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Lockard Aircraft Sales Co., Inc. v. Dumont Aircraft Sales, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

September 3, 2019

LOCKARD AIRCRAFT SALES CO., INC., Plaintiff,
v.
DUMONT AIRCRAFT SALES, LLC; DAN PIRAINO; KEVIN WARGO; Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN F. DOWDELL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 81). The defendants seek partial summary judgment on several issues. First, the defendants argue that the plaintiff has acknowledged that his claim is a simple breach of contract claim and there is no evidence of fraud, such that the plaintiff's fraud claim and request for punitive damages should be dismissed. Second, the individual defendants maintain that the plaintiff cannot maintain claims against them as a matter of law. Third, the defendants contend that plaintiff may not maintain any breach of contract claim for commissions on “parts planes, ” because the parties' agreement does not expressly include “parts planes.” The plaintiff filed a response (Doc. 84), and the defendants filed a reply brief (Doc. 87).

         I. Background

         The following facts are undisputed, except where otherwise noted. Defendant Dumont Aircraft Sales, LLC (DAS) purchases and sells pre-owned aircraft. Defendant Kevin Wargo is the manager and a principal of DAS, and defendant Daniel Piraino is also a principal. The plaintiff, Lockard Aircraft Sales, Inc. (Lockard) is owned and operated by Dennis and Tammie Lockard. Lockard's business includes buying, selling, and brokering aircraft.

         By email, Lockard and DAS entered into an agreement in December 2014. Pursuant to the agreement, Lockard would serve as an independent contractor for DAS and would be responsible for sourcing aircraft deals for DAS, in exchange for compensation, including commissions. Lockard was to receive an annual base compensation of $120, 000, paid $10, 000 monthly. Once $360, 000 in profit was generated from Lockard's annual aircraft sales, Lockard was to receive one-third (33 1/3%) of DAS's net profits of those sales that were above $360, 000. (Doc. 81-5).

         DAS paid Lockard the annual base compensation of $120, 000. DAS also paid commissions totaling $79, 659.00 through January 12, 2016. Lockard challenged the amount of commissions paid and subsequently terminated the agreement. Lockard brought suit against DAS for breach of contract and against all defendants for fraud. The defendants removed the action, based upon diversity jurisdiction.

         II. Summary Judgment Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The courts thus must determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52. The non-movant's evidence is taken as true, and all justifiable and reasonable inferences are to be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Id. at 255. The court may not weigh the evidence and may not credit the evidence of the party seeking summary judgment and ignore evidence offered by the non-movant. Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 657-59 (2014) (per curiam).

         III. Discussion

         A. Fraud Claim

         The defendants argue that the plaintiff has acknowledged his claim is a simple breach of contract claim. They also contend that the plaintiff has no evidence of fraud. In support of their arguments, the defendants cite portions of Mr. Lockard's deposition in which he noted numerous bookkeeping “mistakes” and stated that his dispute was based upon DAS's failure to pay Lockard in accordance with the agreement. (See Doc. 81 at 19-20 of 31 [citing deposition testimony]). However, the testimony cited by the defendants does not exclude the possibility of fraud. (See id.).

         Moreover, reading Mr. Lockard's testimony in context, it is clear that he is asserting that the defendants intentionally and fraudulently presented false information to Lockard in calculations that related to Lockard's commissions. Mr. Lockard not only testified as to specific examples of what he believed to be intentionally misleading calculations and misrepresentations by the defendants, but Lockard also expressly alleged that such representations were, in his view, “fraudulent.” (See, e.g., Doc. 84-3 at 61-67 of 77). For example, Lockard testified that the defendants represented that they were not subtracting Lockard's base pay from commissions, but they were subtracting the base. (Id. at 61). He also testified that the defendants' calculations did not truthfully list the amounts at which aircraft were sold. (Id. at 62-63). He further identified several other facts that support his fraud claim. (See Id. at 64-67).

         The Court has reviewed all of the record evidence submitted with the parties' briefing, which reveals that there are genuine disputes of material fact regarding Lockard's fraud claim. Taking the plaintiff's evidence as true, as is required at the summary judgment stage, a reasonable jury could find that the defendants knowingly or recklessly made material misrepresentations with the intent that the plaintiff rely upon the false information to accept a lower commission. As a result, the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment as to plaintiff's fraud claim and request for punitive damages will be denied.

         B. Claims Against the ...


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