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First City National Bank and Trust Co. v. Simmons

decided: June 26, 1989.

FIRST CITY NATIONAL BANK AND TRUST COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FREDDY L. SIMMONS, AND HERMAN CARTER MOODY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from orders of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Charles S. Haight, and Kevin Thomas Duffy, Judges), granting defendants-appellees' motions to dismiss the complaints of plaintiff-appellant pending final determination of a prior action brought in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Affirmed.

Van Graafeiland, Altimari and Mahoney, Circuit Judges.

Author: Altimari

ALTIMARI, Circuit Judge

These two separate appeals, which we have consolidated for purposes of this opinion, are from orders entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Haight and Duffy, JJ.). Plaintiff-appellant First City National Bank and Trust Co. ("FCNB") commenced the underlying diversity action against defendants-appellees Freddy L. Simmons, 88 Civ. 3117 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) and Herman Carter Moody, 88 Civ. 3116 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) seeking repayment of promissory notes in its favor. Personal jurisdiction over Simmons and Moody was premised on business transactions engaged in by defendants, either personally or through an agent, in New York. Defendants moved, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (2), to dismiss FCNB's complaint for lack of subject matter and in personam jurisdiction. In support of their motions, Simmons and Moody requested that the court decline to exercise its jurisdiction on grounds that prior to the filing of FCNB's New York actions, defendants had filed related actions in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Based on the presumption favoring the forum wherein suits are first filed, the district court dismissed FCNB's action against Simmons without prejudice, pending final determination of the prior filed Oklahoma suit. Although the court did not explicitly state its dismissal of FCNB's claim against Moody was without prejudice, its disposition rested on similar concerns. Because we find Judge Haight and Judge Duffy did not abuse their discretion in applying the first to file rule, we affirm.

FACTS

Plaintiff-appellant FCNB is a federally chartered national banking association which maintains its principal place of business in New York City. Defendants-appellees Simmons and Moody are residents of, respectively, Texas and Oklahoma. Appellees purchased limited partnership interests in Yates of Oklahoma, Ltd. ("Yates Ltd."), an entity organized under the laws of Oklahoma. Their partnership interests were purchased with money loaned to them by FCNB.

The financing of Yates Ltd. was undertaken in the following way. Sometime in 1986 Yates Corporation ("Yates Corp."), a South Carolina company, contacted Bill Chandler of Chandler and Associates, a South Carolina loan broker. Yates Corp. wished to form one or more limited partnerships to purchase asphalt recycling equipment. As a loan broker, Chandler was to assist in obtaining loans for investors in the limited partnerships. Chandler enlisted the aid of RMTS Associates ("RMTS"), a New York loan broker. By a letter agreement dated May 15, 1986 between RMTS and Larry A. Yates, president of Yates Corp., RMTS offered a "commitment for a loan in [the] aggregate amount of at least $400,000 for financing investor notes in one or more Asphalt Recycling limited partnerships sponsored by Yates Corporation." Recognizing that it would be unable to meet its commitment, RMTS introduced Yates Corp. to National Capital Corporation ("National"), a loan broker maintaining its offices in New York City.

Yates Corp. and National entered into a letter agreement dated December 5, 1986, in which National agreed to "arrange for loans to individuals who are investing in the [asphalt] limited partnership up to an aggregate amount of $775,000.00." The December 5 letter agreement provided that "granting of the loan [would be] subject to final approval by the lender and the execution of any additional documentation that the lender may require." National ultimately located FCNB as the lender.

In mid-December of 1986, Chandler travelled to Oklahoma to seek out investors interested in the asphalt limited partnerships. There, he was introduced to Simmons and Moody. Chandler provided them with documents pertaining to the investment loans, including, inter alia, an engagement and authorization letter addressed to National, a borrower's letter addressed to FCNB, a loan application form from FCNB, a promissory note, and an assignment and security agreement.

Simmons and Moody signed the engagement and authorization letter directed to National. The letter requested National's assistance in acquiring financing for their investment in Yates Ltd. In addition, the letter authorized National to undertake a credit review in order to qualify them to receive the loans. To facilitate the review, Simmons and Moody mailed financial information and income tax records to National in New York.

Appellees also executed the borrower's letter directed to FCNB. The letter stated that Simmons and Moody wished to borrow, respectively, $75,000 and $25,000 from FCNB for purposes of investing in Yates Ltd. The letter directed FCNB to "pay the proceeds of the loan directly to the Partnership." Appellees executed promissory notes in favor of FCNB, and assigned to the bank their partnership interests as security for the loans. Both the promissory notes and security agreements provided that they were to be construed "in accordance with the laws of the State of New York." The loan documents were signed in Oklahoma. Moody mailed his documents to Chandler in South Carolina for transmittal to FCNB in New York. Simmons had his documents notarized in Texas, and mailed them directly to FCNB. In due course FCNB approved the loans.

On December 30, 1986, Larry Yates opened an account at FCNB's office in New York. The account was maintained in the name of the limited partnership. Larry Yates was authorized to use the account in his capacity as general partner of Yates Ltd. FCNB paid $100,000, the proceeds of its loans to Simmons and Moody, into the account in early January of 1987. Pursuant to their promissory notes, Simmons and Moody repaid their first two loan installments. However, appellees thereafter ceased payment to the bank on grounds that under the terms of the limited partnership agreement, proceeds of the loans should not have been paid into the New York account, but into an escrow account in an Oklahoma bank. On March 25, 1988 Simmons filed a diversity suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. He sought rescission of the loan agreement because of FCNB's allegedly wrongful disbursement of the proceeds. Moody filed a similar suit in the same court on April 8, 1988.

FCNB moved to dismiss the Oklahoma actions for lack of in personam jurisdiction. The Oklahoma court held an evidentiary hearing on the issue. In an unpublished opinion, the court determined it had jurisdiction over FCNB. Simmons and Moody v. First City National Bank & Trust, Co., Civ. 88-504-T (W.D.Okla. Dec. 12, 1988). That determination is currently being appealed to the Tenth Circuit. In addition, FCNB commenced the instant diversity actions in New York, seeking recovery under its promissory notes. The suits were filed on May 4, 1988, nearly six weeks after Simmons' suit was filed, and almost four weeks after Moody filed his suit. In its complaints, FCNB alleged that Simmons and Moody

"transacted business with the [bank] in the State of New York by employing an agent in New York, entering into a series of contracts concerning [their investments], providing the [bank] with a security interest in a limited partnership interest [,] . . . and ...


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