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Viable Marketing Corporation v. Intermark Communications

August 25, 2011

VIABLE MARKETING CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERMARK COMMUNICATIONS, INC. D/B/A INTERMARK MEDIA, INC. AND COPEAC, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Viable Marketing Corporation ("Viable" or "Plaintiff") commenced this diversity action against Defendants Intermark Communications, Inc. d/b/a Intermark Media, Inc. and Copeac ("Defendants" or "Intermark") on April 13, 2009 alleging (I) fraud; (II) negligent misrepresentation; (III) violation of N.Y. General Obligations Law § 349; (IV) breach of contract; (V) tortious interference with economic advantage; (VI) tortious interference with contract; (VII) unfair competition; (VIII) misappropriation; and (IX) unjust enrichment.*fn1 On January 3, 2011, Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on its unjust enrichment claim. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DENIED, and summary judgment is hereby GRANTED in favor of Defendants.

BACKGROUND*fn2

Viable is in the business of selling web-based business opportunity programs. (Compl. ¶ 9.) In order to market its programs most effectively on the Internet, Viable entered into a contract (the "Viable-PartnerWeekly Contract") with PartnerWeekly, L.L.C. ("PartnerWeekly"), a Nevada-based Internet marketing agency, on August 15, 2008. (Compl. ¶ 10; Scher Decl. Ex. B.) The Viable-PartnerWeekly Contract gave PartnerWeekly the exclusive Internet marketing rights to certain of Viable's programs, including "Media Mogul Me." (Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff does not dispute the existence or validity of this contract. (Compl. ¶ 78.) In October 2008, PartnerWeekly entered into a contract with Intermark ("PartnerWeekly-Intermark Contract") whereby Intermark agreed to use its affiliate network to drive Internet traffic to a website offering Media Mogul Me for sale ("Media Mogul Me Campaign"). (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 3 & Ex. 2; Compl. ¶¶ 22, 62.) Neither party disputes the existence or validity of this contract. Pursuant to those contracts, Viable paid a commission to PartnerWeekly for each valid lead PartnerWeekly submitted to it, and, in turn, PartnerWeekly paid a portion of that commission to Intermark for each of those leads that could be traced back to Intermark and its affiliates. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 7, 10, 28, 34; Compl. ¶¶ 23-24.)

The Media Mogul Me Campaign ran from October 28, 2008 through January 6, 2009 when Intermark was ordered to stop advertising due to fraudulent leads. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8; Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff claims, and Defendants dispute, that over 13,000 of the 27,000 leads generated by Intermark were invalid and that Defendants admitted that 4,800 of the leads were invalid. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 9, 11.) Plaintiff now seeks summary judgment on its claim that Defendants were unjustly enriched in the amount of $158,000 in commissions paid for bad leads, $504,000 in chargeback fees for those bad leads, and $4,765 in transaction fees. (Pl. Mem. 2.)

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

"Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no genuine disputes concerning any material facts, and where the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."

Harvis Trien & Beck, P.C. v. Fed. Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (In re Blackwood Assocs., L.P.), 153 F.3d 61, 67 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986)); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). In considering this question, the Court considers "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together any other firsthand information including but not limited to affidavits." Nnebe v. Daus, 644 F.3d 147 (2d Cir. 2011); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 109 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir. 1997); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). "In assessing the record to determine whether there is a genuine issue to be tried as to any material fact, the court is required to resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought." McLee, 109 F.3d at 134.

"The burden of showing the absence of any genuine dispute as to a material fact rests on the party seeking summary judgment." Id.; see also Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S. Ct. 1598, 26 L. Ed. 2d 142 (1970). "[O]nce such a showing is made, the non-movant must 'set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256). "Mere conclusory allegations or denials will not suffice." William v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 323 (2d Cir. 1986). Similarly, "unsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact." Weinstock, 224 F.3d at 41 (citing Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995).

"[I]f a motion for summary judgment has been made, a district court may grant summary judgment to any party--including a non-movant," First Fin. Ins. Co. v. Allstate Interior Demolition Corp., 193 F.3d 109, 115 (2d Cir. 1999), provided that "all of the evidentiary materials that a party might submit in response to a motion for summary judgment are before the court, . . . no material dispute of fact exists and . . . the [non-moving] party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Ramsey v. Coughlin, 94 F.3d 71, 74 (2d Cir. 1996).

II. Unjust Enrichment

Plaintiff asserts that it is entitled to summary judgment on its unjust enrichment claim because "the uncontroverted material facts of this case clearly establish that [Intermark] has been unjustly enriched at the expense of Viable, which has paid [Intermark] commission payments and incurred numerous chargeback fees and bank fines as a result of the invalid leads generated by [Intermark]." (Pl. Reply 1.)

To state a claim for unjust enrichment under New York law, a plaintiff must allege that "(1) defendant was enriched, (2) at plaintiff's expense, and (3) equity and good conscience militate against permitting defendant to retain what plaintiff is seeking to recover." Briarpatch, Ltd., L.P. v. Pheonix Pictures, Inc., 373 F.3d 296 306 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted); see also Mandarin Trading Ltd. v. Wildenstein, 16 N.Y.3d 173, 182, 944 N.E.2d 1104, 1110, 919 N.Y.S.2d 465, 471 (2011) (citing Citibank, N.A. v. Walker, ...


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