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Tarau v. Coltea

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 2, 2017

ADRIAN TARAU, Plaintiff,
v.
LUCIAN COLTEA and AURICA COLTEA, Defendants. LUCIAN COLTEA, Counter-Plaintiff,
v.
ADRIAN TARAU, Counter-Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In his complaint, Plaintiff Adrian Tarau (“Tarau”) alleges that Lucian and Aurica Coltea (“the Colteas”) breached an agreement signed August 27, 2007, to sell a Romanian castle and pay him twenty-five percent of the proceeds (“the 2007 Agreement”). (See Compl. ¶¶ 7-12 & Ex. A, ECF No. 1.) Lucian Coltea (“Coltea”) has filed a counterclaim for his attorney's fees for defending this action, alleging that by filing this lawsuit, Tarau breached a May 2005 settlement agreement (“the 2005 Settlement Agreement”) which provides for the recovery of fees. (See ECF No. 42 ¶¶ 9-11. & Ex. 2.)

         Two motions filed by Tarau are before the court: a motion to dismiss Coltea's counterclaim for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and a motion to strike the Colteas' four affirmative defenses pleaded in their amended answer. The question of what, if any, effect the 2007 Agreement had on the 2005 Settlement Agreement looms large over these proceedings, but the court cannot answer it at this stage because the authenticity and validity of the 2007 Agreement attached to the pleadings remain in dispute. Accordingly, the court denies the motion to dismiss and grants in part the motion to strike certain defenses the court finds to be redundant.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his counterclaim, Coltea alleges that he and Tarau formed a business partnership in or around 1999. (ECF No. 42 ¶ 3.) Tarau allegedly sued Coltea in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, in or around March 2005 alleging that Coltea did not distribute income and profits from some properties bought and sold by the partnership, including the castle. (See id. ¶¶ 5-9.) The parties settled in May 2005, according to the counterclaim.

         Tarau sues on an agreement allegedly “entered into” on August 27, 2007. (Compl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 1.) The agreement allegedly required Tarau to contribute fifty percent of the castle's purchase price and required Coltea to sell it for no less than two million Euros. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Again allegedly, Coltea then had to pay Tarau twenty-five percent of the sale price within ten days of the sale. (Id. ¶ 11.) Tarau further pleads that the 2007 Agreement stated “this Agreement cancels any prior written or oral agreements.” (Id. ¶ 12.)

         In their amended answer, the Colteas deny, among other things, Tarau's allegation that he paid fifty percent of the castle's purchase price in accordance with the 2007 Agreement. (Defs.' Am. Ans. ¶ 13 ECF No. 41.) The Colteas plead four affirmative defenses:

1. The [2007] agreement is barred by a settlement agreement entered into in May 2005.
2. Plaintiff did not contribute 50% of the purchase price.
3. The agreement fails for want of consideration. Any obligations or credits due Plaintiff for monies paid toward the purchase of the castle at issue were released and extinguished under the May 2005 settlement agreement.
4. The agreement fails for failure of consideration. Any obligations or credits due Plaintiff for monies paid toward the purchase of the castle at issue were released and extinguished under the May 2005 settlement agreement.

(Id. at 6.)

         II. MOTION TO DISMISS COUNTERCLAIM

         The court applies the same standard to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a counterclaim as it does on a motion to dismiss a complaint. See, e.g., Villareal v. El Chile, Inc., 601 F.Supp.2d 1011, 1014 (N.D. Ill. 2009). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a pleading must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, (2007)); Katz-Crank v. Haskett, 843 F.3d 641, 646 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Tombly, supra). A complaint satisfies this standard when its factual allegations "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56; see also Atkins v. City of Chi., 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011) (“[T]he complaint taken as a whole must establish a nonnegligible probability that the claim is valid, though it need not be so great a probability as such terms as ‘preponderance of the evidence' connote.”); Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[P]laintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together."). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court takes all facts alleged by the pleader as true and draws all ...


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