United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
For InfinaQuest LLC, Plaintiff, Counter Defendant: Bradley J Buchheit, Christopher E Baker, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Tucker Hester Baker & Krebs LLC, Indianapolis, IN.
For DirectBuy Inc, Beta Finance Company Inc, Defendants, Counter Claimants: C Joseph Yast, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of C Joseph Yast, Merrillville, IN; F Joseph Jaskowiak, LEAD ATTORNEY, Hoeppner Wagner & Evans LLP - Mer/IN, Merrillville, IN; Lauren K Kroeger, Hoeppner Wagner & Evans LLP - Val/IN, Valparaiso, IN.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE PAUL R. CHERRY.
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 31], filed on October 22, 2013. It
became fully briefed on December 12, 2013. Both sides in this case were owed money under contracts they had with a company in Florida called JDB Direct, LLC. This dispute arose after JDB defaulted on its debts and Defendants collected money that InfinaQuest claims rightfully belongs to it. InfinaQuest filed its Complaint on June 6, 2012, alleging tortious interference with contract and conversion.
Both parties orally consented on the record to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
I. Summary Judgment Standard
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate that motions for summary judgment be granted " if the movant shows 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). Rule 56 further requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, against a party " who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c)). " [S]ummary judgment is appropriate--in fact, is mandated--where there are no disputed issues of material fact and the movant must prevail as a matter of law. In other words, the record must reveal that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Dempsey v. Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 16 F.3d 832, 836 (7th Cir. 1994) (citations and quotations omitted).
A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party may discharge its initial responsibility by simply " 'showing'--that is, pointing out to the district court--that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. When the nonmoving party would have the burden of proof at trial, the moving party is not required to support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 325; Green v. Whiteco Indus., Inc., 17 F.3d 199, 201 n.3 (7th Cir. 1994); Fitzpatrick v. Catholic Bishop of Chi., 916 F.2d 1254, 1256 (7th Cir. 1990). However, the moving party, if it chooses, may support its motion for summary judgment with affidavits or other materials, and, if the moving party has " produced sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that there are no genuine issues for trial," then the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show that an issue of material fact exists. Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill Assocs., 914 F.2d 107, 110-11 (7th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted); see also Hong v. Children's Mem'l Hosp., 993 F.2d 1257, 1261 (7th Cir. 1993).
Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the non-moving party cannot resist the motion and withstand summary judgment by merely resting on its pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Donovan v. City of Milwaukee, 17 F.3d 944, 947 (7th Cir. 1994). Rule 56(e) provides that " [i]f a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to
properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion [or] grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials--including the facts considered undisputed--show that the movant is entitled to it . . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2), (3); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Thus, to demonstrate a genuine issue of fact, the nonmoving party must " do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," but must " come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).
In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Srail v. Vill. of Lisle, 588 F.3d 940, 948 (7th Cir. 2009); NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-Am., Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 234 (7th Cir. 1995). A court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.
II. Material Facts
A. The Contracts Between Defendants and JDB
Defendant DirectBuy, Inc. is the franchisor of a network of over 100 DirectBuy franchises throughout the United States and Canada. The franchises sell DirectBuy memberships to consumers enabling those who join to shop for furniture, cabinetry, and the like at wholesale prices. The business model for setting up franchises is what one might expect: in exchange for fees and a cut of the franchisee's income, DirectBuy grants franchisees ...