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Robalo LLC, A Delaware Limited Liability Company v. Taigh Ramey

January 25, 2012

ROBALO LLC, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TAIGH RAMEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND DOING BUSINESS AS VINTAGE AIRCRAFT,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Defendant moves for dismissal of five of Plaintiff's claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6), arguing Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing "the Complaint states facts that support each of [Plaintiff's] claims against [Defendant]." (Pl.'s Opp'n 1:18-19.)

I. LEGAL STANDARD

"In reviewing the dismissal of a complaint, we inquire whether the complaint's factual allegations, together with all reasonable inferences, state a plausible claim for relief." Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009)). The material allegations of the complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 956 (9th Cir. 2009). However, this tenet "is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. Further, "[a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). "In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the nonconclusory 'factual content,' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal citation omitted).

II. DISCUSSION

Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's negligence, misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims. These claims stem from Plaintiff's allegations that Defendant's misrepresentations in a Pre-Purchase Inspection involving the condition of a World War II-era plane induced Plaintiff to purchase the plane and contract with Defendant to make the necessary repairs. Further, Plaintiff alleges Defendant breached this contract by exceeding the agreed-upon budget for the repairs and by dismantling the plane such that it is in an unflyable state.

A. Negligence

Defendant argues Plaintiff's negligence claim should be dismissed since "[t]here simply is no common law duty which exists which could be breached as between Ramey and Robalo as alleged by Robalo." (Def.'s Mot. 4:10-11.) Specifically, Defendant argues "unless there was a contract in existence of some sort, Ramey had no duty to 'advise' Robalo about anything; to repair anything in a 'professional and reasonable manner'-whatever that means; to provide 'reliable budgets' or, for that matter to do anything." Id. 4:7-9.

Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing "[a]s a professional, he is held to a heightened standard of care. Ramey owed that duty of care to Robalo when he advised it about the condition of the Beech AT-11 and undertook the repairs, irrespective of the contractual relations between them. Ramey's breach of that duty gave rise to Robalo's negligence claim." (Pl.'s Opp'n 3:21-24.)

"To state a . . . professional negligence [claim] under California law, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant failed to use the skill and care that a reasonably careful professional operating in the field would have used in similar circumstances, and that the defendant's failure proximately causes damage to the plaintiff." Mosier v. Stonefield Josephson, Inc., 2011 WL 5075551, at *6 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2011); see also Gonzalez v. United States, 2011 WL 4433112, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 21, 2011) (stating the elements of a California professional negligence claim). Plaintiff's negligence claim comprises the following allegations:

Ramey owed Robalo a duty of care, and Ramey breached that duty. The breaches included but are not limited to the following: (a) Ramey failed to determine or advise Robalo about the true condition of the Beech AT-11 in the Pre-Purchase Inspection; (b) Ramey failed to repair the Beech AT-11 in a professional and reasonable manner; (c) Ramey failed to provide Robalo with reliable budgets about the work necessary and actually undertaken to repair the Beech AT-11; and (d) Ramey took advantage of the circumstances, his superior knowledge, and the nature of his relationship with Robalo to mislead Robalo about the scope of work and expense that he undertook in repairing the Beech AT-11. (Complaint ¶ 14.) However, these allegations are insufficient to state a professional negligence claim since Plaintiff has not alleged facts demonstrating that Defendant failed to use the skill and care that a reasonably careful professional operating in the field would have used in similar circumstances. Therefore, Plaintiff's negligence claim is dismissed.

B. Misrepresentation

Defendant argues Plaintiff's misrepresentation claim should be dismissed, contending Plaintiff "says nothing about the who, what, where and when as required by Rule 9(b)." (Def.'s Mot. 5:15.) Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing "the misrepresentation allegations of the Complaint give [Plaintiff] sufficient notice of the claims against him and satisfy the requirements of Rule 9(b)." (Pl.'s Opp'n 6:8-9.) Further, Plaintiff argues, "the Complaint provides all the particulars of Robalo's affirmative misrepresentations and concealments of material fact that are required under Rule 9(b)." Id. 7:8-9.

"In California, a claim of fraudulent misrepresentation has five elements: (1) misrepresentation, which encompasses false representation, concealment and nondisclosure; [(2)] knowledge of falsity; (3) intent to defraud; (4) justifiable reliance; and (5) damage." Tilley v. Ampro Mortg., 2011 WL 5921415, at *7 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 28, 2011). A claim involving fraud must satisfy Rule 9(b)'s heightened pleading requirements. Vess v. Ciba-Geigy Corp., 317 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2003). Rule 9(b) provides that "[i]n alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake." The required specificity includes the "time, place, and specific content of the ...


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