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Allen v. Cox

June 16, 2011

LEONARD ALLEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HELEN ROBINSON COX, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira A. Scheindlin, U.S.D.J.

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Leonard Allen ("Allen"), brings this diversity action against Helen Robinson Cox ("Cox") for breach of contract for monites promised by Cox to Allen. Allen alleges that Robinson orally promised to pay him for helping her recover from a serious illness. Allen seeks relief for: (1) breach of contract; (2) conversion; (3) misrepresentation; (4) fraud; and (5) prima facie tort. Defendant now moves to dismiss these claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procdure 12(b)(6) on the grounds that plaintiff fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND*fn1

Allen and Cox were involved in an intimate relationship in which they lived together as domestic partners for twenty-five years.*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that Cox's health problems began in 1998, and resulted in "various operations including thyroid removal and removal of several 'cysts'."*fn3 Additionally, Allen alleges that Cox was diagnosed and treated for cancer and required medical treatment for this and other health conditions. Allen does not specify if Cox's cancer also occurred in 1998, or at some later date.*fn4 As a result of apparent medical malpractice during treatment, Cox was "judicially awarded a settlement in excess of $1,000,000."*fn5

As a result of her continued health problems, Cox called upon Allen for help and support, but this came at a price. Allen alleges that in June 2006, he and Cox entered into an oral contract whereby Cox offered that "[i]f you take care of me until I get completely through this recovery, I will give you the settlement money."*fn6 Allen alleges that this was a service contract where the parties agreed that in exchange for Cox's settlement money, Allen would render the personal services needed to help her recover.*fn7 Plaintiff alleges that at the time of this alleged promise, defendant stated that she could have the money ready for Allen within weeks, given that she received the settlement funds on or about July 1, 2006.*fn8 Allen alleges that Cox repeated the promise regularly and, at times, in front of witnesses.*fn9 After the initial offer and acceptance, Allen alleges that on two separate occasions, modifications were made to the amount of money he would receive. The first alleged modification occurred on July 1, 2006, when he agreed to accept $800,000.00.*fn10 The second modification was in January of 2008, where the promised payment was reduced to $700,000.00.*fn11

Allen alleges that soon after Cox received the settlement money in July 2006, she deposited it into joint accounts held in both their names.*fn12 While

Allen acknowledges that Cox, as a joint account holder, had access to and control over their funds, he alleges that it was understood that the money belonged exclusively to him.*fn13 Allen alleges that in May or June 2007, Cox informed him that the promised money was subject to a large early withdrawal penalty and, therefore, would not be available until September 2009 - three years following the initial deposit.*fn14 Allen asserts that he was never paid for his services, and that he "has performed all the conditions, covenants, and promises required to be performed in accordance with the terms and conditions of the contract."*fn15

Allen also alleges that Cox breached the contract because she deposited the promised funds into a joint bank account, rather than into an account over which he had exclusive control. Allen alleges that he was the sole owner of the money deposited into the couple's joint bank account. He alleges that from November 7, 2006 until June 13, 2007, Cox withdrew funds from the account. "Ms. Cox unbeknownst to Plaintiff, withdrew approximately $430,000 between November 7th and 10th, 2006. Thereafter, Cox continued on this course . . . and began making telephone withdrawals in amounts under $50,000, culminating in a total depletion of . . . Mr. Allen's contract proceeds around June 13, 2007."*fn16

Allen alleges that Cox misused her access to the money, and that she has continued to deprive him of his money through a "stall tactic of a 'substantial pre-term withdrawal penalty' . . ."*fn17 Allen argues that Cox misrepresented that she would pay him the money she promised him in their oral agreement and that he relied to his detriment on this factual misrepresentation.*fn18 Allen maintains that Cox's actions were "motivated by maliciousness and malevolence."*fn19

Plaintiff commenced this action on September 16, 2011. Cox maintains that plaintiff fails to state a plausible claim, arguing that: (1) there was never any oral contract; and (2) any purported contract is barred by the Statute of Frauds and the Statute of Limitations.

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Rule 12(b)(6) - Failure to State a Claim

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court evaluates the sufficiency of the complaint under the "two-pronged approach" promulated ...


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