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Plain Bay Sales, LLC v. Gallaher

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

November 21, 2019

Plain Bay Sales, LLC, a Florida limited liability company, Plaintiff and Counter Defendant,
v.
Zume Gallaher, et al., Defendants, Counterclaimants, and Third Party Plaintiffs,
v.
Katie Prudent, Adam Prudent, Henri Prudent, and Katie Monahan, Inc., Third Party Defendants and Fourth Party Plaintiffs,
v.
Zume Gallaher, Paul Haunert, Neil Jones, and Jonathen Craig Yates, Fourth Party Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING THIRD PARTY COMPLAINT DEFENDANT JONATHEN CRAIG YATES' MOTION TO DISMISS THIRD PARTY COMPLAINT [DE 159');">159]

          WILLIAM MATTHEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on Third Party Complaint Defendant Jonathen Craig Yates's Motion to Dismiss Third Party Complaint. [DE 159');">159]. The motion is fully briefed. Thus, this matter is ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Third Party Complaint Defendant Yates's Motion to Dismiss Third Party Complaint [DE 159');">159]. Counts I-V of the Third Party Complaint [DE 124] are DISMISSED as to Third Party Complaint Defendant Jonathen Craig Yates.

         I. Background

         This case involves a complicated procedural history. Plaintiff filed its original Complaint on May 3, 2018 and filed its First Amended Complaint [DE 38] on August 31, 2018 after the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants Gallaher and Haunert's motion to dismiss [DE 37]. The First Amended Complaint [DE 38] asserted claims against both Defendant Gallaher and Defendant Haunert related to the sale of a competitive show horse that Plaintiff Plain Bay contends Defendants interfered with unlawfully. The Court then granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint, dismissing Count IV of the Amended Complaint with prejudice. [DE 51].

         Defendants then counterclaimed against Plaintiff and asserted third party claims against Katie Prudent, Adam Prudent, Henri Prudent, and Katie Monahan, Inc. (collectively, "the Prudent Parties") [DE 116]. The Prudent Parties, for their part, counterclaimed against Defendants Gallaher and Haunert and raised claims against two new parties, Third Party Complaint Defendants Neil Jones and Jonathen Craig Yates. [DE 124].

         On November 4, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff Plain Bay leave to again amend its Complaint. [DE 190]. In its Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Plain Bay added claims against Third Party Complaint Defendants Jones and Yates. See DE 191. The Prudent Parties each then voluntarily dismissed their claims against Third Party Complaint Defendant Jones with prejudice. [DEs 192, 193, 194, 195]. Thus, the Court denied Third Party Complaint Defendant Jones's motion to dismiss the Third Party Complaint [DE 140] as moot. Third Party Complaint Defendant Yates's motion to dismiss the Third Party Complaint [DE 159');">159], however, remains pending and is the subject of this Order. The Court will address Defendants Gallaher and Haunert's pending motion to dismiss the Third Party Counterclaim [DE 143] against them in a separate order.

         II. Legal Standard

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires '"only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the .. . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). When a court considers a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), it must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and decide whether the allegations "raise a right to relief above a speculative level." Id. at 555.

         "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "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." Id.

         III. Analysis and Discussion

         The Third Party Complaint [DE 116] raises five claims against Yates: tortious interference with prospective business relationships (Count I); tortious interference with other business relationships (Count II); commercial defamation (Count III); conspiracy to interfere with contract and other relationships, to defame, and to interfere with a witness (Count IV); and violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act ("FDUTPA") (Count V). Yates seeks to dismiss each count against him, thus, the Court considers each in turn.

         A. Count I: Tortious Interference with Prospective Business Relationships

         Regarding Count I, tortious interference with prospective business relationships, federal courts sitting in diversity jurisdiction apply the law of the forum state when deciding claims originating in state law. See Goodwin v. George Fischer Foundry Sys., Inc., 769 F.2d 708, 711 (11th Cir. 1985); Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938). Under established Florida law, a claim for tortious interference with a contract or business relationship requires (1) "the existence of a business relationship between the plaintiff and a third person . . . under which the plaintiff has legal rights"; (2) the defendant's knowledge of that contract or business relationship; (3) "an intentional and unjustified interference with the relationship by the defendant which induces or otherwise causes the third person not to perform"; and (4) damages. Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Times Pub. Co., 780 So.2d 310, 315 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001); Coach Servs., Inc. v. GTE Directories Corp., 752 F.Supp.2d 1271, 1273 (S.D. Fla. 2010) (applying Florida law); Ethan Allen, Inc. v. Georgetown Manor, Inc., 647 So.2d 812, 814 (Fla. 1994).

         Yates contends that the Prudent Parties were not privy to the contract of sale for the horse Victorio between Plaintiff Plain Bay and Defendant Gallaher that is the subject of this action and, thus, "ha[ve] no legal rights in the sale and resale of Victorio" and "do not sufficiently allege any other business relationships with which Yates purportedly interfered." [DE 159');">159, p. 4]. The Prudent Parties largely fail to address Yates's legal argument, instead referring the Court to Plaintiff Plain Bay's Second Amended Complaint [DE 191], stating that it ...


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