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Basler Electric Company v. Fortis Plastics

October 25, 2012

BASLER ELECTRIC COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FORTIS PLASTICS, LLC AND REALIZATION SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on defendant Realization Services, Inc.'s ("RSI") motion to dismiss plaintiff Basler Electric Company's ("Basler") complaint (Doc. 14) and amended Count III (Doc. 27). For the following reasons, the Court denies RSI's motion to dismiss.

I.Facts and Procedural History

The facts of this case, taken from Basler's well-pleaded complaint, are as follows. Basler and defendant Fortis Plastics, LLC ("Fortis") entered into a contract on September 22, 2010, wherein Fortis was to produce and sell to Basler plastic components at an agreed price. Basler then sold those plastic components to its customers. Thereafter, in February 2012, Fortis refused to honor Basler's purchase orders to manufacture the plastic components. Basler alleges that Fortis' decision to dishonor Basler's purchase orders resulted from advice given to Fortis by RSI. Specifically, RSI instructed Basler that Fortis would not supply the plastic components unless Basler paid 300% of the price agreed upon in the contract. Fortis also refused to return to Basler certain tooling and equipment Basler provided to Fortis so that Fortis could manufacture plastic components exclusively for Basler.

On May 17, 2012, Basler filed its four-count complaint in the Circuit Court for the Third Judicial Circuit, Madison County, Illinois, alleging breach of contract against Fortis, breach of warranty against Fortis, tortious interference against RSI, and conversion against Fortis and RSI. Defendants removed the case to this Court. Subsequent to removal, Basler filed an amended tortious interference claim.

II.Analysis

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must "construe [the complaint] in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accept well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all inferences in [the non-moving] party's favor." Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). The 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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint must provide "enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" to support the claim. Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556. However, the plaintiff need not "show that she would probably prevail." Redd v. Nolan, 663 F.3d 287, 291 (7th Cir. 2011). "A well-pleaded complaint 'may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556).

RSI alleges in its motion to dismiss that both the tortious interference and conversion claims against it in Counts III and IV contained in plaintiff's complaint and amended Count III must be dismissed. The Court will address both of these claims in turn.

a.Amended Count III - Tortious Interference

In RSI's motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended Count III (Doc. 27), RSI argues that Amended Count III must be dismissed because it (i) does not provide sufficient factual allegations; (ii) conflates claims of tortious interference with a contract and tortious interference with a prospective economic relationship; and (iii) improperly relies solely on allegations made on 'information and belief.'" Doc. 27, p. 7. The Court will consider both Basler's inferences to claims for tortious interference with a contract and tortious interference with a prospective economic relationship in its analysis. First, the Court will consider whether Basler has pleaded sufficient factual allegations to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.

Basler's complaint contains the following relevant allegations. First, Basler alleges that "[o]n information and belief, [RSI], on its own initintive [sic], and in pursuit of its own interests, directed Fortis to cease honoring the Agreement and the purchase orders entered into by Fortis with Basler and directed Fortis to cease the manufacture and/or delivery of the plastic components to Basler." Doc. 23, p. 2. The complaint further alleges that RSI advised Basler "that if Basler wished Fortis to complete and deliver plastic components which were subject of such Agreement and purchase orders, that Basler must pay 300% of the price agreed to in said contract." Id. Through such conduct, Basler alleges that RSI "intentionally interfered with the contractual relations between Fortis and [Basler] causing Fortis to breach its Agreement with [Basler]." Id. Basler further alleges that RSI interfered with Basler's "contractual relations between Basler and its customers by causing Fortis to breach its Agreement with [Basler]" because RSI was aware that the plastic components at issue were to be used to fulfill contracts Basler had with its customers. Id. at 4

The relevant elements for the two causes of actions alleged by Basler in Amended Count III are as follows. Under Illinois law, a plaintiff must show the following to establish a tortious interference with a contract claim:

(1) the existence of a valid and enforceable contract between the plaintiff and a third party; (2) defendant's awareness of the contract; (3) defendant's intentional and unjustified inducement of a breach; (4) defendant's wrongful conduct caused a subsequent breach of the contract by the third party; and (5) damages.

Echo, Inc. v. Timberland Machs. & Irrigation, Inc., 661 F.3d 959, 968 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Purmal v. Robert N. Wadington & Assocs., 820 N.E.2d 86, 98 (Ill. App. Ct. 2004)). Similarly, the elements for tortious interference with a prospective ...


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