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Paradise Northwest Inc v. Satvinder Palsingh Randhawa

January 18, 2012

PARADISE NORTHWEST INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SATVINDER PALSINGH RANDHAWA, LORNA MARIE RANDHAWA DBA GREAT EASTERN EXPORT & TRADING COMPANY, DEFENDANTS AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS, AIR DIFFUSION SYSTEMS, A JOHN HINDE COMPANY, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Through this action, Paradise Northwest Inc. ("Plaintiff") seeks redress from Satvinder Palsingh Randhawa and Lorna Marie Randhawa doing business as Great Eastern Export & Trading Company ("Defendants") for Defendants' alleged fraud and breach of contract in connection with Plaintiff's provision of engineering goods and services to Defendants.

Jurisdiction is premised on diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Defendant Lorna Randhawa ("Lorna"), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, on grounds that Lorna is entitled to judgment in her favor as a matter of law as to all claims asserted against her by Plaintiff. For the reasons set below, Lorna's motion will be denied.*fn1

BACKGROUND*fn2

The instant dispute arises out of a project to re-oxygenate Lake Nainital, a body of water located in Utterakhand, India. According to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), Defendants formed an oral contract with Plaintiff, pursuant to which Plaintiff agreed to provide certain ozone equipment hydrology-related engineering services in connection with the project. Defendants did make a down payment for equipment and two other payments that totaled $30,843.00, and represented that the Indian Government would ultimately be paying for Plaintiff's services and that Defendants would forward monies so received to Plaintiff to cover the balance of its invoices. After Plaintiff rendered services pursuant to the oral contract, Defendants were in fact paid directly by the Indian Government.

Plaintiff alleges, however, that Defendants failed to release any of those funds to Plaintiff despite their agreement to do so. As a result, Plaintiff has not been paid for the balance of its final invoice in the amount of $85,296.74. Plaintiff contends that Defendants never intended to compensate Plaintiff for the engineering services as promised, and have victimized others with similar acts of fraud.

Defendants Satvinder and Lorna Randhawa are a husband and wife doing business under the fictitious business name "Great Eastern Export and Trading Company." See Decl. Of Herman Franck, Exh. A and attachment thereto. Lorna filed the requisite fictitious business statement application for the business on July 5, 2006, indicating that the business was conducted by both herself and her husband. Id. Lorna's declaration indicates that she established a checking account for the business. She goes on to state that later both opened and used a credit card also in Great Eastern's name. Id.

Lorna now moves for summary judgment as to the three remaining claims made by Plaintiff in this action. Her arguments in attacking the viability of those claims are essentially identical. In short, Lorna claims that she cannot be liable for either breach of contract, fraud or a common count for services rendered because any contracts, promises and/or breaches at issue had nothing to do with her and involved only, at most, her husband.

In opposition, Plaintiff claims that the evidence shows that Lorna both owned the business and was a "central participant in the defendants' scheme to commit fraud and breach their contract with plaintiff." Defs.' Moving Papers, 6:23-24. According to Plaintiff, Lorna generated several purchase orders involving the reoxygenation project and either signed or initialed those purchase orders. She also signed certain checks to Plaintiffs. See Decl. Of Dennis Williams, ¶¶ 14-17, Exs. H-I, D-E.*fn3 In addition, Mr. Williams, who is Plaintiff's President, states he received a series of emails detailing Lorna's involvement in the business, which included the initiation of money wire transactions and various conversations concerning the reoxygenation project. Id. at ¶ 18, Ex. K.

STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-324 (1986).

As the Supreme Court has noted, A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if ...


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