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Lim v. Harvest International Realty

November 23, 2009

BENG SOON LIM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARVEST INTERNATIONAL REALTY, INC. D/B/A HARVEST INTERNATIONAL, CHARLES G. CHAN AND DAPHNE S. ZHOU-CHAN, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Beng Soon Lim ("Plaintiff" or "Lim") brought this action against defendants Harvest International Realty, Inc. d/b/a Harvest International ("Harvest"), Charles G. Chan, and Daphne S. Zhou-Chan (collectively "Defendants") seeking to recover wages and/or commissions allegedly earned while in the employ of Defendants pursuant to the New York Labor Law. In addition, Plaintiff seeks statutory damages, attorney's fees, and costs related thereto. Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule")12(b)(6).

For the reasons that follow, the Court (1) declines to convert Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, (2) grants Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion, and (3) grants Plaintiff's application for leave to amend the pleading.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

The following facts are drawn from the complaint and are presumed true for purposes of this motion.

Plaintiff is a real estate salesperson, duly licensed by the State of New York Department of State, Division of Licensing Services ("New York State"). (Compl. ¶ 2.) Defendant Harvest is a real estate broker, licensed by New York State pursuant to Article 12A of New York Real Property Law. (Id. ¶ 7.) Defendants Charles G. Chan, and Daphne S. ZhouChan are shareholders and principals of Harvest. (Id. ¶¶ 10-12.)

In July 2006, Plaintiff commenced a business association with the real estate brokerage practice of Harvest pursuant to a "Real Estate Agency Contract - Sales Associate Agreement" (the "Agreement") he entered with Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 13-15, 17, 23.) Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, Defendants agreed to pay Plaintiff a commission for any sale or rental of any real property made or originated by Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.)

During his employment with Harvest, Plaintiff alleges he procured the sale of two real properties, one located at 259 Meserole Street, Brooklyn, New York (the "Meserole Property"), and the other located at 1101-1107 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (the "Metropolitan Property"). (Id. ¶¶ 26-27, 41.) In addition, Plaintiff asserts he procured a tenant for a rental of the premises located at 42-64 81st Street, Elmhurst, New York (the "Elmhurst Property") for Defendants. (Id. ¶ 45.) Defendants did not pay Plaintiff any commissions and/or wages in connection with the three transactions. (Id. ¶¶ 28-32, 42-43, 46-50.)

In August 2007, Plaintiff terminated his business relationship with Harvest. (Id. ¶ 18.)

II. Procedural Background

Plaintiff commenced the instant action on August 27, 2008, asserting three claims under the New York State Labor Law §§ 190 et seq. First, Plaintiff seeks wages and/or commissions owed in connection with the sales of the Meserole Property and the Metropolitan Property. Next, he seeks wages and/or commissions owed in connection with the lease of the Elmhurst Property. Finally, Plaintiff seeks statutory damages, attorney's fees and costs. Defendants now move by the instant motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss: Legal Standards

Rule 8(a) provides that a pleading shall contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court has recently clarified the pleading standard applicable in evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).

First, in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Court disavowed the well-known statement in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." 550 U.S. at 562. Instead, to survive a motion to dismiss under Twombly, a plaintiff must allege "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Id. at 555 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

More recently, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- U.S. --, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court provided further guidance, setting forth a two-pronged approach for courts deciding a motion to dismiss. First, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 1950. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual assumptions." Id. Thus, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the ...


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