United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
BA JACOBS FLIGHT SERVICES, LLC, an Illinois Limited Liability Company, Plaintiff,
RUTAIR LIMITED, a/k/a RUTAIR LLC, a Jamaica Corporation, and GEORGE LEVY, an individual, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JEFFREY T. GILBERT, Magistrate Judge.
On December 1, 2010, Plaintiff BA Jacobs Flight Services, LLC ("BA Jacobs") entered into a lease agreement (the "Lease") with Defendant RutAir Limited ("RutAir"), in which BA Jacobs agreed to lease to RutAir a 2010 Cessna Caravan 208B aircraft for a period of five years with monthly rent of $25, 000, among other terms. As a condition of BA Jacobs entering into the Lease, Defendant George Levy ("Levy"), who is the Managing Director of RutAir, signed a personal guaranty (the "Guaranty"), in which he agreed to guarantee personally RutAir's payments under the Lease up to $300, 000 in the event of a breach of the Lease, plus attorneys' fees and costs incurred by BA Jacobs in enforcing its rights under the Guaranty. BA Jacobs alleges that RutAir breached the Lease by failing to make the required monthly rent payments when due.
This matter is before the Court on BA Jacobs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF 66]. BA Jacobs seeks partial summary judgment on Count I of its Complaint against RutAir as to its liability under the Lease and on Count II of its Complaint against Levy as to his personal liability under the Guaranty. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court grants BA Jacobs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF 66] against both RutAir and Levy.
I. Summary Judgment Standard of Review
Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); see Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 951 (7th Cir. 2013). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court "review[s] the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor." NES Rental s Holdings, Inc. v. Steine Cold Storage, Inc., 714 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment "gets the benefit of all facts that a reasonable jury might find." Loudermilk v. Best Pallet Co., LLC, 636 F.3d 312, 314 (7th Cir. 2011). However, the opposing party cannot rely on mere conclusions and allegations to create factual issues. Balderston v. Fairbanks Morse Engine Div. of Coltec Indus., 328 F.3d 309, 320 (7th Cir. 2003). Nor can speculation be used "to manufacture a genuine issue of fact." Springer v. Durflinger, 518 F.3d 479, 484 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Amadio v. Ford Motor Co., 238 F.3d 919, 927 (7th Cir. 2001)).
Summary judgment is a "put up or shut up moment in litigation... by which we mean that the non-moving party is required to marshal and present the court with the evidence [it] contends will prove [its] case. And by evidence, we mean evidence on which a reasonable jury could rely." Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). So a court will grant summary judgment "if no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the non-moving party." Hoppe v. Lewis Univ., 692 F.3d 833, 838 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted); Northbound Group, Inc. v. Norvax, Inc., 5 F.Supp.3d 956, 966-967 (N.D. Ill. 2013).
Importantly, in considering whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court relies on the statements of facts submitted by the parties. To that end, the parties must comply with Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 56.1 of the Local Rules of the District Court of the Northern District of Illinois.
II. Local Rule 56.1 Requirements
Local Rule 56.1 requires a party moving for summary judgment to submit a statement of material facts with "specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon to support the facts...." Local Rule 56.1(a). The non-moving party opposing the motion for summary judgment then must file a response to this statement, as well as its own statement of additional facts if necessary. See Local Rule 56.1(b)(3). The moving party then has an opportunity to admit, or deny the non-moving party's statement of additional facts. See Local Rule 56.1(a) ("If additional material facts are submitted by the opposing party pursuant to section (b), the moving party may submit a concise reply in the form prescribed in that section for a response. All material facts set forth in the statement filed pursuant to section (b)(3)(C) will be deemed admitted unless controverted by the statement of the moving party.").
"The obligation set forth in Local Rule 56.1 is not a mere formality. Rather, [i]t follows from the obligation imposed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) on the party opposing summary judgment to identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial." Sojka v. Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., 686 F.3d 394, 398 (7th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks and citations omitted). "Because of the important function local rules like Rule 56.1 serve in organizing the evidence and identifying disputed facts, " the Seventh Circuit has "consistently upheld the district court's discretion to require strict compliance with those rules." F.T.C. v. Bay Area Bus. Council, Inc., 423 F.3d 627, 633 (7th Cir. 2005); see also Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009); Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994) (collecting cases). Indeed, as another judge in this district previously observed, "the penalty for failing to properly respond to a movant's 56.1(a) statement is usually summary judgment for the movant (at least if the movant has done his or her job correctly) because the movant's factual allegations are deemed admitted." Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584 (N.D.Ill. 2000) (Castillo, J.); see also Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co. v. James, 2013 WL 6009260, at *1 (N.D.Ill. 2013).
Here, despite having the opportunity to do so, both RutAir and Levy - who are represented by counsel - failed to submit a response to BA Jacobs' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts [ECF 68]. Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) provides that "[a]ll material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party." See Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C). The Court, therefore, deems admitted all of the facts set forth in BA Jacobs' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts [ECF 68]. RutAir and Levy, however, did comply with Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) and filed a Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Additional Facts [ECF 70] to which BA Jacobs responded [ECF 73].
RutAir and Levy's failure to respond to BA Jacobs' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts, however, is not the only problem with the parties' compliance with Local Rule 56.1. Neither BA Jacobs nor RutAir and Levy cite to their respective Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [ECF 68] or Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Additional Facts [ECF 70]. Instead, in their memoranda of law in support of, or opposition to, BA Jacobs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF 66], the parties cite directly to the record, including to a host of underlying documents, pleadings and exhibits. Courts in this district repeatedly have held that, in memoranda of law filed in support of, or in opposition to, motions for summary judgment, parties should cite to specific Local Rule 56.1 statement or statements of fact in support of their arguments, not to the record directly. See First Merit Bank, N.A. v. 2200 North Ashland, LLC et al., 2014 WL 6065817, at *4 (N.D.Ill. 2014); Morningware, Inc. v. Hearthware Home Products Inc., 2012 WL 3721350, at *3 (N.D.Ill. 2012); LaSalvia v. City of Evanston, 806 F.Supp.2d 1043, 1046 (N.D.Ill. 2011); Daoust v. Abbott Laboratories, 2006 WL 2711844, at *4 (N.D.Ill. 2006) ("[C]itations in the [summary judgment memoranda]... should be to the 56.1(a) or (b) statement only.").
"[I]t is clear that the decision whether to apply the rule strictly or to overlook any transgression is one left to the district court's discretion." Little v. Cox's Supermarkets, 71 F.3d 637, 641 (7th Cir. 1995). Although the Court could exercise its discretion to deny BA Jacob's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment outright in light of this violation of Local Rule 56.1, the Court finds it preferable at this juncture to address BA Jacobs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the merits and move this case forward. In doing so, the Court will excuse both parties' failure to cite to their statement ...