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Bell v. Manhattan Motorcars

August 4, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: George B. Daniels, District Judge


In an action based on diversity jurisdiction, pro se plaintiff Renzer Bell seeks monetary damages for breach of contract, breach of express warranty and fraudulent inducement. The amended complaint names a corporate defendant and two individual defendants: Manhattan Motorcars, Inc., (Manhattan Motorcars), President Chief Executive Officer Brian Miller, and General Manager Evan Chistodoulou. Plaintiff alleges that each act of the corporate defendant, as well as each act of the individual defendants, is chargeable and binding as to all defendants.

Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim, failure to plead fraud with requisite particularity, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and improper service. Defendants also moved to dismiss all claims against the individual defendants. In lieu of a brief in response to defendants' motion, plaintiff cross-moved for partial summary judgment as a matter of law for breach of expressed warranty. Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment is denied. Defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims against the corporate defendant for breach of contract and breach of warranty is denied. Defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claim against the corporate defendant for fraudulent inducement is granted. Defendants' motion to dismiss all claims against the individual defendants is granted.


This action arises from a dispute between plaintiff as buyer, and defendants as sellers for breach of contract for the sale of a luxury vehicle, the Porsche 911 GT2 Turbo. On or around March 14, 2000, the parties executed a written form contract, whereby Manhattan Motorcars agreed to sell plaintiff a Porsche 911 GT2 Turbo. Plaintiff alleges that a material condition of the contract was that plaintiff was to receive the "#1 order automobile provided to defendants by Porsche Cars North America, L.L.C." and that such terms were memorialized by a handwritten notation on the contract.*fn1 Plaintiff tendered a check for $1,000 as consideration for the parties' agreement.

On or around July 19, 2001, defendants' wrote a letter to plaintiff stating that he would be receiving "a July '02 production car." Plaintiff alleges that upon receipt of defendants' letter, he assumed that the model specified by defendants was, in fact, the first car received by defendants. In or around June 2002, plaintiff claims that he discovered from an employee of Manhattan Motorcars that the "#1 order" Porsche 911 GT2 Turbo automobile had been sold to another customer. Based upon these allegations, plaintiff filed this action against the aforementioned defendants for breach of contract, fraudulent inducement and breach of express warranty.

This Court has diversity jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332. Plaintiff, a resident of Florida, asserts a claim for $160,000 against Manhattan Motorcars, a company whose principal place of business is New York, and against individual defendants who are residents of the state of New York. New York law governs the substantive common law claims of this action. Patch v. Stanley Works, 448 F.2d 483, 487 (2d Cir. 1971) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938)).

In reviewing a complaint for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), this Court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Bolt Elec., Inc. v. City of New York, 53 F.3d 465, 469 (2d Cir. 1995). The complaint should only be dismissed where it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can present no set of facts entitling him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957); Ryder Energy Distrib. Corp. v. Merrill Lynch Commodities, Inc., 748 F.2d 774 (2d Cir. 1984).


Defendants assert that plaintiff's first and second causes of action are each time-barred. Under New York law, the time afforded to plaintiff to file an action for breach of contract is four years from the date of the breach, regardless of plaintiff's ignorance of the breach. See N.Y. U.C.C. § 2-725. Plaintiff filed the instant action on June 28, 2006. In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that "in or around June 2002" he discovered, from a Manhattan Motorcars employee, that the automobile contemplated in the parties' contract had already been sold to another customer.

Defendants reference the chronology detailed in the amended complaint to urge the conclusion that plaintiff's breach of contract claim must necessarily be time barred under New York's four year statute of limitations. The complaint, however, states that plaintiff discovered defendants' alleged breach of contract sometime "in or around June 2002". The complaint does not specify an exact date in that month. Thus, plaintiff's allegation leaves open the possibility that on or after June 29, 2002, defendants breached the parties' contract and plaintiff later learned of said breach. Such a construction of the facts would certainly render plaintiff's complaint timely. Defendants have not alleged any facts, or put forth any evidence to contradict a timely filing of plaintiff's claim. Without further specification as to the relevant dates, this Court cannot dismiss plaintiff's breach of contract claim as time-barred.

Defendants also challenge the timeliness of plaintiff's second cause of action for fraudulent inducement. In New York, a fraudulent inducement claim must be brought within the longer of six years of when the party alleging fraud gives consideration, or two years of the discovery of the fraud. NY C.P.L.R. 213(g). Under either statutory framework, plaintiff's 2006 filing of a fraudulent inducement claim is time-barred.*fn2 The contract itself is dated March 17, 2000. The $1,000 deposit check is dated April 19, 2000. A fraudulent inducement claim brought pursuant to either the March 2000 or the April 2000 date would be time-barred. Plaintiff filed suit in this Court in June 2006, over two months after the most generous period to timely file an action had expired.*fn3


As to his breach of contract claim, plaintiff alleges that defendants entered into, but did not adequately perform, a contract to tender to plaintiff the first received Porsche 911 GT2 Turbo. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, lost profits, and consequential damages in excess of $80,000, for defendants' alleged breach of contract. Plaintiff alleges that the "rarity of the Porsche 911 GT2 Turbo early delivery/production cars brought premiums above MSRP in excess ...

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