United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
GOLF CLUB, L.L.C., an Oklahoma limited liability company, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN GOLF CORPORATION, Defendant.
TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count 1 of
Plaintiff's Complaint [Doc. No. 16]. Plaintiff has
opposed the Motion, which is fully briefed.
Golf Club, L.L.C., brings suit against Defendant American
Golf Corporation, asserting declaratory judgment and breach
of contract claims related to a twenty (20) year commercial
lease (“Lease”) of The Golf Club of Oklahoma
(“Club”). The Complaint alleges Defendant failed
to maintain the leased premises as required by the Lease,
causing “substantial deficiencies, ” which led to
a dramatic decline in Club membership, “historic
prestige, and reputation.” Compl. [Doc. No. 1] at 6.
Plaintiff further alleges that, despite making Defendant
aware of the deficiencies (which were identified and assessed
by Plaintiff's independent contractor), Defendant failed
to make necessary repairs, and instead, hired its own
contractor to “perform superficial remediation and
minor and/or cosmetic repairs designed to cover up the
extensive damage to the Club buildings caused by
Defendant's deferred maintenance and general neglect
during its tenancy.” Compl. [Doc. No. 1] at 11.
seeks a partial dismissal of the Complaint based “on
the principle that a federal court should not entertain a
claim governed by the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201, that simply seeks a determination of issues
presented by a separate claim for damages.” Mot. [Doc.
No. 16] at 2 (quoting Cleveland v. Talent Sport,
Inc., Case No. CIV-12-789-D, 2013 WL 2178272, *2 (W.D.
Okla. May 17, 2013)). In addition, Defendant contends that
Count 1 of the Complaint “seeks coercive remedies
relating to claimed repairs to the leased premises.”
Id. at 2. Plaintiff contends its declaratory
judgment claim is not coercive and properly seeks a judicial
determination of issues separate and distinct from its breach
of contract claim. See Resp. [Doc. No 18] at
survive a motion to dismiss, 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)); see also Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d
1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. at 678. “Determining whether a complaint
states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
Id. at 679. The question to be decided is
“whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts
supporting all the elements necessary to establish an
entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.”
Lane v. Simon, 495 F.3d 1182, 1186 (10th Cir. 2007)
(internal quotations omitted).
initial challenge to Plaintiff's declaratory judgment
claim is not based on the sufficiency of its factual
allegations, but on the contention that Plaintiff's
breach of contract claim necessarily will require a
determination of the same issues that Plaintiff seeks to
resolve by declaratory judgment and, thus, Plaintiff's
Count 1 should be dismissed as duplicative of the contractual
claim. Plaintiff maintains, “[s]eparate from [the]
breach of contract claim for damages, a declaratory judgment
would serve a highly useful purpose in clarifying the legal
status, rights, and obligations of the parties both between
themselves and vis-à-vis the subject property.”
Resp. [Doc. No. 18] at 8.
courts have “‘unique and substantial
discretion' in determining whether to declare the rights
of litigants.” United States v. City of Las
Cruces, 289 F.3d 1170, 1179-80 (10th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 286
(1995)). This issue often arises in the context of parallel
litigation in state and federal courts. See Id. In
such situations, the following factors guide the courts'
(1) whether a declaratory action would settle the
controversy; (2) whether it would serve a useful purpose in
clarifying the legal relations at issue; (3) whether the
declaratory remedy is being used merely for the purpose of
procedural fencing or to provide an arena for a race to res
judicata; (4) whether use of a declaratory action would
increase friction between our federal and state courts and
improperly encroach upon state jurisdiction; and (5) whether
there is an alternative remedy which is better or more
Mid-Continent Cas. Co. v. Vill. at Deer Creek Homeowners
Ass'n, Inc., 685 F.3d 977, 980- 81 (10th Cir. 2012)
(quoting State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Mhoon, 31
F.3d 979, 983 (10th Cir. 1994)).
these same factors may also guide a decision whether to
entertain a separate declaratory judgment claim in this case,
Court finds all applicable factors weigh in favor of
dismissal of Plaintiff's duplicative claim. Apart from
Plaintiff's desire to declare Defendant in default
without the ability to cure prior to the end of the Lease
term (see infra note 1), Plaintiff fails to identify
any issue for resolution by declaratory relief that cannot be
resolved in the context of its separate claim ...