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Ravnikar v. Latif

October 5, 2010

STEPHEN RAVNIKAR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SALEEM LATIF AND LUBNA SALEEM, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gold, S., United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff and defendants participated with each other in the operation of a taxi and limousine radio car business for approximately two years beginning in January of 2005. The exact nature of their business arrangement is disputed. Plaintiff claims in this action that defendants wrongfully retained certain assets of the business and, as a result, now owe plaintiff $882,000. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. The parties have consented to have me decide the motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Docket Entry 16. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In his original complaint, Docket Entry 1, plaintiff alleges that he entered into a joint venture with defendants to operate a limousine business. Compl. ¶¶ 3-4. Plaintiff further contends in his original pleading that the joint venture borrowed funds, that defendants "used portions of the proceeds . . . for purposes other than benefiting the business of the joint venture," and -- without further explanation or detail -- that defendants owe plaintiff $700,000. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 17. No cause of action is specified in the complaint.

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on July 9, 2009. Docket Entry 12. In his amended complaint, plaintiff adds that certain loans were taken out by defendants, that plaintiff was required to repay them when defendants failed to do so, and that defendants owe plaintiff $882,382.50 as a result. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9. No further detail is provided, and no explanation of why plaintiff was required to repay loans taken out by defendants is offered. Moreover, and as was the case with respect to plaintiff's original pleading, no particular cause of action is specified.

Defendants brought their first summary judgment motion shortly after plaintiff filed his amended complaint. Docket Entry 15. In support of their motion, defendants invoked New York General Obligations Law § 5-701, and contended that plaintiff's claim should be dismissed because the alleged agreement between the parties was intended to last for more than one year but was never reduced to writing.

The motion was argued before me on February 11, 2010. During the argument, I stated that I found it difficult to discern the precise nature of plaintiff's claim, in part because the amended complaint fails to specify any particular cause of action. Tr. of Feb. 11, 2010, Docket Entry 30, at 3. Plaintiff's counsel responded that plaintiff's claim was one for breach of contract, asserted that written loan agreements existed and that these agreements satisfied the requirement of a writing, and requested leave to file a second amended complaint clarifying the precise nature of plaintiff's claim and explicitly alleging the existence of a contract. Tr. of Feb. 11, 2010, at 7-8, 10-12.

At the conclusion of the argument, I suggested that plaintiff move for leave to file a second amended complaint and submit new papers in opposition to defendants' summary judgment motion. Tr. of Feb. 11, 2010, at 13. Plaintiff moved for leave to file a second amended complaint on March 12, 2010. Docket Entry 27. In this pleading, plaintiff again alleges that he and defendants entered into a joint venture that took out loans. Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 8, 15. Plaintiff further alleges that defendants used the loan proceeds to pay their personal expenses. Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 12, 17-19. Based on these facts, plaintiff contends that defendants owe him $882,000. Again, no specific cause of action is identified in the pleading.

I heard argument again on April 2, 2010. At that time, I granted plaintiff's motion for leave to file his second amended complaint. Tr. of April 2, 2010, Docket Entry 32, at 33. During the argument, defendants reiterated their position that the absence of a writing doomed plaintiff's claim, and that plaintiff's attempt to avoid the operation of the statute of frauds on the grounds that the parties had entered into a joint venture was not supported by sufficient evidence. Tr. of April 2, 2010, at 7. After some discussion about whether the evidence presented by the parties in connection with the summary judgment motion was adequate, and in particular whether it was sufficient to establish whether or not the parties had formed a joint venture, defendants sought leave to take additional discovery and file a new summary judgment motion. Tr. of April 2, 2010, at 29-30. I granted that application as well.

Defendants filed the motion now pending before the Court on July 16, 2010. Docket Entry 35. The motion was argued on September 16, 2010.

DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). An issue of fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.; see also Citizens Bank of Clearwater v. Hunt, 927 F.2d 707, 710 (2d Cir. 1991). In reaching a summary judgment determination, the court must resolve ambiguities and draw reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Coach Leatherware Co. v. AnnTaylor, Inc., 933 F.2d 162, 167 (2d Cir. 1991). The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact; once he does so, the non-moving party may defeat summary judgment only by producing evidence of specific facts that raise a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256; Samuels v. Mockry, 77 F.3d 34, 36 (2d Cir. 1996). Mere ...


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