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Plesnik v. Big Lots Stores, Inc..

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 16, 2014

PALO PLESNIK, Plaintiff,
v.
BIG LOTS STORES, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by defendant Big Lots Stores, Inc. ("Big Lots") (Doc. 5). Plaintiff Palo Plesnik has responded to the motion (Doc. 7).

I. Standard for Dismissal

When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This requirement is satisfied if the complaint (1) describes the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and (2) plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 556).

Although even after Bell Atlantic and Iqbal liberal federal notice pleading standards ensure that minimally detailed complaints can survive a motion to dismiss, those standards will not prevent dismissal of complaints that plead too much. A case can be dismissed because a complaint pleads facts establishing that the defendant is entitled to prevail. Bennett v. Schmidt, 153 F.3d 516, 519 (7th Cir. 1998); Soo Line R.R. Co. v. St. Louis S.W. Ry. Co., 125 F.3d 481, 483 (7th Cir. 1997); see Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 588 (7th Cir. 2009) (dismissal appropriate when party pleads facts establishing defense to his claim).

II. Facts Alleged

Taking all well-pleaded allegations as true, the complaint established the following relevant facts for the purposes of this motion.

In 1971, Big Lots[1] leased a 60, 000 square foot facility from the property's owner. In 1996, they modified their lease to cover only 30, 000 square feet of the facility ("Leased Area"). The owner intended to split the facility and find a new tenant for the other 30, 000 square feet ("Unleased Area"), but it promised Big Lots that it would still have access to certain parts of the Unleased Area - the rest rooms, offices, lounges and sprinkler riser - until the work to split the building had been done and a tenant for the Unleased Area had been located. The owner never located a tenant for the Unleased Area, and Big Lots continued to occupy and use all of the Unleased Area. In 2007, Plesnik bought the property and, as described in the Complaint, "permitt[ed]" Big Lots to use the Unleased Area. See Compl. at 5, ΒΆ 15. In 2012, Plesnik negotiated with Big Lots another amendment to the lease. At some point thereafter, Plesnik demanded Big Lots pay for or vacate the Unleased Area. Big Lots has paid all the sums due under the lease but has not paid Plesnik any more than that and continues to occupy and use the Unleased Area.

In December 2013, Plesnik filed this lawsuit seeking nearly a million dollars in damages from Big Lots for its occupation and use of the Unleased Area for eight years. He pleads three causes of action: Count I is a claim for breach of the lease, Count II is an unjust enrichment claim and Count III is a trespass claim. Big Lots asks the Court to dismiss all of Plesnik's claims.

III. Analysis

A. Count I: Breach of Contract

Plesnik alleges Big Lots has breached the lease by failing to vacate or pay for occupying and using the Unleased Area. Big Lots argues the lease does not contain any obligation to pay for or refrain from occupying the Unleased Area, so the failure to pay or vacate does not breach the written lease. To the extent Plesnik may believe he has an oral lease for the Unleased Area, Big Lots argues that a claim for breach of that lease is barred by the Statute of Frauds and the statute of limitations.

Under Illinois law, to establish a breach of contract, the plaintiff must show "(i) the existence of a valid and enforceable contract, (ii) performance by the plaintiff, (iii) breach of the contract by the defendant, and (iv) resultant injury to the plaintiff." Batson v. Oak Tree, Ltd., 2 N.E.3d 405, 414 (Ill.App.Ct. 2013).

The Court has reviewed the various iterations of the written lease between Plesnik and Big Lots and has found no contract term prohibiting Big Lots from occupying or using the Unleased Area or obligating Big Lots to pay for occupying or using the Unleased Area. On the contrary, the written lease concerns the Leased Area and Big Lots' access to limited parts of the Unleased Area until a tenant for the Unleased Area ...


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