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Vigilante v. Statharos

February 16, 2009

THEODORE J. VIGILANTE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEVEN STATHAROS AND PATRICK BRONTE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pollak, J.

OPINION

Plaintiff Theodore Vigilante filed two motions concerning defendant Statharos's Answer (Docket No. 8) to the Amended Complaint. In the first (Docket No. 14), filed on August 19, 2008, Vigilante asks the court to strike insufficient defenses pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P 12(f). The second (Docket No. 17), filed on August 26, is a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and is directed at Statharos' two counterclaims. Both motions are ripe for disposition.

I. Background

As the parties are quite familiar with the controversy, I will describe only the basic facts. Vigilante is an attorney who practices in southeast Pennsylvania. Pl.'s Mem. in Support of Motion to Strike at 1. He complains that he authorized defendant Statharos to obtain, on his behalf, email and internet website addresses useful to promoting the practice. Id. Instead of doing as directed, Statharos allegedly obtained and misused the addresses to benefit a competitor attorney. Id. at 2. Vigilante brought tort and trademark claims against Statharos and another defendant.

Statharos alleges that he and Vigilante forged a plan to create a law partnership. Def.'s Answer ¶ 101. He contends that Vigilante promised they would enter partnership if Statharos both passed the Pennsylvania bar exam and created a marketing plan for their practice. Id. ¶¶ 101, 103. Statharos states that he obtained the addresses at issue as an "independent contractor" and that he owns them outright. Id. ¶¶ 14, 24, 104. Statharos avers that Vigilante disavowed his promise once Statharos had expended considerable time, effort, and money on meeting the conditions. Id. ¶¶ 105-08, 118. In his Answer, he brought two counterclaims against Vigilante for promissory estoppel and fraud.

II. Analysis

A. Plaintiff's Motion to Strike

Plaintiff filed a motion (Docket No. 14) requesting that this court strike insufficient defenses that he claims defendant Statharos raised in his Answer. Vigilante states that the Answer "asserts defenses implicating a (1) lack of personal jurisdiction; (2) insufficient process, and (3) insufficient service of process in a portion of the pleading entitled New Matter." Pl.'s Mem. in Support of Motion to Strike at 5. He further argues that said "implicated defenses" fail to meet the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h). Id. at 5-6. He asks the court to strike these purported defenses.

Statharos responds (Docket No. 16) that he never raised defenses of personal jurisdiction, improper process, or insufficient service of process. Def.'s Response at 1. He points to express language in his Answer stating as much. Id. He opines that the plaintiff seeks an order from this court that will strike Statharos's factual assertions, an outcome that would affect other determinations in this litigation. Id. at 1-2.

I have reviewed the defendant's Answer, filed with this court on August 11, 2008. It does not contain any formal pleading of these defenses. Nor does the docket for this lawsuit contain a motion from Statharos pleading these defenses under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b). Accordingly, I find nothing to strike as insufficient. I do find that Statharos, in his answer, pleads facts concerning the unfolding of this suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas prior to its removal to federal court. Given that none of this matter is "redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous," I further decline to strike it under Rule 12(f) as otherwise objectionable.

B. Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims

Vigilante submitted a separate motion (Docket No. 17) seeking to dismiss defendant Statharos's two counterclaims, for promissory estoppel and fraud, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the district court is required to accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The motion should be granted if it appears certain that the plaintiff could obtain no relief under any provable set of facts. Id. Likewise, if the claims appear merely speculative even after such review, dismissal is appropriate. Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. __, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)).

1. Promissory Estoppel Claim

Vigilante contends that Statharos's counterclaim for damages under promissory estoppel must fail because he failed to plead a "certain and explicit promise." Pl.'s Mem. at 5-6. He also propounds three arguments regarding damages under this claim: first, that Statharos is not entitled to punitive damages; second, that Statharos is not entitled to damages under a theory that Vigilante was unjustly enriched; and third, that Statharos cannot show ...


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