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Kernaghan v. American Tower Corp.

September 8, 2010

W. JAMES KERNAGHAN, II : & ON TARGET ACQUISITION, LLC PLAINTIFFS,
v.
AMERICAN TOWER CORP., & METROPCS COMMUNICATIONS, INC. DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Metro PCS Communications, Inc. For the following reasons, the motion will be GRANTED.

I. INTRODUCTION

On September 25, 2009, Plaintiffs W. James Kernaghan, II, and On Target Acquisition, LLC ("On Target") initiated this lawsuit by filing a Complaint against Defendants American Tower Corp. ("American Tower") and MetroPCS. On October 16, 2009, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint amending the name of Defendant MetroPCS to MetroPCS Communications, Inc. t/a/d/b/a MetroPCS Wireless, Inc. t/a MetroPCS ("MetroPCS"). Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges breach of contract against American Tower and tortious interference with contract against MetroPCS. American Tower and MetroPCS filed Answers to the Complaint on December 9, 2009, and December 16, 2009, respectively.

This matter initially was assigned to District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez. On January 11, 2010, the parties consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, and the matter was referred to me. (Doc. Nos. 16 & 17). Thereafter, on April 30, 2010, MetroPCS filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 22).

Defendant MetroPCS moves for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiffs' claim for tortious interference is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. See Def.'s Br. in Sup. at 1-8. Plaintiffs filed their Answer to Defendant's Motion, (Doc. No. 24), and Defendants filed a Reply Brief. (Doc. No. 25). Fact discovery closed on July 2, 2010. (Doc. No. 21). Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for disposition.

II. BACKGROUND

Mr. Kernaghan is the owner and President of On Target, which is in the business of scouting, securing and maintaining locations for wireless and broadcast communication sites. Comp. ¶ 3. In addition to providing these site acquisition services through On Target, Mr. Kernaghan manages several properties suitable for wireless communication sites in the Tri-State area. Comp. ¶ 13. American Tower owns and operates wireless communication sites throughout the United States. Comp. ¶ 4. Metro PCS provides wireless broadband communication services. Comp. ¶ 5.

Beginning in 2007, MetroPCS sought to expand its network in the Philadelphia area ("MetroPCS Expansion Project" or "Project"). Comp. ¶ 5; Def.'s Br. in Sup. at 2. The MetroPCS Expansion Project would necessitate site acquisition and site management services, among other things. Comp. at Exs. A & B. MetroPCS hired American Tower as the general contractor for the Project. Comp. ¶ 8; Def.'s Br. in Sup. at 2.

In May 2007, Mr. Kernaghan contacted MetroPCS to pitch On Target's services for the Project. Comp. ¶ 8-10. MetroPCS informed Mr. Kernaghan that Phase I of the Project had already been released. Comp. ¶ 11. Mr. Kernaghan continued to pursue a portion of work on the Project through his contacts at American Tower. Comp. ¶ 14. In August of 2007, American Tower agreed to use On Target as an independent contractor for site acquisition services on the MetroPCS Expansion Project. Comp. ¶ 14. American Tower and On Target then executed a professional services agreement ("Agreement"). Comp. ¶ 14 & Ex. C; Def.'s Br. in Sup. at 3.

This Agreement is a master agreement whereby On Target agreed to provide services as an independent contractor as may be requested by American Tower via purchase order. Comp. at Ex. C. The Agreement provides for a term of two years, unless terminated by mutual agreement or in accordance with Section Two of the Agreement. Comp. ¶ 17-18 & Ex. C. Section Two allows American Tower to terminate for a default in performance or for convenience. Comp. at Ex. C. Termination for convenience simply requires American Tower to deliver written notice to On Target at least ten business days in advance of the desired termination date. Comp. ¶ 18 & Ex. C. MetroPCS is not a party to the Agreement, and neither MetroPCS nor the MetroPCS Expansion Project are named in the Agreement. Comp. at Ex. C.

American Tower apparently issued purchase orders pertaining to the MetroPCS Expansion Project, and beginning in August 2007, On Target began work on thirty-four sites relative to the MetroPCS Expansion Project. Comp. ¶ 20. Shortly thereafter, in September 2007, American Tower discontinued using On Target for the Project. Comp. ¶ 25.

On September 11, 2007, Deborah Baker, Project Manager for American Tower, emailed Mr. Kernaghan regarding discontinuation of On Target's work. Def.'s Br. in Sup. at Ex. B. Ms. Baker's email informed Mr. Kernaghan that On Target had been released from the MetroPCS Expansion Project "due to Metro's concerns," but the nature of those concerns was not stated. Def.'s Br. in Sup. at Ex. B. Plaintiffs claim that Mr. Kernaghan "believed MetroPCS had demanded his termination for a personal reason, that is, the receipt of an anonymous letter concerning his relationship with an Amy Mahoney." Plf.'s Br. in Opp. at 5.

On October 3, 2007, Mr. Kernaghan and Tom Christopher, Director of Project Management for MetroPCS, exchanged emails concerning the reason MetroPCS had asked that On Target be removed from the MetroPCS Expansion Project. Comp. ΒΆ 27-28 & Exs. D & E. Mr. Kernaghan inquired why MetroPCS "felt that [On Target] was going to possibly run around and lease up sites where [MetroPCS] might want to install . . . ." Comp. at Ex. D. Mr. Kernaghan also inquired about Ms. Mahoney's involvement in the matter. Comp. at Ex. D. In response, Mr. Christopher acknowledged that MetroPCS did have concerns about conflicts arising from Mr. Kernaghan's efforts in building his own management portfolio, and he explained that he "did not want to be in a position to always wonder if we were pushed to a LL that you had an agreement with v. ...


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