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Visco Financial Services, Limited v. Siegel

December 10, 2008

VISCO FINANCIAL SERVICES, LIMITED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN J. SIEGEL, JR., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant John Siegel ("Siegel") for leave to file an amended answer and counterclaim. For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

This is a diversity case in which Plaintiff Visco Financial Services, Limited ("Visco") sued Siegel for allegedly guaranteeing a commercial promissory note. Siegel struck back by responding to Visco's complaint with affirmative defenses and counterclaims. On November 13, 2008, the court entered an order dismissing Siegel's counterclaim, striking each affirmative defense, and striking Siegel's answers to ¶¶ 5, 6, and 9 of the complaint. Siegel now requests leave to amend his answer; he asserts eight amended affirmative defenses and two amended counterclaims. In his motion, Siegel sets forth the following counterclaims: breach of the duty of good faith and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Visco objects to both counterclaims on the grounds that neither state a claim upon which relief can be granted. It also opposes Siegel's eight amended affirmative defenses for failing to state viable defenses.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15(a) gives the court discretion to freely permit amendments where justice so requires. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2); Figgie Int'l Inc. v. Miller, 966 F.2d 1178, 1180-81 (7th Cir. 1992). Plainly speaking, the rule promotes a liberal attitude towards the amendment of pleadings-a liberality consistent with deciding cases on the merits. Barry Aviation Inc. v. Land O'Lakes Mun. Airport Comm'n, 377 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2004).

However, amended pleadings are futile if the proposed amendment fails to satisfy the requirements of the federal rules or would not survive a motion to dismiss. Brunt v. Serv. Employees Int'l Union, 284 F.3d 715, 720-721 (7th Cir. 2002). This means an amendment must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, -, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). With these principles in mind, we turn to Siegel's proposed amended answer and counterclaims.

DISCUSSION

I. Amended Answer to Complaint

As an initial matter, Siegel's amended answer offers different responses to ¶¶ 5, 6, and 9 of Visco's complaint. As mentioned in the court's previous Memorandum Opinion, a defendant's answer must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8(b). Siegel now denies Visco's allegations in ¶¶ 5, 6, and 9, which comports with Rule 8(b). Therefore, the court finds Siegel's amended answers comply with Rule 8(b) and, in the interest of justice, will permit the amended answers to those portions of the complaint.

II. Amended Counterclaims

Next, Siegel amends the breach of duty of good faith counterclaim asserting that the note vested Visco with discretion concerning enforcement and Visco abused that discretion by allegedly interfering with business relations. We examined this issue in our earlier decision; the deficiencies identified in Siegel's amended pleading remain. As such, the motion to amend is denied as to the breach of duty of good faith claim.

With respect to the intentional interference with prospective economic advantage claim, we assess whether Siegel states a cognizable claim under Illinois law. To withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege the following: (1) a reasonable expectation of entering into a valid business relationship; (2) the defendant's knowledge of plaintiff's expectancy; (3) action by the defendant to purposefully interfere and prevent plaintiff's legitimate expectancy from ripening into a valid business relationship; and (4) damage to the plaintiff from the interference. Dowd v. Dowd, Ltd. v. Gleason, 693 N.E.2d 358, 370 (Ill. 1998). The tort of interference with prospective advantage requires a showing of action by the defendant towards a third party. Vickers v. Abbott Lab., 719 N.E.2d 1101, 1116 (Ill. App. Ct. 1999). Siegel alleges that he was already in an existing business relationship with Fortitude when he guaranteed the loan with Visco. He does not allege that Visco purposefully interfered with any third party. Rather, Siegel complains that Visco conspired with other employees of Fortitude to "oust" him from his position with Fortitude, which consequently ruined his ability to continue business efforts with Fortitude. The counterclaim fails to allege the presence of a third party and this absence renders the amendment to include this claim futile. Therefore, the motion is denied as to the tortious interference with prospective economic advantage claim.

Siegel raises set off as an affirmative defense in this action. The court struck this defense in the earlier decision because the initial counterclaims failed to state a claim for relief. Since the amended counterclaims again fail to state a cognizable claim under ...


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