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Sarafianos v. Shandong Tada Auto-Parking Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 7, 2014

GEORGE SARAFIANOS, MARK SOURIAN, GUY BILLUPS, AL SCHRIFFRIN, WALTER BILLUPS, MARA JACOBS, CHRISTIAN LEO SMITH, RICHARD D. COHEN, JEFFREY JAKUBIAK REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST, LH FINANCIAL SERVICES CORPORATION, BWCI PENSION TRUSTEES, MELTRONICS RESOURCE PARTNERS, L.P., FRANK PELLAGRINO, and SILVANO MARCHETTO, Plaintiffs,
v.
SHANDONG TADA AUTO-PARKING CO., LTD. Defendant.

Robert S. Bernstein, Esq. Bernstein-Burkley, P.C. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania For Plaintiff

Yi Lin, Esq. New York, New York For Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs bring this diversity breach of contract action against Shandong Tada Auto-Parking ("Shandong"). Plaintiffs commenced this action on June 6, 2013, and filed the Amended Complaint on August 8, 2013. A copy of the summons and Amended Complaint was served on defendant on December 27, 2013 in accordance with the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents. Defendant did not file an answer or otherwise move. On March 24, 2014, the Clerk of the Court issued a certificate of default. On March 31, 2014, plaintiffs moved for entry of a default judgment. On April 7, 2014, Shandong, through counsel, entered an appearance and filed its opposition to plaintiffs' motion for default judgment as well as a motion to dismiss the case.[1] On April 9, 2014, I denied plaintiffs' motion for entry of a default judgment.

Shandong then moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and failure to join a necessary party. On June 5, 2014, I granted Shandong's motion to dismiss based on the absence of subject matter jurisdiction. On June 20, 2014, plaintiffs moved to reopen the case and for leave to amend a Second Amended Complaint to drop the alien plaintiff to create diversity jurisdiction. For the following reasons, these motions are GRANTED.

II. FACTS

In 2010 in Beijing, Shandong signed a non-binding Term Sheet with Corinthian Partners, LLC ("Corinthian"), which summarized the proposed terms of a bridge loan Shandong intended to obtain through Corinthian.[2] The Term Sheet clearly states that it "is not intended to be and should not be construed as a commitment to lend... The final documentation... will be subject to approval by [Shandong], Corinthian, and the Lenders."[3] This Term Sheet was signed by Mitchell Manoff on behalf of Corinthian and Guo Shou Jin, Shandong's authorized Chief Executive Officer[4].

Plaintiffs allege that on January 14, 2011, they entered into a Purchase Agreement whereby they made a $725, 000 loan to defendant at an annual interest rate of fifteen percent, according to the terms in the Term Sheet.[5] The Purchase Agreement was signed by David Dodge, allegedly acting in the capacity of Shandong's Chief Financial Officer. Each of the plaintiffs transferred the funds to defendant through its Escrow Agent, K&L Gates, LLP.[6] The Escrow Agreement as well as the Debenture were also signed by David Dodge as Chief Financial Officer of Shandong.[7] According to the Purchase Agreement, the loan was set to mature on either September 30, 2011 or on a new financing date.[8] No new financing date was ever negotiated and Shandong has never repaid the loan.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Failure to State a Claim

For a court to grant leave to amend a complaint, the proposed claim(s) must be able to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In applying this standard, a court must "accept[ ] all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw[ ] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor."[9] The court "may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint."[10] The court may also consider legally required public disclosure documents filed with the SEC.[11]

The court evaluates the sufficiency of the complaint under the "twopronged approach" suggested by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal.[12] Under the first prong, a court may "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth."[13] For example, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."[14] Under Iqbal's second prong, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief."[15] A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant ...


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