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Flight Systems, Inc. v. Electronic Data Systems Corp.

April 29, 1997

FLIGHT SYSTEMS, INC.,

APPELLANT

v.

ELECTRONIC DATA SYSTEMS CORPORATION,

APPELLEE



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. Civil No. 95-01724) District Judge: Hon. Sylvia H. Rambo

Before: NYGAARD and LEWIS, Circuit Judges, and SCHWARZER, District Judge *fn1

NYGAARD, Circuit Judge.

Filed April 29, 1997

Argued Wednesday, January 22, 1997

Opinion filed April 29, 1997

OPINION OF THE COURT

Flight Systems, Inc. appeals an order by the district court adopting the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge and dismissing Flight Systems' suit under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). We will vacate the order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This diversity case arises from a contract dispute governed by the laws of Pennsylvania. Because it comes to us after dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), the facts are presented as alleged by Flight Systems.

In April 1995, Electronic Data Systems ("EDS"), a Texas corporation, contacted Flight Systems, a Pennsylvania corporation, through a broker about renting space in an office building at 505 Fishing Creek Road in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. Flight Systems was amenable, and the broker sent Flight Systems a letter dated April 20, 1995 outlining the terms of the five-year lease EDS desired. On the same day, Flight Systems removed the property from the rental market.

Intensive negotiations followed, culminating in a 59-page blackline draft lease agreement. On June 28, 1995, Ronald Katzman, the attorney representing Flight Systems, received a memorandum from Donna Merriman, an EDS employee who, Flight Systems alleges, was fully authorized to bind EDS to the terms of the lease. Merriman stated that if one final modification, which she attached, was agreeable, Katzman should contact Barbara Stone of EDS and the lease agreement would be prepared for execution. Katzman approved the proposed modification and conveyed his acceptance of the lease to Stone the same day. Flight Systems contends that a contract was formed at this point.

When Katzman spoke to Stone on June 28, 1995, she told him that the lease agreement would be executed immediately by EDS, and then forwarded by overnight delivery to him for signature by Flight Systems' representatives. Instead, the next day Flight Systems president Robert Shaffner received a telephone message that EDS no longer wished to lease the property at 505 Fishing Creek Road. Katzman tried to find out what had happened, but received no answer until August 15, 1995, when EDS' attorney informed Flight Systems that EDS' acceptance of the lease agreement had been contingent on procuring additional business in the Harrisburg area. Since EDS had not succeeded, it did not need more office space. Flight Systems says that it had never been told of this contingency.

Flight Systems sued EDS in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, alleging breach of contract and breach of obligation to negotiate in good faith. EDS removed the case to the United States District Court. EDS then made a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A magistrate judge ...


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