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John T. Hardisty v. Harold Maxine Moore

December 29, 2011

JOHN T. HARDISTY
PLAINTIFF,
v.
HAROLD MAXINE MOORE, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. BattagliaU.S. District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [Doc. 10]

Presently before the Court is a motion to dismiss the second and fifth causes of action of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), filed by two of the Defendants-Elaine Moore and Mark Peluso. (Doc. 10.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the motion.

I.

BACKGROUND

This action arises from Defendant Hal Moore's investment in a limited liability company known as Legacy Pointe, LLC. The "sole purpose" of the company was "to acquire, develop, construct, own, operate and sell an apartment project" located in Knoxville, Tennessee. (FAC, Exh. 3.) Hal Moore initially invested $1.5 million as a capital contribution in the company to obtain 50 percent interest in Legacy Pointe. He also invested millions more in the form of loans and additional capital contributions. (FAC ¶¶ 46, 54, 63, 60, Exh. 3.)

Plaintiff John Hardisty was a member and the Chief Manager of Legacy Pointe, as well as a member of Munson-Hardisty, LLC ("M-H"), the general contractor and builder of the Project. As such, he sought Hal Moore as an investor. (FAC ¶¶ 29, 43-54.) In exchange for waiving his builder's profit on the Project, Plaintiff was to receive "sweat equity" in the company. In particular, he initially received a 27 percent membership interest as the developer, and M-H received a 10 percent membership interest as the builder, 50 percent of which belonged to Plaintiff. (FAC ¶¶ 28-30.)

Plaintiff alleges that Hal Moore, through fraud and coercion, divested him of his sweat equity in the Project and acquired almost all of the ownership interest in Legacy Pointe. He further alleges that Hal Moore and Melanie Moore tricked him into signing numerous documents, without reading them, which enabled Defendants to perpetrate their intended fraud. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants engaged in their fraudulent conduct as part of a single scheme to deprive him of his equity interest in Legacy Pointe and the Project. In doing so, Hal Moore allegedly breached his fiduciary duty to Plaintiff, and Melanie Moore and Mark Peluso allegedly aided and abetted in the violation.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on July 19, 2011, and shortly thereafter filed the FAC on August 1, 2011. (Doc. 3.) Defendants Elaine Moore and Mark Peluso filed the instant motion to dismiss on October 13, 2011. The Court held a hearing on the motion on December 23, 2011.

II.

STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the pleadings, and allows a court to dismiss a complaint upon a finding that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The court may dismiss a complaint as a matter of law for: (1) "lack of cognizable legal theory," or (2) "insufficient facts under a cognizable legal claim." SmileCare Dental Grp. v. Delta Dental Plan of Cal., 88 F.3d 780, 783 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). However, a complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it contains "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

Notwithstanding this deference, the reviewing court need not accept "legal conclusions" as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- U.S. -- , 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949--50, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). It is also improper for the court to assume "the [plaintiff] can prove facts that [he or she] has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). On the other hand, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1929. The court only reviews the contents of the complaint, accepting all factual allegations as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 956 (9th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

III.

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