Inc., Civ. No. 08-3975, 2010 WL 2710555 (D.N.J. July 6, 2010) ("In order to grant Defendant's unopposed motion for summary judgment, where, as here, the moving party does not ...


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