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Bard Water District v. James Davey and Associates, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 5, 2014

BARD WATER DISTRICT, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES DAVEY AND ASSOCIATES, INC., an Arizona corporation, JAMES DAVEY, and DOES 1 through 50, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

JEFFREY T. MILLER, District Judge.

On March 19, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 12.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion on April 21, 2014, (Dkt. No. 13), and Defendants filed their reply on April 28, 2014, (Dkt. No. 14). Having reviewed the parties' arguments, the court finds this matter suitable for resolution on the papers without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED with leave to amend.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a public water district with its principal place of operation in Winterhaven, California. Defendant James Dave and Associates, Inc. is an Arizona corporation with its principal place of business in Yuma, Arizona, and James Davey is an individual and an officer of James Davey and Associates, Inc. residing in Arizona.

In April 2005, Plaintiff alleges Defendants entered into a written contract with Plaintiff, entitled "Contract Documents - Reservation Main Canal Improvement Project, Schedule I (2004), Concrete Canal Lining" ("Project Documents"). Defendants prepared the Project Documents and stamped them with James Davey's seal indicating he is a registered civil engineer in California. Plaintiff attached the 150-page Project Documents as Exhibit A to the first amended complaint. (Compl., Ex. A ("Project Documents").) In the Project Documents, Plaintiff alleges Defendants agreed to serve as project engineer ("Project Engineer") for the Reservation Main Canal Improvement Project (the "Project"), located in Imperial County. Plaintiff contends the Project Documents specifically detail the authority and obligations of Defendants while serving as the Project Engineer, including their duty to supervise and inspect the work of the general contractor and carry out specific testing requirements.

Pursuant to their Project Documents, Plaintiff alleges it relied on Defendants to ensure enforcement and compliance by the general contractor with the terms of the Project Documents. Plaintiff further contends Defendants owed Plaintiff a fiduciary duty as the Project Engineer to ensure that the Project Documents were enforced.

In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges two claims against Defendants: (1) breach of contract, and (2) breach of fiduciary duty while serving as Project Engineer, Plaintiff's agent under the contract. Plaintiff alleges Defendant breached the terms of the Project Documents by unilaterally waiving, in contravention of the contract documents and without Plaintiff's knowledge or consent, the testing and inspection requirements and by failing to ensure the general contractor complied with the contract. Specifically, Defendants allegedly waived the required inspections and tests to ensure that the beds of the irrigation ditches were properly compacted and otherwise prepared to receive the concrete ditch lining. Thereafter, Defendants allegedly failed to disclose and concealed these breaches from Plaintiff until November 15, 2009, at the earliest. Plaintiff alleges Defendants' breaches and failure to comply with their contractual responsibilities resulted in the widespread failure of the ditch lining throughout the Project and damages in excess of $75, 000. Given the amount in controversy and the diversity of citizenship between Plaintiff and Defendants, Plaintiff filed this action in federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.

LEGAL STANDARD

For a plaintiff to overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Factual pleadings merely consistent with a defendant's liability are insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss because they only establish that the allegations are possible rather than plausible. See id. at 678-79. The court should grant 12(b)(6) relief only if the complaint lacks either a "cognizable legal theory" or facts sufficient to support a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

In addition, when resolving a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, courts may not generally consider materials outside the pleadings. Schneider v. Cal. Dep't of Corrs. , 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1998); Jacobellis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. , 120 F.3d 171, 172 (9th Cir. 1997); Allarcom Pay Television Ltd. v. Gen. Instrument Corp. , 69 F.3d 381, 385 (9th Cir. 1995). "The focus of any Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal... is the complaint." Schneider , 151 F.3d at 1197 n. 1. This precludes consideration of "new" allegations that may be raised in a plaintiff's opposition to a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Id . (citing Harrell v. United States , 13 F.3d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1993); 2 Moore's Fed. Prac. § 12.34[2] (Matthew Bender 3d ed.)).

However, "[w]hen a plaintiff has attached various exhibits to the complaint, those exhibits may be considered in determining whether dismissal [i]s proper...." Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington , 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (citing Cooper v. Bell , 628 F.2d 1208, 1210 n. 2 (9th Cir. 1980)). The court may also consider "documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading...." Knievel v. ESPN , 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Branch v. Tunnell , 14 F.3d 449, 454 (9th Cir. 1994) overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v. County of Santa Clara , 307 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2002)).

DISCUSSION

A. Breach of Contract

In the first cause of action, Plaintiff alleges Defendants breached the Project Documents by unilaterally waiving, in contravention of the contract documents and without plaintiff's knowledge or consent, testing and inspection requirements, including required inspections and tests to ensure that the beds of the irrigation ditches were properly compacted and otherwise prepared to receive the concrete ditch lining, and by failing to ensure general contractor compliance with the contract." (Compl. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff contends Defendants agreed to serve as, and did serve as, Project Engineer pursuant to the Project Documents which specifically detail the ...


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