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Rienzi & Sons, Inc. v. N. Puglisi & F. Industria Paste Alimentari S.P.A

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 18, 2015

RIENZI & SONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
N. PUGLISI & F. INDUSTRIA PASTE ALIMENTARI S.P.A. and FRANCESCO PULEJO, Defendants, Counterclaim-Defendant, Counterclaim-Plaintiffs.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DORA L. IRIZARRY, District Judge.

The issue before the Court is whether entry of judgment is appropriate where a defendant has consented to judgment for all the relief the plaintiff seeks at trial, but the plaintiff insists upon a trial. This opinion is issued for the benefit of the parties. As such, familiarity with the underlying facts and procedural posture of the case is assumed.[1]

BACKGROUND

On May 27, 2008, Rienzi & Sons, Inc. ("Rienzi" or "Plaintiff") filed the instant action against defendants N. Puglisi & F. Industria Paste Alimentari S.p.A. ("Puglisi") and Francesco Pulejo ("Pulejo") (collectively, "Defendants") by filing a summons and complaint in New York State Supreme Court, Queens County. On June 25, 2008, Defendants removed the action to this Court. Defendants filed an answer and asserted a counterclaim against Rienzi for breach of contract. Rienzi amended its complaint to assert one claim for breach of fiduciary duty, three claims for breach of contract, and one claim for breach of joint venture. Defendants' answer to the Amended Complaint denied Plaintiff's claims and re-asserted Puglisi's counterclaim against Rienzi for breach of contract ("Counterclaim").

In September 2011, Defendants moved for summary judgment as to the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Causes of Action asserted by Rienzi, and for summary judgment as to Puglisi's Counterclaim for payment of 898, 410.06 for unpaid pasta invoices. Rienzi's Third Claim was not at issue in Defendants' motion for summary judgment. On May 16, 2013, the Court issued an Opinion and Order ("Order") granting Defendants' motion in its entirety. Rienzi moved for reconsideration, and, on March 27, 2014, the Court issued a summary order denying Rienzi's motion for reconsideration.

Parties' Claims and Summary Judgment ("SJ")

On September 3, 2014, Puglisi wrote to the Court noting that, in light of the Order, the only claim remaining to be tried in this matter is Rienzi's Third Cause of Action, which alleges that Rienzi suffered $126, 200 in damages when Puglisi allegedly delivered spoiled pasta. Puglisi, to avoid the time and expense of a trial on that lone claim, is willing to stipulate to the entry of a judgment ("Proposed Judgment") in which Puglisi's damages on its Counterclaim are offset by the full amount of the damages that Rienzi seeks in its Third Cause of Action. ( See Letter from Puglisi ("Puglisi Letter"), Docket Entry No. 90.) In other words, Puglisi desires to stipulate to all of the relief that Rienzi seeks in its Third Cause of Action.

Rienzi opposes the Proposed Judgment because: (1) Puglisi's letter is procedurally defective, because Puglisi should have formulated it as a Fed.R.Civ.P. 68 offer, [2] or some other formal motion, as opposed to a stipulation; (2) the Proposed Judgment provides Puglisi the right to withdraw its participation; (3) Puglisi is not entitled to any interest; (4) Puglisi uses an improper conversion rate; and (5) Puglisi ignores the judgment day rule. ( See Letter from Rienzi ("Rienzi Letter"), Docket Entry No. 91.) The Court does not find any of these arguments to be persuasive. Puglisi's reply asserts that there is no formal procedure necessary in order for the Court to enter judgment in this context and Rienzi's additional arguments are wholly without merit. ( See Puglisi Reply Letter ("Puglisi Reply"), Docket Entry No. 92.) Oral argument on Puglisi's motion was held before the Court on February 13, 2015.

DISCUSSION

I. Puglisi's Proposed Judgment is Not Procedurally Improper

There is no requirement that Puglisi make its motion pursuant to Rule 68 or any other Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. In ABN Amro Verzekeringen BV v. Geologistics Americas, Inc., the Second Circuit held that, where a defendant consents to the entry of judgment awarding plaintiff the entirety of the relief that the plaintiff could win at trial, it is appropriate for the court to enter judgment in that amount against the defendant, even where the plaintiff insists upon a trial. See 485 F.3d 85, 93-94 (2d Cir. 2007) ("Where a defendant has consented to judgment for all the relief the plaintiff can win at trial (according to the trial court's determination), the defendant's refusal to admit fault does not justify a trial to settle questions which can have no effect on the judgment."). In ABN Amro, the plaintiff's suit was only for money damages and the district court had ruled as a matter of law that the plaintiff could not recover more than a certain amount from each defendant. When each defendant tendered that amount, the district court held that nothing of significance remained to adjudicate. The Second Circuit thus found that the district court had correctly rejected plaintiff's claim that the court should have mandated trial on an issue that had no practical consequence. Similarly, in Husain v. Springer, 691 F.Supp.2d 339, 341-43 (E.D.N.Y. 2009), the court applied ABN Amro and granted the defendant's motion for entry of judgment against herself. The district court agreed with defendant's argument that entry of judgment was appropriate, even without a concession of liability on her part, as her payment of nominal damages would satisfy the single remaining claim of every plaintiff in its entirety.

Moreover, the Husain court concluded that a party stipulating to a judgment need not use any specific procedure. The court noted that, "the issue is academic; when a defendant has clearly given formal consent to the entry of judgment against herself, the precise form of her request is irrelevant. There is no dispute here that defendant consents to a court order awarding plaintiffs'' nominal damages." Id. at 341 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Here, Rienzi does not identify any monetary or equitable relief that is seeks from this Court beyond the $126, 200 to which Puglisi has stipulated in the Proposed Judgment. Consequently, there is no dispute that Puglisi has consented to the entry of a ...


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