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Lederhouse v. Landau Arnold Laufer LLP

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 4, 2018




         This case arises out of Plaintiff's failure to recover in bankruptcy proceedings the money she lent to a construction company, Aloia Construction Co. (“ACC”), and an individual, Thomas Aloia. Plaintiff pro se, Christine D. Lederhouse, filed this action in 2015 alleging that the accountants of ACC and Aloia, Defendants Landau Arnold Laufer, LLP and Daniel Fisher, committed several acts of fraud in violation of state law and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), by giving Plaintiff false information regarding ACC and Aloia's financial condition. Am Compl. at 16-19, ECF No. 4. Plaintiff sought leave to file a second amended complaint and to add additional parties, Pl. Mem., ECF No. 37, and Defendants cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings, Defs. Mem., ECF No. 45. The Court referred the motions to the Honorable Stewart D. Aaron. On March 3, 2018, Judge Aaron issued a well-reasoned Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) that concluded that Defendants' motion should be granted and Plaintiff's motion should be denied because there is no legal basis for her case, which is time barred in any event. R&R at 1, ECF No. 55. The Court received Plaintiff's mailed objections on March 27, 2018, Pl. Obj., ECF No. 60. On March 30, 2018, Defendants filed a response. ECF No. 58.[1] For the following reasons, Plaintiff's objections are OVERRULED, and the R&R is ADOPTED in its entirety.


         I. Legal Standards

         A. Review of R&R

         A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). “Courts review de novo those parts of a report and recommendation to which objections are made, Mulosmanaj v. Colvin, No. 14 Civ. 6122, 2016 WL 4775613, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 14, 2016), and the remainder for clear error on the face of the record, Rigano v. Astrue, No. 07 Civ. 10282, 2011 WL 1406185, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2011). In order to trigger de novo review, “objections must be specific and clearly aimed at particular findings in the magistrate judge's proposal.” McDonaugh v. Astrue, 672 F.Supp.2d 542, 547 (S.D.N.Y. 2009).

         B. Judgment on the Pleadings

         Because Defendants have already answered, they style their motion as a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).

         For Rule 12(c) motions, the Court applies “the same standard as that applicable to a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), ” Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994), meaning that a court “must accept all allegations in the complaint as true and draw all inferences in the non-moving party's favor, ” LaFaro v. N.Y. Cardiothoracic Grp., PLLC, 570 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Miller v. Wolpoff & Abramson, LLP, 321 F.3d 292, 300 (2d Cir. 2003)). “Only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 476; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted) (“[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'” (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007))). “A claim has ‘facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Parkcentral Glob. Hub Ltd. v. Porsche Auto. Holdings SE, 763 F.3d 198, 208 (2d Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         C. Motion to Amend or Add New Parties

         Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that courts “should freely give leave” to amend a complaint “when justice so requires.” Pro se litigants “should be afforded every reasonable opportunity to demonstrate that [they have] a valid claim.” Matima v. Celli, 228 F.3d 68, 81 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Satchell v. Dilworth, 745 F.2d 781, 785 (2d Cir. 1984)). A court “should not dismiss [pro se complaints] without granting leave to amend at least once when a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated.” Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Gomez v. USAA Fed. Sav. Bank, 171 F.3d 794, 795 (2d Cir. 1999)). However, leave to amend may properly be denied for futility of amendment. Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)); see also Martin v. Dickson, 100 F. App'x 14, 16 (2d Cir. 2004) (summ. order) (affirming denial of leave to amend to a plaintiff pro se on futility grounds). “Although Rule 21, and not Rule 15(a), normally governs the addition of new parties to an action, ” FTD Corp. v. Banker's Tr. Co., 954 F.Supp. 106, 109 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), “the showing necessary under Rule 21 is the same as that required under Rule 15(a), ” Johnson v. Bryson, 851 F.Supp.2d 688, 703 (S.D.N.Y. 2012).

         D. Pro Se Litigants

         Pro se litigants are entitled to “special solicitude, ” and the court will construe a pro se “complaint to raise the strongest claims that it suggests.” Williams v. Priatno, 829 F.3d 118, 122 (2d Cir. 2016) (quoting Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011)). Nonetheless, pro se status “does not exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law.” Triestma ...

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