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Maxus Leasing Group, Inc. v. Kobelco America

February 26, 2007

MAXUS LEASING GROUP, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
KOBELCO AMERICA, INC.; KOBELCO CONSTRUCTION MACHINERY AMERICA LLC; BROWNELL STEEL INC.; ALLAN J. BENTKOFSKY, CHAPTER 7 TRUSTEE FOR SYRACUSE EQUIPMENT LEASING CO., INC.; WELLS FARGO EQUIPMENT FINANCE, INC.; AND SYRACUSE EQUIPMENT LEASING CO., INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On May 10, 2004, Plaintiff Maxus Leasing Group, Inc. ("Maxus") filed its complaint alleging seven causes of action: (1) conversion against Defendant Wells Fargo Equipment Finance, Inc. ("Wells Fargo"); (2) recovery of chattel against Defendants Wells Fargo and Brownell Steel, Inc. ("Brownell"); (3) breach of warranty of title against Defendants Kobelco America, Inc. and Kobelco Construction Machinery America LLC (collectively referred to as "Kobelco"); (4) fraud against Defendant Kobelco; (5) conspiracy against Defendant Kobelco; (6) unjust enrichment against Defendant Kobelco; and (7) conversion against Defendant Kobelco.

Currently before the Court are Defendants Wells Fargo and Brownell's motion for summary judgment, Defendant Kobelco's motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiff Maxus' cross-motion for summary judgment as to all claims.

II. BACKGROUND

The present dispute arises from a series of transactions involving two Kobelco cranes. In October 2000, Defendant Kobelco sold and delivered two Model CK 1000 crawler cranes to Defendant Syracuse Equipment Leasing Co., Inc. ("SELC") for $588,920.18 per crane.*fn1*fn2

On approximately May 10, 2001, Defendant Kobelco, claiming difficulty collecting payments from SELC, entered into another transaction regarding the same cranes. In this transaction, Plaintiff Maxus remitted $715,000 per crane to Defendant Kobelco. Defendant Kobelco applied Plaintiff Maxus' $1,430,000 payment to Defendant SELC's account, crediting entries for the two cranes and another piece of equipment.

By late 2001 and early 2002, Defendant SELC's financial situation was deteriorating, and it defaulted on all of its obligations concerning the two cranes. Defendant SELC filed for bankruptcy on April 22, 2002.*fn3

The nature of the transaction entered into between Defendant Kobelco and Plaintiff Maxus in May 2001 is the crux of this dispute. Plaintiff Maxus claims that it did not have knowledge of Defendant Kobelco's prior sale of the cranes to Defendant SELC and that it intended to purchase the cranes new from Defendant Kobelco in order that they could then lease them to Defendant SELC.

Defendant Kobelco sees the May 2001 transaction differently. Defendant Kobelco claims that it told Plaintiff Maxus that it had already sold the cranes to Defendant SELC and that Plaintiff Maxus, as a result of some business arrangement with Defendant SELC, had agreed to re-finance the cranes for Defendant SELC.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

A district court will grant summary judgment when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and "the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In reviewing the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, and admissions on file, the court must "'resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party.'" Chan v. Gantner, 464 F.3d 289, 292 (2d Cir. 2006) (quotation omitted).

B. Standing

As an initial matter, with respect to Plaintiff Maxus' claims for conversion and recovery of chattel (Causes of Action 1 and 2), Defendants Kobelco, Wells Fargo, and Brownell contend that Plaintiff Maxus lacks standing to bring this action.

To complete the May 2001 transaction with Defendant Kobelco, Plaintiff Maxus needed to obtain financing from third parties. Therefore, Plaintiff Maxus obtained a "bridge loan" from First Merit Bank for $715,000 and assigned its security interest in the 61 crane as ...


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