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Hayes v. Moon

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 12, 2017

ROYAL HAYES, Plaintiff,
v.
DARIN MOON, individually and REDOX CHEMICALS, LLC, a foreign corporation, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KENNETH A. MARRA United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (DE 20). For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         I. Facts[1]

         Plaintiff Royal Hayes entered into an oral agreement with Defendants Darin Moon and Redox Chemicals in which Defendant was granted the exclusive rights to distribution of Redox Chemicals products in the state of Florida in exchange for Plaintiff's expertise in “developing new markets for agricultural products in the state of Florida.” (DE 1 ¶¶ 15-16.) The oral agreement between Plaintiff and Defendants was for a specific term of three years and could not be terminated prior to the end of the three-year term. (DE 1 ¶ 28; R. Hayes Dep. at 19:8-13, 155:2-7.) The oral agreement between Plaintiff and Defendants was not memorialized in any signed writing. (R. Hayes Dep. at 47:23-48:7.)

         Plaintiff brought the present action for declaratory judgment, breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and unjust enrichment. (DE 1 ¶ 1.) Plaintiff's action seeks “his unpaid compensation and past or future interests in Redox Chemicals, LLC pursuant to certain promises and agreements made by Defendants by and through their Authorized Officer Darin Moon. (Id. (emphasis added).) Plaintiff's promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, declaratory judgment, and accounting claims each arise out of, and are based on, the same facts as Plaintiff's alleged oral agreement. (DE 1 ¶¶ 38-45; R. Hayes Dep. at 62:12-16, 63:3-9.)

         II. Legal Standard

         The Court may grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). It must do so by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for the purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). If the burden of persuasion lies with the nonmovant, summary judgment may be granted where the movant either negates an essential element of the nonmovant's claim or demonstrates to the Court that the nonmovant's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of that claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331. Any doubt regarding whether a trial is necessary must be resolved in favor of the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         After the movant meets its burden of production, this burden shifts to the nonmovant. “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts or materials in the record . . . or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The nonmovant's evidence cannot “consist of conclusory allegations or legal conclusions.” Avirgan v. Hull, 932 F.2d 1572, 1577 (11th Cir. 1991). Where the nonmovant bears the burden of persuasion, it must produce more than a mere scintilla of evidence supporting its position; “there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990).

         III. Discussion A. Pre-Trial Stipulation

         Defendants argue in their Motion for Summary Judgment (DE 20) that the statute of frauds bars Plaintiff's contract claim (DE 20 at 4); that the statute of frauds bars Plaintiff's promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment claims (DE 20 at 6); that Plaintiff's request for an accounting is without an independent cause of action to justify it (DE 20 at 8); and that Plaintiff's declaratory judgment claim is derivative of claims barred by the statute of frauds and must fail (DE 8 at 20). In Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (DE 25), Plaintiff addresses only Defendants' argument against the unjust enrichment claim and the associated survivability of Plaintiff's declaratory and accounting relief. (DE 25 at 3-5.) Further, in a Joint Pre-trial Stipulation (DE 46) filed with this Court, the parties have noted that “Plaintiff has stipulated the only claim remaining before the Court is for unjust enrichment.” (DE 46 at 5.) Accordingly, the Court need only address Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as it applies to Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim, the only claim that has not been abandoned.

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendants assert that “[t]he statute of frauds applies to claims for unjust enrichment where the unjust enrichment arose from the alleged contract.” Tews v. Valdeon, No. 12-23026-CIV, 2013 WL 533201, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Sep. 23, 2013). Defendants' argument rests upon a determination that the contract in question is barred by the statute of frauds. Thus, the Court will first address the applicability of the statute of frauds to the subject contract.

         1. Enforceability of Alleged Contract under the Statute of Frauds

         Defendants aver that it is “undisputed that the sole basis of Plaintiff's contract claim is an alleged oral contract for a definite three-year term that could not be terminated prior to the expiration of that definite term.” (DE 20 at 5.) As such, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's contract claim is “unambiguously barred by the statute of frauds.” (Id.) In Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion ...


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