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Sabatini v. Its Amore Corp.

May 28, 2010

GINO M. SABATINI AND CATHERINE M. SABATINI, HIS WIFE, PLAINTIFFS
v.
ITS AMORE CORP. AND T&M DRAM CORP., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Blewitt

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. Background

On October 15, 2009, following a jury trial in the above case, a verdict entirely in favor of Defendants was returned after a very short period of deliberation.*fn1 On October 16, 2009, the Court entered a Judgment in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiffs (Doc. 140), which provided:

AND NOW, this 16thday of October, 2009, pursuant to the October 15, 2009 Verdict of the jury and the Special Verdict Interrogatories, attached hereto, following a trial in the above case, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED THAT Judgment is entered in favor of Defendants Its Amore Corp. and T&M Dram Corp., and against Plaintiffs Gino M. Sabatini and Catherine M. Sabatini, with respect to the Complaint of Plaintiffs, Gino M. Sabatini and Catherine M. Sabatini, and their claim against Defendants Its Amore Corp. and T&M Dram Corp.

IT IS ALSO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED THAT Judgment is entered in favor of Plaintiffs Alexander Tarapchak III and Its Amore Corp., and against Defendants Gino M. Sabatini and Catherine M. Sabatini, with respect to the Complaint of Plaintiffs Alexander Tarapchak III and Its Amore Corp.*fn2 and their claims against Defendants Gino M. Sabatini and Catherine M. Sabatini.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Gino M. Sabatini and Catherine M. Sabatini are directed, within thirty (30) days of the date of this Judgment, to sell the subject parking lot to Alexander Tarapchak III for the amount of $100,000.00.

On October 26, 2009, Plaintiffs timely filed a post-trial Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or, in the alternative, for a New Trial. (Doc. 141).*fn3

On October 28, 2009, Plaintiffs filed, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(b), a Motion for Stay of Proceedings to Enforce the October 16, 2009 Judgment Pending Disposition of their Post-Trial Motions. (Doc. 142). Plaintiffs filed their support Brief on November 4, 2009, and Defendants filed their opposition Brief on November 11, 2009. (Docs. 144 and 145). Plaintiffs filed their Reply Brief on November 16, 2009. (Doc. 146).

On November 19, 2009, the Court issued an Order and directed that: "Plaintiffs' Motion for Stay of Proceedings to Enforce the October 16, 2009 Judgment Pending Disposition of their Post-Trial Motions (Doc. 142) is GRANTED. Defendants' request that Plaintiffs be required to post a $3 million bond during the pendency of the stay is DENIED."

(Doc. 148).

The Stay has remained in effect to date. On December 1, 2009, after being granted an extension of time, Plaintiffs filed their Brief in Support of their Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or, in the alternative, for a New Trial. (Doc. 152). Defendants filed their Opposition Brief on December 16, 2009. (Doc. 153). On January 13, 2010, the Court heard oral argument on Plaintiffs' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or, in the alternative, for a New Trial. (Doc. 155).

Plaintiffs' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or, in the alternative, for a New Trial, is now ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

Plaintiffssuccinctly state the relevant factual history of this case in their Brief, and the Court accepts it, and quotes their Brief as follows:

On March 15, 1996, Plaintiff , Gino Sabatini ("Sabatini"), together with his brothers Carlo, Lindo and Nicholas, purchased a parcel of property on Routes 6 and 11 in South Abington Township from Anthony J. and Barbara Rinaldi. On that date, Sabatini and his brothers also entered into a Lease Agreement with Rinaldi for a parcel of property adjacent to the property they had purchased from Rinaldi. The Lease Agreement with Rinaldi was a sublease in that the property was owned by the Pennsylvania Power & Light Company [PP&L] and leased to Rinaldi.

Sabatini subsequently constructed a restaurant on the property they purchased from Rinaldi. Sabatini opened the restaurant on January 1997. In October of 1997, Sabatini and his brothers cancelled the sublease with Rinaldi for the parking lot and entered into a new lease directly with PP&L for the parking lot. The property originally subleased from Rinaldi and subsequently leased directly from PP&L was used as a parking lot for the restaurant. Sabatini closed the restaurant in January 2004.

In April of 2004, Sabatini entered into an agreement with Plaintiff, Alex Tarapchak ("Tarapchak"), and Defendant, Its Amore, Corp. ("Amore") for the sale of their restaurant. The agreement did not cover the parking lot property. On May 6, 2004, Sabatini and Tarapchak entered into an Addendum to the Agreement of Sale which provided in part as follows:

This Agreement of Sale executed between the parties on the __ day of April 2004 hereby amended as follows:

1. The Sale is contingent upon the assignment of sub-lease of the PP&L Lease Agreement in effect as of the date hereof, or of the sale or right to use the real property which is the subject of the PP&L Lease Agreement referenced herein.

If Seller purchases PP&L property, and subsequently sells PP&L property to Buyer, sale price to Buyer will be identical to Sellers purchase price. (emphasis applied).

On June 16, 2004, Sabatini conveyed the restaurant to Amore. Eight months later, on February 17, 2005, Sabatini entered into a lease with Amore [FN1] for the parking lot. The parking lot lease was for a period of four years and granted Amore, in paragraph 16 thereof, an option to purchase the parking lot subject to conditions. Paragraph 16 states, in pertinent part, as follows:

Upon the expiration of the term of this Lease Agreement or upon full satisfaction, principal, and any and all accrued interest, of the Second Mortgage and Security Agreement in favor of Lessor dated June 18, 2004 plus the payment of all amounts due under this Lease Agreement, and in the event that there exists no event of default on the part of the Lessees and in the event that the Lease has not been previously terminated for cause, Lessee shall have the Option to Purchase the Leased Premises. (emphasis added).

FN1 T&M Dram Corp. was an operating company for Amore's restaurant. The reference in this brief to Amore includes T&M Dram Corp. where applicable.

The parking lot lease provided, inter alia, that Amore was required to maintain the topography of the parking lot and to maintain the parking lot in its existing condition. [Plaintiffs alleged that] Amore breached these provisions of the lease by removing landscaped islands in the parking lot, by filling in the detention basin on the southerly side of the parking lot and by removing crown vetch from the front embankment of the parking lot. [Plaintiffs alleged that] Amore's breaches constituted a default under the terms of the parking lot lease. Sabatini gave Amore notice of the default as required by the lease. [Plaintiffs alleged that] Amore failed to cure the defaults within the time provided by the lease. Sabatini then terminated the lease and instituted an ejectment lawsuit against Amore in the United States District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Tarapchak claimed a right to purchase the parking lot under the Addendum set forth above. Amore claimed a similar right under paragraph 16 of the parking lot lease. Amore and Tarapchak attempted to exercise their alleged rights to purchase the parking lot. When Sabatini refused their requests, Amore and Tarapchak instituted a suit for specific performance in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County. In that suit, they asked the Court to enter an order requiring Sabatini to sell the parking lot. Sabatini removed the specific performance suit filed by Tarapchak & Amore to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

After the completion of discovery and the resolution of pretrial motions, the two cases were consolidated for trial before Magistrate Judge Thomas Blewitt. At the conclusion of the trial, the Court submitted special interrogatories to the jury. (Doc. 124). Based on the jury's answers, the Court entered judgment for Amore on Sabatini's ejectment claim and for Amore & Tarapchak on their claim for specific performance to purchase the parking lot. [Doc. 140.] (Doc. 152, pp. 5-8).

As stated, Plaintiffs have filed a post-trial Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law under Rule 50 and for a New Trial under Rule 59. (Doc. 141). Plaintiffs sought and were granted a stay of the enforcement of the Court's October 16, 2009 Judgment under Rule 62(b) until the Court decides their post-trial motion. (Doc. 148).

The standard applicable to a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law under Rule 50 was annunciated in the case of Jeckwell v. Crestwood Area School Dist., 2008 WL 4372797, *1-*2 (M.D. Pa.), as follows:

Rule 50 provides that after a party has been heard on an issue at a jury trial the court may order judgment as a matter of law if it finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue. Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a).

Rule 50(b) involves renewing the motion after trial.

If the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law made under Rule 50(a), the court is considered to have submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's later deciding the legal questions raised by the motion. No later than 10 days after the entry of judgment ... the movant may file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and may include an alternative or joint request for a new trial under Rule 59." Upon such a motion, the court may: 1) allow judgment on the verdict; 2) order a new trial; or 3) direct judgment as a matter of law.

Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 50(b).

The Jeckwell Court also stated:

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has set forth the standard of review we must follow in a motion for judgment as a matter of law as follows:

"The legal foundation for the factfinder's verdict is reviewed de novo while factual findings are reviewed to determine whether the evidence and justifiable inferences most favorable to the prevailing party afford any rational basis for the verdict." Intermilo, Inc. v. I.P. Enterprises, Inc., 19 F.3d 890, 892 (3d Cir.1994) (internal quotations marks omitted).

Rule 50 provides that after a party has been heard on an issue at a jury trial the court may order judgment as a matter of law if it finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to ...


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