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Ello v. Seven Peaks Marketing Chicago, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

October 16, 2019

ANTHONY E. ELLO and EVELYN ELLO, Plaintiffs,
v.
SEVEN PEAKS MARKETING CHICAGO, LLC, Defendant. SEVEN PEAKS MARKETING CHICAGO, LLC, Counter-Claimant,
v.
ANTHONY E. ELLO and EVELYN ELLO, Counter-Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, which was orally made on September 23, 2019. For the reasons stated below, this Motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         This case involves a contractual dispute over a bowling alley. The Plaintiffs, Anthony E. Ello and Evelyn Ello, were the owners of the bowling alley. The Defendant, Seven Peaks Marketing Chicago, LLC, leased the bowling alley from the Plaintiffs and ran the bowling alley as a business. The Plaintiffs’ theory of the case was that the Defendant breached the lease by vacating the bowling alley. The Defendant’s theory of the case was that no valid contract was formed, or, in the alternative, the Plaintiffs breached the lease by locking the Defendant out of the bowling alley.

         At the end of Plaintiffs’ case-in-chief, the Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a). The Defendant argued as follows: (1) the Plaintiffs lack standing because they no longer own the bowling alley; (2) there was no valid contract because the Plaintiffs fraudulently induced the Defendant to enter into the contract; (3) there was no valid contract because the contract was not supported by consideration; (4) the Defendant did not breach any contract which may have existed; (5) the Plaintiffs suffered no damages; and (6) the Plaintiffs’ damages, if any, were speculative. The Court ruled that it was “going to take under advisement the Defendant’s Rule 50 Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and allow the case to go forward into the Defendant’s case in chief.” The Defendant renewed its Motion at the end of its case-in-chief. The Court took the renewed Motion under advisement. Ultimately, the Jury found that (1) a contract existed between the parties and (2) the Defendant breached the contract. The Jury awarded damages in the amount of $454,250 in favor of the Plaintiffs.

         ANALYSIS

         In the renewed motion brought pursuant to Rule 50(b), the Defendant argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because (1) the Plaintiffs lack standing because they no longer own the bowling alley; (2) there was no valid contract because the Plaintiffs fraudulently induced the Defendant to enter into the contract; (3) there was no valid contract because the contract was not supported by consideration; (4) the Defendant did not breach any contract which may have existed; (5) the Plaintiffs suffered no damages; and (6) the Plaintiffs’ damages, if any, were speculative. The Court addresses these issues in turn.

         A. The Jurisdictional Argument

         The Defendant argues that the Plaintiffs lack standing because they no longer own the bowling alley. More specifically, the Defendant argues that “after the Plaintiffs lost any property interest in the bowling alley, after they gave it back to Horizon Bank under the deed in lieu of foreclosure, they had no additional interest. They had no Article III standing. They are not harmed Plaintiffs.” The Court disagrees.

         “Subject-matter jurisdiction cannot be forfeited or waived and should be considered when fairly in doubt.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 671 (2009). “Article III limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to ‘Cases’ and ‘Controversies.’” Taylor v. McCament, 875 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. cl. 1). “To have the requisite constitutional standing to bring suit in federal court, a plaintiff must have ‘(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.’” Id. (quoting Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016)). “If standing is lacking, the case must be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.” Chatman v. Weltman, 325 F.Supp.3d 875, 880 (N.D. Ill. 2018) (citing Taylor, 875 F.3d at 853).

         In this case, the Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant vacated the property. The Plaintiffs also allege that the Defendant failed to pay the security bond which was required under the lease. Further, the Plaintiffs allege that they incurred professional fees as a result of the Defendant’s breach. Based upon this, the Court concludes that the Plaintiffs have standing to sue and that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction. Furthermore, in ruling on the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in this case, the Honorable Rudy Lozano previously concluded that “the evidence that [the Defendant] did not secure the Bond and vacated the Bowling Alley prior to the expiration of the Lease, coupled with the Lease Agreement’s remedy provisions, provide sufficient evidence of damages to satisfy the injury in fact requirement for standing.” Ello v. Brinton, No. 2:14-CV-299, 2018 WL 1523209, *8 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 28, 2018); Op. & Order, ECF No. 147. The Court reaffirms that the Plaintiffs have standing and continues to concur with Judge Lozano’s well reasoned opinion which has previously addressed this issue.

         Trying to avoid this result, the Defendant cites Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 444–46 (7th Cir. 2009) (finding that the plaintiff did not have standing when it had assigned all of its rights under a debt to a third party); Home Abstract and Title Co. v. Orr Enterprises, Inc., 2008 UT App 394, 2008 WL 4748197, at *1 (Utah Ct. App. Oct. 30, 2008) (finding that the plaintiff did not have standing to file an action to quiet title when it had no lawful interest in the property); and Kelly v. Hard Money Funding, Inc., 87 P.3d 734, 740 (Utah Ct. App. 2004) (the plaintiff did not have standing to file an action to quiet title after a lawful foreclosure sale). However, the Defendant does not argue that the Plaintiffs sold or otherwise assigned their rights under the lease to a third party. Likewise, the Plaintiffs are suing for damages which arose from the breach of the lease; they are not suing to quiet title against the new owner of the bowling alley. Thus, the cases upon which the Defendant relies are distinguishable. Accordingly, the Defendant’s jurisdictional argument fails.

         B. The Defendant’s Other Arguments

         The Defendant next argues that (1) there was no valid contract because the Plaintiffs fraudulently induced the Defendant to enter into the contract; (2) there was no valid contract because the contract was not supported by consideration; (3) the Defendant did not breach any contract which may have existed; (4) the Plaintiffs suffered no damages; and (5) the ...


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