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Burke v. Lakin Law Firm

January 3, 2008

RICHARD J. BURKE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE LAKIN LAW FIRM, PC, AND BRADLEY M. LAKIN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

A. Introduction and Factual/Procedural Background

On January 29, 2007, Burke filed this action against Bradley Lakin and the Lakin Law Firm (LLF) alleging breach of contract, an action for an accounting, fraudulent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with a contract and/or business expectancy (Doc. 3). On March 30, 2007, LLF filed its answer and raised counterclaims alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and tortious interference with a contract and/or business expectancy (Doc. 44).

After the Court granted leave to do so, Burke filed his first amended complaint on July 30, 2007 (Doc. 66) renumbering Counts III and IV as Counts IV and V, clarifying facts common to all counts, clarifying facts relevant to certain counts, and adding an additional count as Count III under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. After the Court again granted leave to do so, Burke filed his second amended complaint on December 7, 2007 (Doc. 96) wherein he withdrew Count II, the action for accounting, renumbered Count III as Count II, and added an additional count for quantum meruit as Count III. LLF has not amended its counterclaims at any time.

On May 7, 2007, Burke moved to dismiss LLF's counterclaims (Doc. 49). LLF filed a response on June 6, 2007 (Doc. 58), and Burke submitted his reply on June 18, 2007 (Doc. 59). Having fully reviewed these filings, the Court now GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Burke's motion to dismiss (Doc. 49).

B. Analysis

Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint fails to set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, -- U.S. --, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007); EEOC v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). In making this assessment, the District Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in LLF's favor.See St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007).

1. LLF's Counterclaim for Breach of Contract

First, Burke moves this Court to dismiss LLF's counterclaim for breach of contract.

Burke argues that LLF's counterclaim is deficient in that it fails to allege essential elements of a breach of contract claim. Specifically, he argues that LLF does not plead that it performed all required conditions under the contract or that Burke breached any term of the agreement. Burke also argues that LLF improperly relies on the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

The notice pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides that a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." This lenient pleading standard requires only that a pleading provide fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). In Bell Atlantic, the Supreme Court further addressed the requirements of Rule 8, explaining that: a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, [but] a plaintiff's obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitle[ment] to relief" requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do . . .

Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at 1964 -65 (internal citations omitted). Stated another way, the complaint or counterclaim should be dismissed if the "factual detail . . . [is] so sketchy that the complaint does not provide the type of notice of the claim to which the defendant is entitled under Rule 8." Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007). While a counterclaim need not include detailed facts, it must allege facts which set forth the essential elements of the claim. See Doherty v. City of Chicago, 75 F.3d 318, 326 (7th Cir. 1996).

The essential elements of a breach of contract claim under Illinois law are: (1) offer and acceptance, (2) consideration, (3) definite and certain terms, (4) performance by the plaintiff of all required conditions, (5) breach, and (6) damages. Village of S. Elgin v. Waste Mgmt. of Ill., 810 N.E.2d 658, 669 (Ill.App.Ct. 2004).

Here, LLF does not allege all of the essential elements of a breach of contract claim, such as that it performed all of the contract's required conditions. Additionally, LLF's counterclaim fails to set forth the specific terms of the contract that Burke allegedly breached. Though Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(c) provides that "A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading," no such exhibit is attached to the counterclaim even though LLF refers to ...


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