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Ramon Eugenio Sanchez Ritchie v. Sempra Energy

December 1, 2010

RAMON EUGENIO SANCHEZ RITCHIE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SEMPRA ENERGY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. SammartinoUnited States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

(Doc. No. 4.)

Presently before the Court is Defendant Sempra Energy's (Defendant or Sempra) motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No. 4 (Mot. to Dismiss).) Also before the Court is Plaintiff Ramon Eugenio Sanchez Ritchie's response in opposition (Doc. No. 8 (Opp'n)) and Defendant's reply in support. (Doc. No. 9 (Reply).) For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this suit based on events occurring in Mexico. What follows is a story spanning nearly 40 years.

1. Acquiring the Property

In 1972, Plaintiff acquired approximately 672 acres of property (the Property) in Ensenada, Mexico. (Doc. No. 1 (Complaint) ¶ 17.) Twenty years later, "a purported sale of the Property was made to Elodia Gomez Castanon (Castanon) and Armando Navarro Pena (Pena) despite the seller not having legal title or possession of the Property." (Id. ¶ 18.) Castanon and Pena were "unable to obtain a certificate of possession" from their purchase. (Id.)

In 2001, Sempra and associated subsidiaries-Sempra LNG, Sempra Energy Mexico, and Energia Costa Azul (ECA)-announced their plan to build a power plant (the LNG Plant) near Ensenada, Mexico. (Id. ¶ 19.) As part of this plan, Sempra had to acquire land around the LNG Plant in order to create a setback cushion to protect the surrounding community. (Id.) Plaintiff's property fell within this setback cushion. (Id. ¶ 21.)

That same year, Sempra retained Francisco Molina Robles (Robles) to negotiate the purchase of the land around the LNG Plant. (Id. ¶ 20.) Robles met with Plaintiff in July of that year to negotiate purchase of the Property. (Id. ¶ 21.)

Four years later, Mexico's state-owned electrical utility, Comision Federal de Electricidad, awarded Sempra and its subsidiaries a 15-year natural gas supply contract. (Id. ¶ 22.) At this time, Sempra had acquired all of the properties necessary to begin building the LNG Plant, save for Plaintiff's. (Id.) In spite of this, Sempra began constructing the plant. (Id.)

Hoping to avoid delays, Sempra and its subsidiaries allegedly devised a plan to acquire possession of Plaintiff's property. (Id. ¶ 23.) In 2005, Darcel Lloyd Hulse-a Sempra representative-entered into a purchase agreement for the Property with Pena, Gabriela Natera Ramirez, and Dinorah Villafan Gutierrez (Gutierrez). (Id. at 24.) Sempra allegedly knew that the aforementioned parties did not actually own the Property. (Id.) Moreover, Gutierrez-who had power of attorney to act for Castanon-could not properly exercise his power of attorney because it had expired when Castanon deceased in 2004. (Id.)

Despite these alleged fatal mistakes, on January 31, 2006, the parties executed a purchase agreement reflecting Sempra's purchase of the Property. (Id. at 25.) And the purchase agreement was filed with the relevant Mexican officials. (Id.)

2. Forcible Removal

Following purchase of the Property, Sempra-through ECA attorneys-met with Lieutenant Governor Bernardo Martinez Aguirre and filed a criminal complaint with the Attorney General of Baja California, Mexico, to have Plaintiff forcibly removed from the Property. (Id. ΒΆ 27.) During this transaction, Sempra provided the "sham purchase agreement" and "fraudulently concealed" that Castanon was deceased when the purchase agreement was executed. ...


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