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Hamann v. Carpenter

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 31, 2017

THOMAS HAMANN, Plaintiff,
v.
STUART A. CARPENTER, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND/CORRECT COMPLAINT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Thomas Hamann, purchases and sells high-end motor vehicles in the State of Connecticut. Compl., ECF No. 1-1, ¶ 1. Defendants are Stuart Carpenter, owner of Copley Motorcars Corporation in Boston, Massachusetts (“Mr. Carpenter”), and Leslie Wexner (“Mr. Wexner”), for whom Mr. Carpenter acted as an agent. Id. at ¶ 3. Mr. Hamann claims that Mr. Carpenter tortiously interfered with a contract expectancy, and that he did so while acting as Mr. Wexner's agent, making Mr. Wexner liable for Mr. Carpenter's actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Defendants have moved to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that this Court lacks jurisdiction over them. See ECF No. 10. Mr. Hamann has also moved to amend his complaint to add Mr. Carpenter's company, Copley Motorcars (“Copley”), as a Defendant. See Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 28. Defendants opposed his motion, arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction over Copley as well. See Def.'s Opp. Mem., ECF No. 31. The Court agrees with the Defendants.

         Mr. Hamann has not sufficiently alleged that jurisdiction over either Defendant or Copley is appropriate under Connecticut's long-arm statute. Furthermore, Mr. Hamann has not alleged that Defendants had the “minimum contacts” with Connecticut that are required for this Court to establish jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause. Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint is GRANTED and Mr. Hamann's motion to amend the Complaint is DENIED.

         I. Factual Allegations

         Mr. Hamann purchases and sells high-end motor vehicles in Connecticut. Compl. ¶ 1. He alleges that he was the exclusive agent for the sale of a 1953 Ferrari 375MM Pininfarina Spyder, Chassis No. 0360AM (“the Ferrari”) on behalf of a Milanese seller named Vincenzo Scandurra. Id. at ¶ 2; see also Exclusive Agency Agreement (undated), Pls.'s Surreply Brief., Ex. C, ECF No. 24-1. The Ferarri was originally part of the collection of Emilio Gnutti in Brescia, Italy. Compl. ¶ 9. At some point, Vincenzo Scandurra had agreed to purchase the Ferarri from Gnutti and paid a deposit. Id. at ¶ 10. Scandurra allegedly communicated with the Plaintiff about selling the car and told Mr. Hamann that he intended to sell the Ferarri and wanted to sell it very quickly. Id. at ¶ 12.

         On July 21, 2013, Mr. Hamann allegedly offered to sell the Ferarri to Mr. Carpenter for a purchase price of $15 million. Id. at ¶ 5. Mr. Carpenter declined the offer on behalf of himself and Mr. Wexner. Id. at ¶ 8. Mr. Hamann allegedly informed Mr. Carpenter, “via e-mails and via conversations, ” that he was the exclusive sales agent for the Ferarri. Id. at ¶ 6.

         At some point, Mr. Hamann “secured an offer” of $10.5 million for the vehicle and Vincenzo Scandura instructed him to complete the sale. Id. at ¶ 13. Mr. Hamann arranged for his client to send a deposit of two million Euro on August, 29, 2013. Id. at ¶14. On or about August 30, 2013, Mr. Hamann learned from Mr. Scandurra that a third party, the owner of a Ferarri dealership in Milan, Italy, had offered to purchase the car from Gnutti for $12.5 million. Id. at ¶ 16. A U.S. based car dealer was allegedly involved in this transaction. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff alleges that this dealer was Defendant Carpenter, acting on behalf of Defendant Wexler. Id. at ¶ 18.

         Immediately after learning about the new purchaser from Mr. Scandurra, Mr. Hamann sent several e-mails to Mr. Carpenter “advising him that [Mr. Hamann] had the car under contract with a deposit on the way.” Id. at ¶¶ 19-20. He also contacted Mr. Carpenter's assistant at his dealership, Copley Motors. Id. at ¶ 21. The assistant promised to notify Mr. Carpenter about the problem. Id. at ¶ 22. Eventually, Mr. Carpenter responded to say that he did not think that Mr. Hamann had exclusive sales rights to the vehicle because “seven other dealers would have offered him the car after plaintiff for the same price.” Id. at ¶ 25. Mr. Hamann alleges that Mr. Carpenter acted “with a reckless indifference to [Mr. Hamann's] contractual rights.” Id. at ¶ 30. He claims that he lost a commission of €55, 000 as a result of Mr. Carpenter's allegedly tortious actions. Id. at ¶ 29.

         Mr. Hamann alleges that “at all times relevant to the complaint and for many years before and since, [Mr.] Carpenter has engaged in business in Connecticut.” Compl. ¶ 5. He adds in his response that:

1. Carpenter has purchased vehicles in Connecticut for many years, doing business with multiple businesses in Connecticut including but not limited to Wayne Carini, owner of F40 Motorsports, Portland, Connecticut, Ted Johnson, Joseph Amodio, owner of International Motorcars, Southington, Connecticut.
2. On the website of his company, Carpenter advertises that he can ‘arrange for a lease for any of the classics or Defenders in our inventory. We collaborate exclusively with Putnam Leasing Company of Greenwich, Connecticut. …As the owner and operator of Copley Motorcars, … you are dealing with a small company whose principal - me - is involved day-to-day, … I am the sales department, the leasing department, and the complaint department.'

Pl.'s Reponse, ECF No. 16, at 5, citing Website, Pl.'s Response, Ex. B. On May 20, 2016, Mr. Hamann sought to amend his complaint to add Copley Motorcars (“Copley”) as a Defendant. See Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 27. Defendants have moved to dismiss Mr. Hamann's case, arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the original Defendants. Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 10. They have also opposed Mr. Hamann's motion to amend, arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction over Copley as well. Def.'s Opp. Mem., ECF No. 31.

         II. Standard of Review

         On a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant. DiStefano v. Carozzi N. Am., Inc., 286 F.3d 81, 84 (2d Cir. 2001). Prior to discovery, a plaintiff challenged by a jurisdiction testing motion may defeat the motion by pleading in good faith legally sufficient allegations of jurisdiction. At that preliminary stage, the plaintiff's prima facie showing may be established solely by allegations. Ball v. Metallurgie Hoboken-Overpelt, 902 F.2d 194, 197 (2d Cir. 1990).

         The Court must accept all undisputed factual allegations for the purpose of determining personal jurisdiction. Pitruzello v. Muro, 70 Conn.App. 309, 314-15 (2002). However, if a plaintiff's factual allegations are disputed the Court cannot “avoid scrutiny of the plaintiff's affidavit to determine whether it [can] provide a sufficient basis for the court to assume … jurisdiction.” Id. (approving of a trial court's decision not to exercise jurisdiction over a defendant because even though plaintiff's allegations, “standing alone, might have provided a basis for assuming personal jurisdiction, ” they “were not supported by [the plaintiff's] affidavit and [had] been contradicted by [the defendant's] affidavit”); see also Chirag v. MT Marida Marguerite Schiffahrts, 604 F. App'x 16, 19 (2d Cir. 2015) (“A prima facie case requires non-conclusory fact-specific allegations or evidence showing that activity that constitutes the basis of jurisdiction has taken place.”); Daventree Ltd. v. Republic of Azer.,349 F.Supp.2d 736, 757 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (“The court accepts plaintiffs' allegations of jurisdictional facts and will construe all factual inferences in ...


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