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Cronin v. Adam A. Weschler & Son, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 15, 2012

Anne CRONIN, Plaintiff,
ADAM A. WESCHLER & SON, INC., Defendant.

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Brian W. Stolarz, Jackson Kelly PLLC, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

James Andrew Sullivan, Jr., Miles & Stockbridge, Rockville, MD, for Defendant.


JAMES E. BOASBERG, District Judge.

While Plaintiff Anne Cronin was renovating her house, she placed various furnishings in storage with the Prosperi Company. Believing Cronin had failed to pay its fee, Prosperi at some point sent the items to Defendant Adam A. Weschler & Son, Inc., to be auctioned. Upon learning of the pending auction, Plaintiff contacted Prosperi and Weschler's to block the sale. Despite her payment of outstanding storage fees and assurances by both Prosperi and Weschler's that the sale would not proceed, 37 lots of her items did end up being auctioned, yielding far less than their true value.

Plaintiff has thus brought this diversity action against Weschler's only, alleging conversion, negligence, fraud, and a violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), D.C.Code § 28-3901 et seq. Defendant now moves to dismiss much of the case, arguing both that Prosperi is a necessary party and that several of the causes of action are infirm. Because the Court finds that Plaintiff cannot allege a sufficient merchant-consumer relationship to invoke the CPPA, it will grant Defendant's Motion as to that claim (Count IV). The remaining counts (I, II & III), however, may proceed since Prosperi is not a required party, and the fraud and conversion causes of action have been adequately pled.

I. Background

According to the Complaint, which must be presumed true at this stage, Plaintiff had long used the services of Prosperi to store personal property. See Compl., ¶ 8. During the renovation of her house, she stored over $100,000 worth of Ralph Lauren home furnishings there, and fees were routinely paid by Ralph Lauren using Plaintiff's credit card. Id., ¶¶ 9-11. On August 13, 2012, Prosperi informed Plaintiff that the property would be auctioned the next day by Weschler's because of unpaid storage fees. Id., ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff immediately authorized Prosperi to charge her credit card for the outstanding fees of $8,913.62, which it did. Id., ¶ 15. Plaintiff then called Weschler's and spoke to Tom Weschler, the company president, to tell him that the storage-fee dispute had been resolved and that the property should not be auctioned. Id., ¶ 16. Weschler informed her that he required confirmation of payment from Prosperi, in which event he would call off the auction. Id.

Plaintiff right away told Prosperi, which then contacted Weschler that same afternoon to confirm payment and the cancellation of the auction. Id., ¶ 17. Weschler agreed, but indicated that a fee of $3,500 would be charged for the canceled auction, which Prosperi told him Plaintiff would pay. Id. Prosperi then contacted Plaintiff to assure her that no auction would proceed. Id., ¶ 18. In this exchange of information, however, some directive apparently went awry because Plaintiff learned the next afternoon that the auction had in fact proceeded, and approximately 37 lots of her items had been sold for a total of $14,760, an amount far less than what Plaintiff had paid. Id., ¶¶ 19-20.

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Plaintiff then brought this suit, and Defendant has now moved to dismiss.

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails to " state a claim upon which relief can be granted." When the sufficiency of a complaint is challenged under Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations presented in it must be presumed true and should be liberally construed in plaintiff's favor. Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics & Coordination Unit,507 U.S. 163, 164, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993). Although the notice-pleading rules are " not meant to impose a great burden on a plaintiff," Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347, 125 S.Ct. 1627, 161 L.Ed.2d 577 (2005), and " detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), " 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation omitted). Plaintiff must put forth " factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Though a plaintiff may survive a 12(b)(6) ...

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