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Arfa Enterprises, Inc. v. JK Citgo, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 29, 2018

ARFA ENTERPRISES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
JK CITGO, LLC and HARDEEP SINGH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this case under the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2801-2841 (“PMPA”), plaintiff Arfa Enterprises, a petroleum products distributor (“ARFA”), sued defendants JK Citgo, LLC and Hardeep Singh (“Defendants”) for violation of the PMPA and breach of contract in connection with the operation of a retail gas service station located at 3034 Route 73 North, Maple Shade, New Jersey (the "Facility”).

         Plaintiff principally alleged that Defendants willfully misbranded and sold motor fuel and made untimely payments in violation of the PMPA, and that Defendants breached the parties' contract by purchasing motor fuel from a non-ARFA supplier while operating under ARFA's Citgo brand.

         The Court previously convened a hearing on ARFA's motion for preliminary injunction, which was granted, ordering Defendants to vacate the Facility, terminating the contracts, and requiring Defendants to pay the sums owing to ARFA. [Order for Preliminary Injunction, June 13, 2017 (Docket Item 19)]. Defendants answered the Complaint and the partied completed pretrial discovery on January 31, 2018. [Docket Items 30 & 31.]

         Presently before the Court is ARFA's motion for summary judgment, filed February 22, 2018 [Docket Item 32], which is unopposed by Defendants.

         I. UNOPPOSED SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any mater8ial fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Rule 56(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. The Court must view the evidence in the summary judgment motion record in favor of the non-moving party by extending any reasonable favorable inference to that party, and shall deny the motion if there are “any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The moving party always bears the initial burden of showing that the genuine dispute of material fact exists, regardless of which party ultimately has the burden of persuasion at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “Where, as in the present case, the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the Court nonetheless has the duty to ascertain whether the movant's evidence is sufficiently probative and consistent to form the basis of a reasonable factfinder entering a verdict in Plaintiff's favor under the applicable principles of law.” TCG Insurance Co. v. Privilege Care Marketing, Inc., 2005 WL 9944581 at *2 (D.N.J. Apr. 27, 2005). Under Rule 56(e), Fed. R. Civ. P., if a party “fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may... (3) grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials -- including the facts considered undisputed -- show that the movant is entitled to it..., ” Rule 56(c)(3), Fed. R. Civ. P.

         Further, where, as here, the movant has properly documented its motion in a Statement of Material Facts not in Dispute (“SMF”) as required by L. Civ. R. 56.1(a), if the opponent fails to file a responsive statement of material facts, addressing each paragraph of the movant's statement, “any material fact not disputed shall be deemed undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion.” Id. The movant's compliance with L. Civ. R. 56.1(a) has the salutary effect of providing the explicit evidentiary basis for the granting of its motion when unaddressed by the opponent, or for substantially narrowing the facts if only partially addressed. Thus, where the movant's Local Rule 56.1 statement is properly supported by citations to the affidavits and other documents of record, the opponent's failure to file responding papers may result in the movant's facts being deemed undisputed.

         The court, even in this situation, retains the duty to review the motion and determine whether summary judgment is “appropriate.” Wells Fargo Bank v. Bertea, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40191 (D.N.J. Mar. 28, 2016); Willow Int'l v. Standard Casing Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177560 (D.N.J. Dec. 18, 2013).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This is a motion in which the moving plaintiff has fully supported its motion by citations to the record for each necessary fact, tied together not only in its brief but more importantly in its SMF [Docket Item 32-2]. The SMF cites, on a fact-by-fact basis, in individual paragraphs, to the pertinent portions of the accompanying declaration and Exhibits A-N. These facts, properly supported by citation to the record, are undisputed. L. Civ. R. 56.1(a). The court has reviewed, and it hereby adopts, Plaintiff's factual statements in ¶¶ 1-28 of the SMF [Docket Item 32-2], as if set forth in full herein.

         In summary, these facts establish that ARFA supplied motor fuel and motor oil to Defendants who leased the Facility from ARFA and operated it as a Citgo service station. The relationship was governed by three contracts detailing their agreement to lease the retail station and purchase the motor fuel that Defendants dispensed to retail motorists.

         Under the parties' Dealer Supply Agreement (“DSA”), ¶ 3(a) of the DSA required Defendants to purchase 100% of the Facility's motor fuel and motor oil requirements from ARFA. Paragraph 17 of the DSA required all retail motor fuel advertised or sold at Defendants' Facility to be sold under the “CITGO” trademarks, and Paragraph 18 of the DSA authorized ARFA to terminate the DSA upon, inter alia, (1) breach by Defendants of any provision of the DSA; (2) Defendants' failure to pay ARFA in full or in a timely manner; or (3) delivery to the Facility or sales of non-ARFA fuel.

         Defendants have admitted, and ARFA has proved, that JK Citgo began purchasing motor fuel from another supplier, and JK Citgo accepted deliveries of misbranded ...


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