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IFC Credit Corp. v. Patwari

June 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George W. Lindberg


Before the Court is pro se defendant Ankoor Patwari's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction, and improper venue pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)-(3); or, in the alternative, to transfer the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied.

I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Defendant first argues that this diversity case should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint, and draws all reasonable inferences from the facts in the plaintiff's favor. See St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007), cert. denied 128 S.Ct. 2431 (2008). The Court "may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Id. (quoting Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999)). "The burden of proof on a 12(b)(1) issue is on the party asserting jurisdiction." United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chem. Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003).

A federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over cases in which the parties are of diverse citizenship, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1). Defendant concedes that diversity of citizenship exists in this case, but disputes plaintiff's allegation in the complaint that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

Plaintiff alleges in its amended complaint that in 2006, it leased equipment to First Hudson Hotdogs LLC dba Nathan's Famous ("First Hudson Hotdogs").*fn1 Defendant, a member of First Hudson Hotdogs, guaranteed the performance of First Hudson Hotdogs under the equipment lease. First Hudson Hotdogs failed to make rental payments to plaintiff. The amended complaint alleges that under the lease, plaintiff is entitled to recover the entire amount due, including the residual value of the equipment and interest. According to the amended complaint, the rental payments and residual value total at least $82,763.05, not including interest.

Defendant disputes plaintiff's calculation of the residual amount due as $18,648.66. He argues that the residual value should instead be calculated at $1, which represents a buyout option under the lease. According to defendant, if the residual amount is reduced in this manner, the total amount due would not exceed $75,000.

Plaintiff responds that neither First Hudson Hotdogs nor defendant is entitled to exercise the buyout provision because First Hudson Hotdogs is in default under the lease. Written instruments attached to a complaint are part of the complaint, and may be considered in evaluating a motion to dismiss. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c); Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 431 (7th Cir. 1993). The lease agreement, which was attached to the amended complaint, provides:

14. Remedies: If Lessee is in default under this Lease, then Lessor at its sole election, shall have the right to exercise any or all of the following with or without notice:... 3) accelerate all sums due or to become due, including the residual value of the Equipment and Lessee agrees that the Equipment residual value for all purposes under this Lease shall be at Lessor's sole election, a) the then fair market value of the Equipment, or b) liquidated at 25% of the original cost of the Equipment to Lessor, with all amounts due hereunder payable forthwith upon Lessor's demand....

The buyout option, which plaintiff omitted from the lease documents attached to the amended complaint, but attached to its response to the motion to dismiss, states:

1. Subject to the Lessee having made to the Lessor or its assignee all lease rental payments due, the Lessee shall have the option to purchase all, but not less than all, of the equipment described in the Lease at the end of the Initial Term of the Lease for one U.S. Dollar ($1.00). If the Lessee fails to make all such payments when due, this purchase option is void.

Assuming the truth of the allegation in the amended complaint that First Hudson Hotdogs is in default under the lease, the buyout option would not apply to reduce the potential damages.

Defendant also argues that since the lease does not specifically assert that joint and several liability applies, he is only responsible for half of the amount due, while the other member of First Hudson Hotdogs (who is not a party here) is responsible for the remainder. However, defendant's personal guaranty provided: "Guarantor absolutely, irrevocably and unconditionally guarantees to Lessor all payments and other obligations under the Lease." The Court finds that for the purpose of this Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, plaintiff has adequately established an amount in controversy in excess of $75,000.

Next, defendant argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the lease requires any disputes arising out of the lease to be submitted to arbitration. On the issue of arbitration, the lease actually provides: "At Lessor's sole election, Lessor may submit any matter arising out of or relating to this Lease, including any claim, counterclaim, setoff, or defense, to binding arbitration by The American Arbitration Association at any ...

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