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Lajaunie v. Samuels & Son Seafood Co., Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 12, 2014

PHILIPPE LAJAUNIE, et al., Plaintiffs, -
v.
- SAMUELS AND SON SEAFOOD CO., INC., et al., Defendants

For Philippe Lajuanie, 15 John Corp., Plaintiffs: Michael Francis Ferrari, Robert V. Ferrari/ Attorney At Law, New York, NY.

For Samuels and Son Seafood Co., Inc., Defendant: Edward Simon Benson, Joseph J. Gulino, Nicoletti, Gonson, Spinner & Owen, LLP, New York, NY.

For Saldutii, L.L.C., Robert L. Saldutti, Defendants: Thomas Robert Dominczyk, Maurice & Needleman, P.C., Flemington, NJ.

Page 433

DECISION AND ORDER

Victor Marrero, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs Philippe Lajaunie, a resident of the State of New York (" Lajaunie" ), and 15 John Corp., a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York (together with Lajaunie, " Plaintiffs" ), filed the Summons and Complaint involved in this action in the Supreme Court of New York, New York County (the " State Court" ) against defendants Samuels and Son Seafood Co., Inc. (" Samuels" ), a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the Commonwealth

Page 434

of Pennsylvania, Saldutti, LLC, a limited liability company organized and existing under the laws of the State of New Jersey, and Robert L. Saldutti, a resident of the State of New Jersey (together with Saldutti, LLC, " Saldutti Defendants" ). The Saldutti Defendants, with the consent of Samuels, filed a Notice of Removal, removing the case from the State Court to this Court.

Defendants jointly moved to dismiss the action in its entirety under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) asserting failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[1] Plaintiffs opposed the motion. For the reasons described below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

The claims Plaintiffs assert against Samuels and the Saldutti Defendants (collectively, " Defendants" ) stem from a prior litigation: Samuels's action against Plaintiffs in the Philadelphia Municipal Court, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, filed in May 2010 under claim number SC-10-05-14-4971 (" Samuels Action" ). In the Samuels Action, Samuels, represented by Robert L. Saldutti, claimed $5,015.57 for goods sold. In June 2010, the Philadelphia Municipal Court (the " Municipal Court" ) entered a default judgment against Plaintiffs, among others, in the total sum of $6,759.71. Plaintiffs petitioned to strike the default judgment, which petition was denied in January 2012 after a proceeding before the Municipal Court. Plaintiffs then appealed to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas (the " County Court" ). In April 2012, the County Court entered an order denying Plaintiffs' appeal.

In the present action, Plaintiffs seek damages for the allegedly fraudulent conduct of Defendants in obtaining the judgment against Plaintiffs in the Samuels Action before the Municipal Court. According to Plaintiffs, Samuels sold and delivered goods to a Washington D.C. restaurant known as Les Hailes Washington LLC -- a separate entity from 15 John Corp., a New York corporation doing business under the name " Les Hailes" in New York City and also a customer of Samuels. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants knew that 15 John Corp. was a separate and distinct entity from Les Hailes Washington LLC, were aware that 15 John Corp. had fully paid all indebtedness to Samuels, and intentionally deceived the Municipal Court in seeking a judgment against 15 John Corp. when, in fact, all money was due from Les Hailes Washington LLC. Plaintiffs claim that, as part of the alleged fraud, Defendants intentionally deceived the Philadelphia Municipal Court by using Lajaunie's personal guaranty of 15 John Corp. for amounts owed by Les Hailes Washington LLC. Plaintiffs allege that, as a result of the alleged fraudulent conduct, their credit rating is damaged. Plaintiffs are seeking $500,000 in damages, and an additional $500,000 in punitive damages.

Page 435

II. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

At the outset, this Court must determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over the instant action, in which the Plaintiffs seek damages for the allegedly fraudulent conduct of Defendants in obtaining an earlier judgment in the Municipal Court. Determining the existence of subject matter jurisdiction is a " threshold matter." See Kropelnicki v. Siegel, 290 F.3d 118, 128 (2d Cir. 2002). " [F]ailure of subject matter jurisdiction is not waivable and may be raised at any time by a party or by the court sua sponte." Lyndonville Savings Bank & Trust Co. v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700 (2d Cir. 2000). " The court must take all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff, but jurisdiction must be shown affirmatively, and that showing is not made by drawing from the pleadings inferences favorable to the party asserting it." Morrison v. Nat'l Austl. Bank Ltd., 547 F.3d 167, 170 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks, citations, and alteration omitted), aff'd on other grounds, 561 U.S. 247, 130 S.Ct. 2869, 177 L.Ed.2d 535 (2010). In resolving disputed jurisdictional facts, the court can refer to evidence outside of the pleadings. See Zappia Middle East Constr. Co. v. Emirate of Abu Dhabi, 215 F.3d 247, 253 (2d Cir. 2000).

Both parties have addressed the applicability of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to the present dispute and whether this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The doctrine -- derived from District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman,460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983), and Rooker v . Fidelity Trust Co.,263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923) -- divests lower federal courts of subject matter ...


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