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Judy W. Soley v. Peter J. Wasserman

February 13, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimba M. Wood, U.S.D.J.:


Plaintiff Judith W. Soley brings this diversity action against her younger brother, Defendant Peter J. Wasserman, asserting a variety of claims arising out Wasserman's conduct as Soley's financial advisor over approximately the past thirty years. On May 14, 2010, after multiple claims in her original complaint were dismissed, Soley filed an Amended Complaint. [Dkt. No. 20]. On July 6, 2010, Wasserman moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a)(1), 12(b)(1), and 12(b)(6). [Dkt. No. 24]. The Court granted in part and denied in part Wasserman's motion to dismiss on September 29, 2011. See Soley v. Wasserman, 823 F. Supp. 2d 221, 225 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (Wood, J.) [Dkt. No. 36]. In relevant part, the Court denied the motion to dismiss Soley's claims for breach of fiduciary duty and equitable accounting.

Following discovery, both parties now move for summary judgment. (See Def.'s Mot. for S.J. & In Limine Relief [Dkt. No. 62]; Pl.'s Mot. for Partial S.J. [Dkt. No. 66]). In the alternative, Wasserman seeks in liminerelief. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Wasserman's motion in part and denies the motion in part. The Court also denies Soley's motion.


A.Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate only if the record before the court establishes that there is no "genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party has the burden of demonstrating that no dispute of a material fact exists. Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549, 554 (2d Cir. 2005). In evaluating whether the moving party has met its burden, a court must "construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and . . . draw all reasonable inferences in the non-moving party's favor." Stonewell Corp. v. Conestoga Title Ins. Co., 678 F. Supp. 2d 203, 208 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (Wood, J.) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)); see also In re "Agent Orange" Prod. Liab. Litig., 517 F.3d 76, 87 (2d Cir. 2008).

A motion for summary judgment should be denied "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict" in favor of the non-moving party. NetJets Aviation, Inc. v. LHC Commc'ns, LLC, 537 F.3d 168, 178-79 (2d Cir. 2008); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Accordingly, where adjudication of a claim requires assessing credibility or deciding between conflicting versions of events, summary judgment is not appropriate. See Jeffreys, 426 F.3d at 553-54; Hayes v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Corr., 84 F.3d 614, 619 (2d Cir. 1996). The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), but must show that there is "significant, probative evidence" on which a reasonable factfinder could decide in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247.

B.In LimineRelief

The Federal Rules of Evidence favor the admission of all relevant evidence. See Fed. R. Evid. 402. Evidence is relevant if it "tend[s] to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 401. Similarly, Rule 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony, "embodies a liberal standard of admissibility." Nimely v. City of New York, 414 F.3d 381, 396 (2d Cir. 2005). Expert testimony shall be excluded, however, when it is "unhelpful and therefore superfluous and a waste of time." In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) Prods. Liab. Litig., 643 F. Supp. 2d 482, 493-94 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (Scheindlin, J.).

"A district court's inherent authority to manage the course of its trials encompasses the right to rule on motions in limine." Carofino v. Forester, 450 F. Supp. 2d 257, 270 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (Leisure, J.) (citing Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984)). A district court will "exclude evidence . . . in limine only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds." United States v. Ozsusamlar, 428 F. Supp. 2d 161, 164 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (Leisure, J.).


This Court's September 29, 2011 Opinion, familiarity with which is assumed, details the factual allegations set forth in the Amended Complaint. See Soley, 823 F. Supp. 2d at 225-28. That Opinion permitted only Soley's breach of fiduciary duty and equitable accounting claims to proceed. Id. at 225. The Court further limited those claims to the allegations relating "to Patriot Partners and those investment accounts over which Wasserman had discretionary authority." Id.*fn1

After reviewing the Parties' summary judgment submissions, the Court recounts only the undisputed facts relevant to Soley's remaining claims. These facts are drawn from the Parties' Rule 56.1 Statements of Fact. ("Def.'s 56.1;" "Pl.'s 56.1").*fn2

Since 1974, Wasserman "has traded equities and options for his own account and through various entities." (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 3). In 1991, Wasserman formed and served as the General Partner of Patriot Partners, L.P., a partnership used "to invest for its own account in securities and other investment instruments." (Id. ¶¶ 4-5). Soon after, Patriot Partners distributed a "Private Offering Memorandum . . . to potential investors, including Soley." (Id. ¶ 6). Soley entered into a Partnership Agreement and purchased a partnership interest by transferring $500,000 from her personal brokerage account to Patriot Partner's account. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8). The Partnership Agreement imposed various obligations, including requiring Wasserman to "maintain ...

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