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Nastasi v. Lari

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 9, 2017

ANTHONY NASTASI, NASTASI & ASSOCIATES, INC., JACKSON AVENUE SUPPLY, LLC, 511 JACKSON REALTY LLC, 240 MADISON STREET REALTY, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHELLE LARI, Defendant. MICHELLE LARI, C ounterclaim ant,
v.
ANTHONY NASTASI, Counterdefendant.

          ORDER

          STEVEN I. LOCKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Presently before the Court on diversity grounds in this tort and breach of contract litigation is the Plaintiffs' - Anthony Nastasi; Nastasi and Associates, Inc.; Jackson Avenue Supply, LLC; 511 Jackson Realty, LLC; and 240 Madison Street Realty, LLC ("Plaintiffs" or "Nastasi") - motion to amend the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) ("Rule 15a").[1] See Plaintiffs' October 4, 2016 Letter Motion (“Pl. Mot. to Amend”), Docket Entry (“DE”) [45]. The Defendant, Michelle Lari (“Defendant” or “Lari”), opposes. See Defendant's Reply in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the Complaint to Add New Parties (“Def. Opp.”), DE [41]. For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiffs' motion is denied in its entirety.

         I. Relevant Background

         A. The Parties

         From 2011 through 2014, Plaintiff Anthony Nastasi, a New York resident, was a close associate of and romantically interested in Lari, a current resident of Los Angeles, California. See Complaint (“Compl.”), DE [1], ¶ 1; Proposed Amended Complaint (“Amend. Compl.”), DE [37], ¶¶ 12-13, 29-30. He is the sole principal and owner of all the other named plaintiffs, which are New York State limited liability companies operating and headquartered in New York. See Compl. ¶ 1. Jacobo Piwko and Gricelda Piwko (collectively, the “Piwkos”), whom the Defendant seeks to join in this action, are the Defendant's parents and Florida residents. See Amend. Compl. ¶ 9.

         B. The Allegations

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendant's affection for Plaintiff Anthony Nastasi was a confidence scheme in that Lari feigned romantic interest in him to gain access to Plaintiffs' wealth and assets. See Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 76-80. Over the course of their relationship, Plaintiffs made transfers to Defendant totaling approximately $477, 436.55 that they assert were multiple six-month, no-interest, renewable loans that all have since come due and are presently still in default. See Id. ¶ 78. During this same time, Plaintiffs also made gifts to Defendant totaling $299, 977.96 in jewelry, clothing, pocketbooks, shoes, and concert tickets. See Id. ¶ 76.

         In response to Defendant's alleged refusal to repay the outstanding loans, Plaintiffs assert causes of action for breach of oral agreement and unjust enrichment. See Compl. ¶¶ 27-56. On September 26, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend the Complaint to include additional claims against Lari of fraud and conversion, but denied without prejudice their application to add causes of action against the Piwkos. See DE [42].

         On October 4, 2017, Plaintiff renewed their application to amend the complaint to include a cause of action against the Piwkos for unjust enrichment. See Pl. Mot. to Amend; Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 94-103.[2] In the Proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Nastasi wired $50, 000 into Defendant's bank account on February 25, 2013 as part of an oral agreement to loan Lari that money and that Defendant later gave $35, 000 of that money to her parents, the Piwkos. See Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 95, 98. Plaintiffs also assert that because Lari did not give Nastasi authorization to make the deposits into her accounts and because she denies that there ever was a loan agreement, she had no right to any part of the money at issue. See Id. ¶¶ 96-97, 100-01. Based upon the foregoing, Plaintiffs demand that the Piwkos repay the $35, 000 with interest under a theory of unjust enrichment. See Id. In support of this relief, Nastasi argues that it is immaterial that the Piwkos are “innocent of wrongdoing in receiving [P]laintiffs' monies” because unjust enrichment does not require substantiating prior dealings or malice, only that the money at issue has been “transferred directly from [P]laintiffs' account to theirs (albeit by a third party/defendant Michelle Lari).” Pl. Mot. to Amend at 2 (citing T.D. Bank, N.A. v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 10-CV-2843, 2010 WL 4038826, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 14, 2010) (finding elements of unjust enrichment properly pled where plaintiff was fraudulently induced to transfer $2.09 million into a bank account that was otherwise empty and created for the sole purpose of receiving the funds, after which, within days approximately 99 percent of those funds had been transferred out of the HSBC account into defendant's account)). Were the Court to determine that it is necessary for Plaintiffs to demonstrate a more direct relationship between the Piwkos and Nastasi, Plaintiffs offer in their papers additional facts they could plead including that the Piwkos used Nastasi's skybox at Madison Square Garden to attend a Rangers NHL hockey game, that Plaintiffs purchased tickets to the Jersey Boys musical and the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall for the Piwkos, and that Nastasi paid for them to eat Thanksgiving dinner at Scotto. Id. at 3. Additionally, Plaintiffs assert that Griselda Piwko was aware of Lari's ongoing relationship with Plaintiff Anthony Nastasi and, finally, that Defendant requested a $250, 000 loan to purchase a new house for her parents. See id.

         In opposition, Defendant initially argues that the amendments regarding the Piwkos are futile due to a lack of both subject matter and personal jurisdiction. See Def. Opp. § I.A. Alternatively, Lari argues that the Proposed Amended Complaint must be dismissed because Plaintiffs failed to plead enough facts as could substantiate the requisite nexus between the Piwkos and Plaintiffs to sustain a charge of unjust enrichment. See Id. at I.B-C. Finally, Lari urges the Court to deny Nastasi's application because it is made in bad faith, with undue delay, and would cause prejudice to accrue to the Defendant. See Id. at § I.D-F.

         II. Legal Standard

         Motions to amend pleadings are governed by Rule 15(a), which provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2); see Amaya v. Roadhouse Brick Oven Pizza, Inc., 285 F.R.D. 251, 253 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (“A court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires and such leave is in the court's discretion.”) (internal quotation omitted); Assam v. Deer Park Spring Water, Inc., 163 F.R.D. 400, 404 (E.D.N.Y. 1995) (“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) dictates that motions to amend complaints be liberally granted absent a good reason to the contrary . . . .”). Motions to add parties are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 (“Rule 21”) and are afforded the “same standard of liberality afforded to motions to amend pleadings under Rule 15.” Addison v. Reitman Blacktop, Inc., 283 F.R.D. 74, 79 (E.D.N.Y. 2011); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 21; Amaya, 285 F.R.D. at 253 (“There is . . . little practical difference between Rule 15 and Rule 21 since they both leave the decision whether to permit or deny an amendment to the district court's discretion.”).

         Therefore, leave to amend a complaint should only be denied “if there is delay, bad faith, futility, or prejudice to the non-moving party.” Hosking v. New World Mortg., Inc., 602 F.Supp.2d 441, 445 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 230 (1962)). An amendment is futile if “the proposed claim could not withstand a … motion to dismiss.” Salazar v. Browne Realty Assocs., L.L.C., 796 F.Supp.2d 378, 383 (E.D.N.Y. 2011). Therefore, a proposed amended complaint must “contain enough allegations of fact to state a claim for relief that is ‘plausible on its face.'” Mendez v. U.S. Nonwovens Corp., 2 F.Supp.3d 442, 451 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombley, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007)). When a party opposes a motion to amend on futility grounds, “the moving party must merely show that it has at least colorable grounds for relief.” Copantitla v. Fiskardo Estiatorio, Inc., 09 Civ. 1608, 2010 WL 1327921, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 5, 2010) (internal quotation omitted). The party opposing a motion to amend bears the burden of establishing that the amendment should be denied. See Joinnides v. Floral Park-Bellerose Union Sch. Dist., 12-CV-5682, 2015 WL 1476422, at *9 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2015) (“With respect to the Rule 15(a) factors, ‘[t]he party opposing the motion for leave to amend has the burden of establishing that an amendment would be prejudicial or futile.'”) (quoting Cummings-Fowler v. Suffolk Cty. Cmty. Coll., 282 F.R.D. 292, 296 (E.D.N.Y. 2012)). Accordingly, on a motion to amend, “the Court is required to accept the material facts alleged in the amended complaint as true and draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.” Mendez, 2 F.Supp.3d at 451 (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)).

         III. ...


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