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J. Lee Browning Belize Trust v. Lynton

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 11, 2017

J. LEE BROWNING BELIZE TRUST, Plaintiff,
v.
BRUCE LYNTON, STEVE DAUBENMIER, and DONALD MILLER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Nina Y. Wang United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the court on Defendants Bruce Lynton, Steve Daubenmier, and Donald Miller's (collectively, “Individual Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (“Motion to Dismiss” or “Motion”), filed August 11, 2017. [#39].[1] The undersigned considers the Motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the case reassignment dated February 15, 2017 [#31], and concludes that oral argument will not materially assist in the resolution of this Motion. Accordingly, upon review of the Motion and associated briefing, the entire case file, and applicable case law, the court DENIES the Motion to Dismiss for the reasons stated herein.

         BACKGROUND

         The court has discussed the background of this case in detail in its prior Orders, see, e.g., J. Lee Belize Browning Trust v. Aspen Mountain Condominium Association, Inc., Civil Action No. 15-cv-00945-NYW [ECF No. 85], and discusses it here only as it pertains to the instant Motion. This case arises from a dispute between Plaintiff J. Lee Browning Belize Trust (“Plaintiff” or “Belize Trust”) and Aspen Mountain Condominium Association, Inc. (“AMCA”) over damage caused by a June 2014 sewage blockage and back-up to Plaintiff's condominium located in the Aspen Mountain Condominiums. See [#1; #38]. In June 2014, part of the sewage disposal line running from Unit 1-A to the sanitary sewer system became blocked to the point of causing sewage back-up, resulting in sewage-soaked carpeting and flooring as well as other damage to Unit 1-A. [#38 at ¶ 3].

         Originally, Plaintiff brought suit against AMCA, seeking damages for its alleged refusals to make a definitive repair to the sewage disposal line that caused repeated blockages, which prohibited Plaintiff from listing or selling its condominium. See J. Lee Belize Browning Trust v. Aspen Mountain Condominium Association, Inc., Civil Action No. 15-cv-00945-NYW [ECF No.1 at ¶¶ 15-16] [hereinafter “Original Action”]. On August 17, 2016, Plaintiff initiated the instant action against the Individual Defendants, identified as officers of AMCA. [#38 at ¶ 5]. The events surrounding the sewage back-ups in Plaintiff's condominium also give rise to this action against the Individual Defendants. See generally [#38]. Specifically, Belize Trust asserts a single cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty against the Individual Defendants based on Defendant Lynton's alleged interference with Plaintiff's attempts to hire Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service of Glenwood Springs (“Roto-Rooter”) to fix the recurring sewage back-ups and the Individual Defendants' refusal to correct the issue themselves. See [id. at ¶¶ 6, 11-14, 23, 24, 29, 31-33, 36-39, 41-42]. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, damages, and exemplary damages.[2]

         AMCA moved to consolidate this case with the Original Action, and this court consolidated the two actions on February 14, 2017. See Original Action [ECF No. 67]. Following consolidation, the undersigned denied AMCA's Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of liability, and ordered Belize Trust to show cause why summary judgment in the Original Action should not enter in favor of AMCA and against Plaintiff for failure to assert a cognizable claim. See Original Action [ECF No. 68 at 12]. Belize Trust responded to the Order to Show Cause and filed a Motion to Amend its Complaint to include new events of sewage back-up and to consolidate its complaint in the two related actions; the Individual Defendants filed a Motion For Partial Summary Judgment Regarding Claims Against Board of Directors Defendants (“Motion for Partial Summary Judgment”) on the basis of claim-splitting. See Original Action [ECF Nos. 76; 79; 80].

         On June 23, 2017, the court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting summary judgment in favor of AMCA and against Plaintiff pursuant to Rule 56(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a cognizable claim, denying Plaintiff's request to amend its Complaint, and denying without prejudice the Individual Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. See Original Action [ECF No. 85]. In doing so, the court severed the instant action against the Individual Defendants from the Original Action, stating,

the most appropriate course of action is to sever the Individual Defendants from this action and re-open Civil Action No. 16-cv-2078 so that any claims, and motions related to those claims, proceed therein. . . . The Parties should meet and confer as to any proposed amendments to the operative pleading in Civil Action No. 16-cv-2078, and to facilitate a robust discussion between the Parties regarding what claims will proceed in that action.

[Id. at 14].

         Plaintiff then moved to file its First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) in the instant action, which the court granted on July 28, 2017. [#38]. The FAC is the operative complaint in this matter. The Individual Defendants responded to the FAC by filing the instant Motion to Dismiss arguing for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) based solely on the doctrine of claim preclusion. [#39]. Plaintiff has since filed its Response [#43] and the Individual Defendants their Reply [#45]. The Motion is now ripe for resolution.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) a court may dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must “accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations . . . and view these allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Casanova v. Ulibarri, 595 F.3d 1120, 1124 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009)). A plaintiff, however, may not rely on mere labels or conclusions, “and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); see also Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (explaining that plausibility refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint, ” and that the allegations must be sufficient to nudge a plaintiff's claim(s) “across the line from conceivable to plausible.”). The ultimate duty of the court is to “determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.” Forest Guardians v. Forsgren, 478 F.3d 1149, 1160 (10th Cir. 2007).

         ANALYSIS

         I. ...


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