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Perdue v. Rodney Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 10, 2014

MITCHELL A. PERDUE dba NativeScape Consulting, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
RODNEY CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, Defendant.

ORDER: (1) DENYING DEFENDANT RODNEY CORPORATION'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF MITCHELL A. PERDUE'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT; (2) VACATING HEARING DATE [Dkt. No. 23.]

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is defendant Rodney Corporation's ("Defendant") motion to dismiss plaintiff Mitchell A. Perdue's ("Plaintiff") Second Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 23.) The Parties have fully briefed the motion. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1), the Court finds the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument. Based on a review of the briefs, supporting documentation, and the applicable law, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion to dismiss.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff originally filed this action on November 12, 2013. (Dkt. No. 1.) On November 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). (Dkt. No. 3.) The FAC alleged five claims: (1) breach of contract; (2) quantum meruit; (3) account stated; (4) open book account; and (5) conversion. ( Id. ) Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the FAC, which Plaintiff opposed. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 16.) The Parties also each filed requests for judicial notice. (Dkt. Nos. 8-2, 16-2.) On July 25, 2014, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant's motion to dismiss, granted in part and denied in part the requests for judicial notice, and granted Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint. (Dkt. No. 19.)

On August 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed the operative Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"). (Dkt. No. 22.) He again alleged the same five claims: (1) breach of contract; (2) quantum meruit; (3) account stated; (4) open book account; and (5) conversion. ( Id. ) On September 4, 2014, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the SAC, as well as a request for judicial notice. (Dkt. Nos. 23, 23-2.) On October 10, 2014, Plaintiff opposed the motion to dismiss and the request for judicial notice. (Dkt. Nos. 26, 26-1.) On October 24, 2014, Defendant replied. (Dkt. No. 27.)

III. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a rangeland manager, professionally registered in the State of California. (SAC ¶ 4.) Defendant, a corporation, operates Rancho Guejito, a 23, 000-acre ranch located in Escondido, California, where Plaintiff provided rangeland management services. ( Id. ¶¶ 5, 7.)

On January 30, 2006, Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a written contract whereby Plaintiff agreed to perform various services for Defendant: a Range Condition Assessment, a Range Improvement and Stocking Rate Plan, and an Integrated Ranch Management Plan ("Contract 1"). ( Id. ¶ 8.) On August 14, 2006, Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a second written contract whereby Plaintiff agreed to establish permanent monitoring sites, conduct a forage production and nutritional analysis, and conduct plant biodiversity monitoring for Rancho Guejito ("Contract 2, " collectively with Contract 1, the "Written Contracts"). ( Id. ¶ 12.)

Plaintiff further alleges that in or about February 2007, Plaintiff and Defendant orally agreed to extend the monitoring program under Contract 2 for four more years and to expand the scope of work to have Plaintiff perform assessments of range nutrition and protein. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Thereafter, approximately six additional times, Defendant and Plaintiff orally agreed to expand Plaintiff's scope of work (collectively, the "Oral Modifications"). ( Id. ¶¶ 15-16, 19, 20, 22, 26.) In each instance, Defendant agreed to pay Plaintiff on a time and materials basis, with the same hourly rate as for the work performed under Contract 2. ( Id. ¶¶ 14-15.)

Over the next several years, Defendant had "full knowledge and concurrence" of Plaintiff's rangeland monitoring, and accepted Plaintiff's reports. ( Id. ¶¶ 16-19, 23-25, 27.) From time to time between 2008 and 2011, Plaintiff and Rancho Guejito Ranch Manager Robert Finck discussed Plaintiff's invoicing for Plaintiff's work performed under the Written Contracts and Oral Modifications, and Finck assured Plaintiff that he would be paid after submitting invoices. ( Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff alleges full performance under the Written Contracts and Oral Modifications. ( Id. ¶ 30.)

On or about July 7, 2011, Hank Rupp, on behalf of Defendant, directed Plaintiff to stop work and to submit invoices for all work performed for Defendant. ( Id. ¶ 31.)

In or about November 2011, Plaintiff sent Defendant invoices for the work performed under the Written Contracts and Oral Modifications. ( Id. ¶ 32.) On February 9, 2012, Defendant claimed for the first time that it did not owe Plaintiff any money. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant breached the Written Contracts and Oral Modifications by refusing to pay Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges he was damaged "in the sum of a minimum of $94, 200, plus additional sums and interest to be proven at trial." ( Id. ¶ 34.)

Plaintiff further alleges Defendant became indebted to Plaintiff for $94, 200 for the work, labor, materials, and services that Plaintiff provided to Defendant. ( Id. ¶¶ 36, 38, 40.) Plaintiff alleges he provided the work, labor, materials, and services at Defendant's request and Defendant agreed to pay Plaintiff for the work. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges no part of the $94, 200 has ever been paid and is now due, owing, and unpaid. ( Id. ¶¶ 36, 38, 41.)

Plaintiff also alleges he was and still is the lawful owner of a boat that Plaintiff avers was converted by Defendant. ( Id. ¶¶ 43, 45.) On April 1, 2009, Defendant invited Plaintiff to use and keep his boat at Rancho Guejito, which Plaintiff did. ( Id. ¶ 44.) On or about February 17, 2012, Defendant refused to return the boat to Plaintiff's possession. ( Id. ¶ 45.) Plaintiff alleges the boat was worth $2, 000 at the time and location of the alleged conversion. ( Id. ¶ 46.)

IV. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989) ("Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law."). Alternatively, a complaint may be dismissed where it presents a cognizable legal theory yet fails to plead essential facts under that theory. Robertson, 749 F.2d at 534. While a plaintiff need not give "detailed factual allegations, " a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts that, if true, "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547). A claim is facially plausible when the factual allegations permit "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. In other words, "the non-conclusory 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 Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe all inferences from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2002); Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Legal conclusions, however, need not be taken as true merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations. ...


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