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Liger6 LLC v. Antonio

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 17, 2017

LIGER6, LLC, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant,
v.
SARTO ANTONIO and SARTO S.r.l., Defendants/ Counterclaim Plaintiffs

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JOSEPH A. DICKSON. U.S.M.J.

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants' motion for leave to file a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 114). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, the Court resolves Defendants' application without oral argument. After having carefully considered the parties' submissions, and for the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion is DENIED.

         A. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Court will rely upon the factual background and procedural history contained in its decision issued today denying Defendants' motion to add Marco Bonelli as a Defendant to their counterclaims.

         B. LEGAL DISCUSSION

         Defendants Antonio Sarto and Sarto S.r.l. (Collectively "Defendants") move for leave to file a motion for summary judgment for the purposes of seeking dismissal of Plaintiffs' "breach of oral contract claim." (PI. Br. at 4, ECF No. 114-1). Defendants assert that they did not have the opportunity to address this claim in its previous motion for summary judgment because they did not learn about this claim until December 2016 when Plaintiffs Liger 6, LLC ("Plaintiffs") submitted a draft of the proposed pretrial order. (PI. Br. at 4, ECF No. 114-1).

         Defendants contend that Plaintiffs "never identified" this claim in their Complaint. Defendants argue that the breach of contract claim contained in Plaintiffs Complaint "fails to meet the requirements of Twombly and Iqbal. . . " and "fail[s] to meet the plausibility requirement because they still do not recite sufficient facts as to the terms of the agreement." (Def. Rep. at 9, ECF No. 121). Furthermore, defendants contend that Plaintiffs did not identify "any oral exclusive distribution agreement relating to SARTO products" in its responses to discovery requests. (Def. Rep. at 5, ECF No. 121). Specifically, Defendants cite to Interrogatory No. 13 which states, "[i]dentify all agreements relating to any mark containing the word SARTO to which Plaintiff has ever been a party." (PI. Br. at 8, ECF No. 114-3). Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs never alleged the existence of this oral agreement in its opposition to Defendants motion for summary judgment. (Def. Rep. at 7, ECF No. 121).

         Finally, Defendants argue that case law provides that filing of a second motion for summary judgment at this juncture is appropriate because the parties did not address the argument in the previous motion, the motion is not futile, the Plaintiffs will not be prejudiced and the motion will not delay the trial in this case. (PI. Br. at 11, ECF No. 114-1 and Def. Rep. at 11-1, ECF No. 121) (citing Brown v. Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections. No. 15-843, 2017 WL 280716 (E.D. Wis. 2017); Voelkel v. General Motors. 846 F.Supp. 1482 (D. Kan. 1994), aff d, 43 F.3d 1484 (10thCir. 1994).

         Plaintiffs, on the contrary, argue that Defendants request is an attempt at a second "bite of the apple." (PI. Opp. at 3, ECF No. 117). Plaintiffs contend that they did not present a new claim, but rather, "Liger6's exclusive distribution rights were one component of the oral agreement, as confirmed by the parties' course of conduct and the fact that all six draft contracts subsequently exchanged between the parties to memorialize their oral agreement included such a provision for exclusive distribution rights." (PI. Opp. at 4, ECF No. 117). Moreover, Plaintiffs argue that this Court has already considered the same issue and denied Defendants' first summary judgment motion. (PI. Opp. at 5, ECF No. 117) (citing Opinion at 15-17, ECF No. 93)). Plaintiffs aver that "the Court considered all of the draft agreements that contained an exclusivity provision in connection with denying Defendants' initial summary judgment motion." (PI. Opp. at 7, ECF No. 117). As to Defendants' argument that Plaintiffs did not identify the exclusivity portion of the oral agreement, Plaintiffs contend that Defendants "never asked a single question during the deposition of Liger6's principle Marco Bonelli" and elected not to propound any written discovery concerning the terms of the oral agreement. (PI. Opp. at 6-7, ECF No. 117). In response to Defendants' argument that Plaintiffs failed to answer Interrogatory No. 13, Plaintiffs contend that the interrogatory did not solicit information concerning specific terms of such agreements, "such as an exclusivity provision but rather was limited to simply identifying agreements relating to the SARTO mark that was in dispute between the parties, which Liger6 undisputedly did." (PI. Opp. at 8, ECF No. 117). Furthermore, Plaintiffs argue that Defendants request for production of documents did not "call for a narrative description of Liger6's contentions regarding the provisions of the parties' oral agreement." (PI. Opp. at 9, ECF No. 117).

         Plaintiffs contend that Defendants' proposed summary judgment motion would be futile as "there is substantial evidence supporting Liger6's claims of exclusive distribution rights as part of the oral agreement" and because this Court has recognized that there are disputed issues of fact for the jury to determine. (PI. Opp. at 9, ECF No. 117). Plaintiffs point to the language in the drafts of the written agreements to demonstrate that the exclusive distribution provision was part of the oral agreement. (PI. Opp. At 10, ECF No. 117). Furthermore, Plaintiffs disagree with Defendants' interpretation of Bonelli's testimony. (Id.). Finally, Plaintiffs argue that the six drafts and Bonelli's testimony raises an issue of fact to be resolved by the jury. (Id.).

         Plaintiffs contend that the case law presented by Defendants is not applicable here for several reasons. First, Plaintiffs argue that new evidence has not been discovered in this stage of litigation. Second, Plaintiffs contend that permitting summary judgment to address issues that are futile would not eliminate a trial since this Court has already determined "that there are triable issues of fact on Liger6's breach of contract and covenant of good faith claims." (PI. Opp. at 11, ECF No. 117). Finally, Plaintiffs argue that permitting Defendants to file a motion at this stage is prejudicial "by potentially delaying the trial and unnecessarily force Liger6 to burden the expense and effort to oppose another summary judgment motion. (Id. at 12).

         C. ANALYSIS

         The Court concludes that Defendants request to file a summary judgment motion should be denied. First, Defendants should have been aware of such claims since the inception of this action. Plaintiffs alleged claims for both breach of oral contract and of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in their 2013 Complaint. (See ECF No. 1 at Counts V, VII.). Additionally, the Court has reviewed the record and disagrees with Defendants contention that this is a "new" breach of oral contract as Defendants motion for summary judgment demonstrates that one of the facts at issue was whether there was an oral agreement between the parties concerning the distribution of the Sarto product in the United States. (Def. Br. at 10, 12, 21-24, ECF No. 81-1 at 22-24). In Defendants in June 3, 2016 Summary Judgment motion, Defendants acknowledge that Bonelli expressed interest in selling SARTO frames in the United States. (Def. Br., at 10, ECF No. 81-1 at 22-24). Furthermore, Defendants argued that "Liger's own Complaint shows that there was no meeting of the minds when it admitted in paragraphs 32- 33 that multiple drafts were exchanged regarding the so called December 2010 oral agreement but that no written agreement was ever signed. This proves that no agreement was ever reached on the terms of the proposed agreement." (Id. at 22). The drafts in question are the same drafts that Plaintiffs note include an exclusionary provision. Therefore, Defendants' argument that this is a "new" breach is unpersuasive.

         Most importantly, the issue concerning the oral contract claim was addressed in the Honorable Jose L. Linares' August 10, 2016 decision. The Court ...


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