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NEUMAN v. SUPERIOR JAMESTOWN CORPORATION

April 10, 2003

STEFANIE NEUMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERIOR JAMESTOWN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John W. Darrah, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Stefanie Neuman ("Neuman"), brought suit against Defendant, Superior Jamestown Corporation ("SJC"), alleging violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and fraud. Presently before the Court are SJC's Motion to Dismiss Counts III and IV of Plaintiff's Complaint (alleging unjust enrichment and fraud) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Counts I and II (alleging violations of the Illinois statute and breach of contract).

Motion to Dismiss

In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court considers all facts alleged in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000). Dismissal may only be allowed if the plaintiff could show no set of facts that would entitle her to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). However, a plaintiff can plead herself out of court by alleging facts showing there is no viable claim. Kauthar SDN BHD v. Steinberg, 149 F.3d 659, 669-70 & n. 14 (7th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1114 (1999); Whirlpool Financial Corp. v. GN Holdings, Inc., 67 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir. 1995).

For the purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the following allegations are taken as true.

Plaintiff Neuman is a citizen of Illinois. Defendant SJC is a New York corporation that produces and installs custom metalwork and architectural wall systems.

On or about February 8, 2002, Neuman and SJC entered into a contract, which provided, inter alia: that Neuman would become a salesperson for SJC's Chicago territory; that SIC would pay her an annual salary of $36,000; that SIC would pay her commissions on sales in the Chicago area in amounts ranging from 2.5 percent to 5 percent (depending upon job profitability) of sales revenue received; and that Neuman would split these commissions with her supervisor, Bevin Connell ("Connell"), SJC's vice president.

Neuman began her employment with SJC on February 18, 2002. She diligently and successfully pursued sales on behalf of SJC. When she was hired, SJC had only one sales lead; but, by the end of August 2002, SJC's Chicago territory had won orders for five further projects ("pending orders") substantially as a result of Neuman's efforts.

On or about August 1, 2002, Neuman heard that SJC was experiencing financial problems and considering layoffs. Out of concern for her job security, she discussed the matter with Connell, who assured her that SJC would provide her with ample notice of any layoff.

Because of the volume of pending orders, SJC became concerned about the amount of commissions it would owe Neuman as a result, an estimated $62,500. Therefore, in August 2002, SJC proposed a new commission structure, which provided, inter alia, that SJC would not pay Neuman any commission on a project unless SJC achieved at least a 10 percent profit In an attempt to induce Neuman to accept the new proposal, Connell told her that all of the pending orders would easily achieve at least a 10 percent profit. Nonetheless, Neuman did not sign the new proposal.

When Neuman arrived at work at her usual time on September 6, 2002, she found herself locked out of her office. When Connell subsequently arrived, she informed Neuman that Neuman was being laid off that day and that she should leave behind any company information, especially the new opportunities folder.

Despite repeated requests, SIC has failed and refused to pay Neuman for earned salary and accrued vacation. SIC has also informed her that it will not pay any commissions to her for the pending orders.

Defendant SIC seeks to dismiss Count III of Plaintiff's Complaint, which alleges unjust enrichment. Such "quasi-contractual" relief is available in the absence of a definite agreement between the parties. Otto Real Estate, Inc. v. Shelter Investments, 506 N.E.2d 351, 353 (Ill.App. Ct. 1987). However, where there is a specific contract which governs the relationship between the parties, the doctrine of unjust enrichment cannot be applied. LaThrop v. Bell Fed. Sav. & Loan Assoc., 370 N.E.2d 188, 195 (Ill. 1977).

SJC points to the contract attached to Plaintiff's Complaint as evidence that a definite agreement exists and argues that her unjust enrichment claim should, therefore, be dismissed. However, SJC does not concede that a definite agreement exists between the parties. SIC has denied the material allegations of Neuman's Complaint. A party may plead alternate, inconsistent theories in a complaint. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(2); Servpro Indust., Inc. v. Schmidt, 905 F. Supp. 475, 481 (N.D. Ill. 1995). Accordingly, ...


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