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Kennedy v. Lacasse

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 20, 2017

DONALD KENNEDY, Plaintiff,
v.
JOAN LaCASSE, BLUE BARN BED AND BREAKFAST LLC, EMILY RITZ, KAILY RITZ, Defendants.

          Henry J. Joseph, Esq. Kamaras & Joseph, PLLC Counsel for Plaintiff  [1]

          Brooke D. Youngwirth, Esq. Corbally, Gartland & Rappleyea, LLP Counsel for Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER

          KENNETH M. KARAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Donald Kennedy (“Plaintiff”) filed this Action on January 3, 2017 in New York Supreme Court, Kings County, against Defendants Joan LaCasse (“LaCasse”), Blue Barn Bed and Breakfast LLC (“Blue Barn”), Emily Ritz, and Kaily Ritz (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging claims for quantum meruit, tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with prospective contractual relations, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract. (See Notice of Removal Ex. A (“Compl.”) (Dkt. No. 1).) The claims arise out of what Plaintiff alleges was a business relationship between himself and LaCasse regarding the ownership and operation of Blue Barn, and concerns the acceptance and use of certain professional services rendered by Plaintiff without remuneration. (See id.) On March 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed a separate action in this Court, alleging claims for copyright infringement against LaCasse and Blue Barn for the unauthorized use of photographs Plaintiff took of Blue Barn and the surrounding area. (See Compl. (Dkt. No. 4, 17-CV-1839 Dkt.).) On April 24, 2017, Defendants removed the present Action to this Court. (See Dkt. No. 1.) The Court solicited briefing from the Parties and must now determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over the Action such that removal is proper. For the following reasons, the Court dismisses any portion of Plaintiff's claims that may be read as seeking compensation for the use of copyrighted materials and orders additional briefing regarding the proper forum for the case.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         1. Allegations in State Complaint

         The Court will first set forth the allegations as described in the Complaint that is the subject of this Opinion & Order (the “State Complaint”).

         In or around February 2015, LaCasse purchased property in Millbrook, New York. (See Compl. ¶ 9.) Prior to this purchase, LaCasse and Plaintiff had agreed that LaCasse would purchase the property in Millbrook with the understanding that she and Plaintiff would convert it into a bed and breakfast, with Plaintiff contributing services to what would eventually become Blue Barn. (See Id. ¶ 10.) The two agreed that in order for LaCasse to devote her full resources to the project, Plaintiff would forgo receiving any contemporaneous compensation for his services until Blue Barn began to turn a profit. (See Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that during the development stages of the project, he:

“provided all manner of interior and exterior design and decoration services, designs and specifications for furniture and fixtures, ” (id. ¶ 13);
“supervised and created marketing materials for Blue Barn Bed and Breakfast in addition to in-person social networking, marketing, and outreach to build interest and a customer base, ” (id. ¶ 14); and
“provided professional photography services for BLUE BARN BED AND BREAKFAST LLC, with his photographs being used as décor on the premises as well as in marketing materials, ” (id. ¶ 15).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was a co-manager of and partner in Blue Barn from February 2015 to January 2016, and that he was held out as such in marketing materials. (See id ¶¶ 16, 18.) Plaintiff was “on-call” at all times for “any needs or issues that arose from the design phase through construction and into operation of Blue Barn Bed and Breakfast for customers, and received such calls on a daily basis.” (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff claims that the services he provided were accepted by LaCasse, who used those services, including the photographs Plaintiff took. (See Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff received no remuneration for those services because before Blue Barn earned any profits, LaCasse terminated their partnership agreement and ordered Plaintiff off of the premises. (See id ¶ 19.)

         Plaintiff seeks, in this Action, to recover the reasonable value of the services he rendered to LaCasse and Blue Barn, which he estimates to be at least $72, 800. (See Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff additionally claims that Emily Ritz and Kaily Ritz (the daughters of LaCasse) unlawfully interfered with Plaintiffs partnership with LaCasse and thereby harmed Plaintiff. (See Id. ¶¶ 22-38.)

         2.Allegations in Federal ...


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