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JETT v. BEECH INTERPLEX

July 15, 2004.

RAYMOND A. JETT, JR., personally & individually and doing business as Escapade Investigations, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
BEECH INTERPLEX, INC., et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT KELLY, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Presently pending before this Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment of Plaintiff Raymond A. Jett, Jr. ("Jett") and Defendants Beech Interplex, Inc. ("Beech Interplex"), Floyd Alston, Craig Alston, Beech Capital Venture Corporation ("Beech Capital")*fn1 and Larry Griffin ("Griffin") (collectively the "Defendants"). For the following reasons, Jett's pro se Motion will be denied and the Defendants' Motion will be granted.*fn2

I. BACKGROUND

  This case arose from a landlord/tenant dispute between Jett and Beech Interplex. In September 2000, Jett entered into a leasing agreement with Beech Interplex through which Jett rented office space from Beech Interplex for his business.*fn3 After a short time into the lease's term, a dispute arose between the parties that resulted in Jett and his business vacating the premises and terminating rent payments. Subsequently, a controversy arose between the parties concerning the ownership and entitlement to the property that Jett left behind when he and his business vacated the rented office space.

  In October 2001, Jett, individually and doing business as Escapade Investigations, Inc., sued Beech Interplex and Floyd Alston*fn4 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. ("Jett I").*fn5 In Jett I, Jett's claims against Beech Interplex and Floyd Alston were as follows: (1) unjust enrichment; (2) loss of business; (3) loss of security; and (4) breach of contract.*fn6 As the state proceedings progressed, the disputed property in Jett's former office space became a critical issue. Eventually, the parties agreed in open court that Jett would secure a rental facility to store the property at issue pending disposition of the Jett I case. Subsequently, on November 7, 2002, Jett loaded the disputed property into a truck and it was expected that he would store the property at a rental facility as per the agreement approved by the State Court. Nevertheless, rather than place the disputed property in the rental facility as mandated by the parties' agreement, Jett took the truckload of disputed property to his home in North Carolina.

  As a result of these events, the State Court entered a Rule on Jett to show cause why the Jett I action should not be dismissed with prejudice because of Jett's actions concerning the disputed property that amounted to contempt of court. After a hearing on the matter, on January 30, 2003, the State Court dismissed Jett I "with prejudice" and entered judgment for Beech Interplex and Floyd Alston on all claims. Subsequently, Jett filed a pro se action in this Court ("Jett II")*fn7 raising almost identical legal claims as in Jett I and based on the same landlord/tenant dispute as in Jett I.

  The instant action raises the same claims as Jett brought in Jett I.*fn8 The only differences from the Jett I suit and this action are that Jett adds certain additional parties and adds one additional claim. Specifically, Jett includes Craig Alston, Beech Capital, and Larry Griffin as additional defendants in the Complaint filed in this Court.*fn9 Further, Jett adds one additional Count in Jett II alleging conspiracy/burglary/theft. On May 26, 2004, the Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. On June 14, 2004, Jett filed his Response and filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.

  II. STANDARD

  Pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper "if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). Essentially, the inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). An issue is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. A factual dispute is material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Id. at 248.

  To defeat summary judgment, the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings, but rather that party must go beyond the pleadings and present "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e). Similarly, the non-moving party cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325 (1986)). Further, the non-moving party has the burden of producing evidence to establish prima facie each element of its claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. If the court, in viewing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact, then summary judgment is proper. Id. at 322; Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 83 (3d Cir. 1987).

  III. DISCUSSION

  In their Motion, the Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment based on the res judicata doctrine. Specifically, the Defendants claim that Jett is precluded from going forward with the instant lawsuit because of the State Court's dismissal of the nearly identical Jett I action. This Court agrees with the Defendants' res judicata argument and finds that the Jett II action fails as a matter of law based on this well established doctrine.

  A. Res Judicata Standard

  According to the doctrine of res judicata under Pennsylvania law, "a final judgment on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction will bar any future suit between the parties or their privies in connection with the same cause of action."*fn10 Radakovich v. Radakovich, 846 A.2d 709, 714 (Pa. Super. 2004). The purposes underlying the doctrine are to conserve judicial resources, establish certainty and respect for court judgments, and to protect the party that relies on prior adjudication from vexatious litigation. Id. The application of res judicata requires the concurrence of four elements: "(1) identity of the thing sued upon; (2) identity of the cause of action; (3) identity of the parties; (4) identity of the capacity of the parties." Taylor v. Shiley, Inc., 714 A.2d 1064, 1066 (Pa. Super. 1998). Importantly, "res judicata will `not be defeated by minor differences of form, parties or allegations' where the `controlling issues have been resolved in a prior proceeding in which the present parties had an opportunity to appear and assert their rights.'" Massullo, M.D. et al. v. Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin, P.C., No. 98-116, 1999 WL 313830, at *5 (E.D. ...


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