Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

CINALLI v. KANE

March 12, 2002

ROBERT A. CINALLI, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
ROBERT C. KANE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, U.S. District Judge

    MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This is a contract case brought by Plaintiffs Robert A. and Susan W. Cinalli ("Plaintiffs") against a multitude of Defendants, who allegedly had some connection with Plaintiffs' purchase of a condominium unit in Avalon, New Jersey. Those Defendants include Robert C. and Dorothy A. Kane ("Kanes"), the sellers of the condominium unit; Tim Kerr's Power Play Realty ("Power Play"), the realty agency retained by the Kanes; Chris Gallagher ("Gallagher"), the Power Play agent who handled the Kanes' account; Avalon Real Estate Agency ("AREA"), the realty agency retained by Plaintiffs; William Soens ("Soens"), the AREA agent who handled Plaintiffs' account; Pillar to Post ("Pillar"), the building inspection service hired by Plaintiffs to inspect the Kanes' condominium unit prior to Plaintiffs' purchase; Bob Galster ("Galster"), the Pillar employee who performed the inspection on the Kanes' property; Cornell Harbor Condominium Association ("Cornell Harbor"), the condominium association with which the Kanes' property was affiliated; Lois Stave ("Stave"), the President of Cornell Harbor; Joe Carnuccio ("Carnuccio"), the Vice President of Cornell Harbor; McCorristin-Desmond ("McCorristin-Desmond"), the property managing company responsible for maintenance of the common areas at Cornell Harbor; and Jack Desmond ("Desmond"), owner of McCorristin-Desmond (collectively "Defendants").

Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges several claims against all or some of the above Defendants. Among the claims alleged are breach of contract/warranties; promissory estoppel; misrepresentation; negligence; unfair trade practices; and breach of fiduciary duty. Presently before the Court are five separate motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). Also before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Transfer this case to the District Court for the District of New Jersey. For the reasons that follow, we will dismiss the claims against the Kanes, Cornell Harbor, Stave, Carnuccio, McCorristin-Desmond, and Desmond for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Further, we will transfer Plaintiffs' claims against Power Play, Gallagher, AREA, Soens, Pillar, and Galster to the District of New Jersey.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are relatively simple. In December 1999, Plaintiffs entered into an agreement of sale for a condominium unit located in Avalon, New Jersey. The unit was part of a larger condominium complex governed by Cornell Harbor. The individual unit at issue was owned by Robert and Dorothy Kane. The closing on the sale of the property occurred in January 2000.

Plaintiffs' purported causes of action all arise from various Defendants' alleged material omissions, misrepresentations, and non-disclosure about the condition of the property and surrounding areas. Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that there were undisclosed defects in the condominium's windows, needed repairs to the condominium complex's bulkhead and docks, and several property code violations. As a result of these conditions, Plaintiffs alleged they incurred certain costs which they seek to recover in this action, along with punitive and treble damages.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

In considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept as true all facts alleged in a complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). A motion to dismiss may only be granted where the allegations fail to state any claim upon which relief can be granted. See id. Notwithstanding these standards, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions." See In re Burlington Coat Factory Secs. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotations omitted).

II. Subject-matter Jurisdiction

Federal courts have diversity jurisdiction over actions where "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States . . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). This jurisdictional amount is generally determined by the good faith allegations made by a plaintiff in his or her complaint. See In re Life USA Holding, Inc., 242 F.3d 136, 143 (3d Cir. 2001). The plaintiff bears the continuing burden to show that jurisdiction is proper, and courts rigorously enforce this requirement. See Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1044-45 (3d Cir. 1993). Here, there is no question that Plaintiffs and the various Defendants are diverse: Plaintiffs hail from Pennsylvania, the Kanes from North Carolina, and all other Defendants from New Jersey. At issue is whether Plaintiffs have satisfactorily established that the amount in controversy in this case exceeds $75,000.

All parties agree that Plaintiffs have alleged actual damages of $35,803.35. While that amount is well short of the $75,000 threshold required under § 1332(a), Plaintiffs have also made claims under Pennsylvania and New Jersey consumer protection acts, which can potentially provide treble damages. In addition, Plaintiffs ask for common law punitive damages. Plaintiffs argue that by virtue of these potential other damages, they have satisfied the amount in controversy requirement for subject-matter jurisdiction.

The long-held standard for determining whether a plaintiff has satisfied the amount in controversy requirement was set out in St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab. Co., 303 U.S. 283, 58 S.Ct. 586, 82 L.Ed.2d 845 (1938), as follows:

The rule governing dismissal for want of jurisdiction in cases brought in the federal court is that, unless the law gives a different rule, the sum claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim is apparently made in good faith. It must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal.

Id. at 288-89. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has further stated that "dismissal is appropriate only if the federal court is certain that the jurisdictional amount cannot be met." Suber v. Chrysler Corp., 104 F.3d 578, 583 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. v. Tarbuck, 62 F.3d 538, 541 (3d Cir. 1995)). In cases where punitive or treble damages are recoverable, these types of damages are properly considered in determining whether the jurisdictional amount is satisfied. See Suber, 104 F.3d at 586-87 (noting that, when calculating amount in controversy, court should include treble damages); Packard, 994 F.2d at 1046 (same, punitive damages). In addition, in cases where a plaintiff has alleged "independent, several liability against more than one defendant, plaintiff's claims against each defendant must individually satisfy the amount in controversy requirement." C.D. Peacock v. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., No. CIV.A. 97-5713, 1998 WL 111738, at n. 2 (E.D.Pa. Mar. 9, 1998). In view of these principles, we must determine whether it is a legal certainty that Plaintiffs' claims for actual, treble and/or punitive damages in combination fall short of satisfying the amount in controversy requirement for each Defendant.

A. Punitive Damages

Defendants argue that punitive damages are not available to Plaintiff in this action. We agree.

When considering punitive damages claims, Pennsylvania courts follow section 908(2) of the Restatement (Second) of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.