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Julian Depot Miami, LLC v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

September 23, 2019

Julian Depot Miami, LLC, Plaintiff,
Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., Defendant.


          Robert N. Scola, Jr., United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.’s (“Home Depot”) motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 5.) The Plaintiff Julian Depot Miami, LLC (“Julian Depot”) leased a property to Home Depot for twenty years. Julian Depot sues to recover for damages incurred in a fire and subsequent demolition, alleging that Home Depot is required by the lease to reconstruct the building. Having considered the parties’ submissions, the record, and the applicable law, the Court grants Home Depot’s motion. (ECF No. 5.)

         1. Background Facts

         Home Depot, in December 2006, entered into a twenty-year land lease with Julian Depot’s predecessor-in-interest, Tallahassee LLC. (ECF No. 28 ¶¶ 8-9.) Prior to Julian Depot’s acquisition of the land, between 2007 and 2008, Home Depot constructed a retail center on the site, whose value exceeds $6, 000, 000. (ECF No. 28 ¶¶ 11-12.) Some four years later, in December 2012, Julian Depot took title to the land from Tallahassee LLC and assumed the lease. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Less than a year after that, in November 2013, a fire damaged the store. (Id. at ¶ 23.) According to the complaint, Home Depot demolished the damaged store on February 11, 2014. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

         Julian Depot’s complaint centers on Home Depot’s alleged refusal to rebuild its home-improvement store following the post-fire demolition and includes two counts: one seeking breach of contract and one seeking indemnity. Julian Depot alleges that Home Depot has breached the lease by failing to obtain insurance that satisfies the requirements of the lease. (Id. at ¶¶ 41-42.) It instead elected to self-insure, and thus Home Depot is liable under the lease as an insurer. (Id.) Julian Depot also claims that Home Depot agreed to indemnify it “against and from any and all damages…arising from or out of any occurrence in or upon the Premises.” (Id. at ¶ 49.)

         2. Procedural History

         Julian Depot has previously filed suit in this Court, seeking damages for Home Depot’s failure to rebuild the store following the fire. See 1:17-cv-22475-RNS. The Court dismissed Julian Depot’s breach of contract claim because it did not sufficiently allege damages and allowed its declaratory judgment claim to proceed. 1:17-cv-22475-RNS, ECF No. 13. The Court denied Julian Depot’s motion for leave to amend its complaint because it failed to show good cause supporting the modification of the Court’s scheduling order. 1:17-cv-22475-RNS, ECF No. 66. Finally, on November 11, 2018, the Court granted Home Depot’s motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of Home Depot. 1:17-cv-22475-RNS, ECF No. 106-107.

         Julian Depot filed for bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, and it filed this adversarial proceeding in the bankruptcy case as a core proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 157(b). The bankruptcy court transferred the case to this Court “in the interest of justice or for the convenience of the parties.” 28 U.S.C. § 1412.

         Home Depot now moves to dismiss alleging that Julian Depot failed to state a claim and that the complaint is barred by the prohibition against claim splitting. (ECF No. 5 at 11-18.) Julian Depot responds that the Court’s prior order denying leave to amend was based on its scheduling order and does not preclude it from bringing a separate action; it is not splitting claims because it is suing under a different provision of the lease; and, it sufficiently stated a claim. (ECF No. 37-1 at 4-9.)

         3. Legal Standard

         A court considering a motion to dismiss, filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), must accept all of the complaint’s allegations as true, construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008). Although a pleading need only contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, a plaintiff must nevertheless articulate “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)) (internal punctuation omitted). A court must dismiss a plaintiff’s claims if she fails to nudge her “claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         4. Analysis

         Home Depot argues that the case should be dismissed because a plaintiff is required “to assert all of its causes of action arising from a common set of facts in one lawsuit.” (ECF No. 5 at 23.) In coming to this conclusion, it relies on the doctrine of improper claim splitting. The Court agrees with Home Depot’s general argument but notes that its reliance on claim splitting is misguided.

         “Claim-splitting has been analyzed as an aspect of res judicata or claim preclusion.” Vanover v. NCO Financial Services, Inc., 857 F.3d 833, 841 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing Khan v. H&R Block E. Enters., Inc., 2011 WL 3269440, at *6 (S.D. Fla. July 29, 2011) (Cooke, J.) (“[F]ederal courts borrow from the res judicata test for claim preclusion to determine whether [a] plaintiff[‘s] claims were split improperly”)). “While claim splitting and res judicata both promote judicial economy and shield parties from vexatious and duplicative litigation, claim splitting is more concerned with the district court’s comprehensive management of its docket, whereas res judicata focuses on protecting the finality of judgments.” Vanover, 857 F.3d at 841. The Eleventh Circuit’s test for claim-splitting “is not whether there is finality of judgment, but whether the first suit, assuming it were final, would preclude the second suit.” Id. This Court entered a final judgment ...

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