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Renchard v. Prince William Marine Sales, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 9, 2015


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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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BERYL A. HOWELL, United States District Judge.

Pending before the Court are two motions: a Motion for Summary Judgment (" Defs.' Mot." ), ECF No. 49, from the defendants, Price William Marine Sales, Inc. (" PWMS" ) and Prince William Marina, Inc. (" PWM" ), and a Motion for Leave To File Verified Second Amended Complaint (" Pl.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 51, from the plaintiff, Randolph W. Renchard. Given the already lengthy history of this action, and the persistence of fundamental factual disputes, the Court denies the plaintiff's motion for leave to file and grants in part and denies in part the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.[1]


The facts of this matter as pleaded in the First Amended Complaint are discussed at length in Renchard v. Prince William Marine Sales ( Renchard I ), 28 F.Supp.3d 1, 3-7 (D.D.C. 2014). Nevertheless, a brief summary of the facts is provided here to give context to the Court's ruling. The plaintiff is " profoundly and pre-linguistically deaf and uses American Sign Language for daily communication." Renchard I, 28 F.Supp.3d at 3. In May 2009, after liquidating his trust fund and trading in his previous boat, a Bayliner, to constitute a down payment, the plaintiff purchased a " 58' Sea Ray," a luxury yacht, and financed it through the defendants. Pl.'s Statement of Disp. Material Facts[2] (" Pl.'s SMF" ) ¶ ¶ 11, 13, ECF No. 58-2; Renchard I, 28 F.Supp.3d at 3-4. The purchase price of the yacht was approximately $1.4 million, with the value

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of the plaintiff's trade-in boat and liquidated trust fund accounting for approximately $725,000 of the purchase price. Renchard I, 28 F.Supp.3d at 3. Although the yacht was purchased in Virginia, it was " slipped in Columbia Island Marina," in Washington, D.C., and listed Washington D.C. as its hailing port. Id. at 4.

After purchasing the yacht, the plaintiff began to incur charges for maintenance and upgrades. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 16. The parties dispute where and when many of these charges were incurred, with the defendants averring that the majority of the maintenance was performed in Virginia, Pl.'s SMF ¶ 71, and the plaintiff averring that there is no documentation showing where the maintenance was performed, id. The parties affirm that they entered some kind of agreement--the parties debate whether it had a written component--whereby the plaintiff would pay $500 per month to the defendants to satisfy the outstanding maintenance charges, hereinafter referred to as the " Plaintiff's Account." Pl.'s SMF ¶ 16. The defendants claim that this agreement constituted a " revolving credit account" with Defendant PWMS, while the plaintiff rejects that characterization, citing the agreement's oral nature and lack of terms and conditions. See id. ¶ ¶ 16, 18.

The Plaintiff's Account eventually grew to approximately $73,000, including $26,387.08 for the plaintiff's pre-existing mortgage on the Bayliner the plaintiff had traded to the defendants. Pl.'s SMF ¶ ¶ 23-24. The parties dispute whether the plaintiff agreed, voluntarily, to subsume the prior mortgage, which the parties agree the plaintiff had continued to pay after purchasing the new yacht, into the Plaintiff's Account. Id. The parties also dispute whether the plaintiff disclosed the existence of this pre-existing mortgage prior to the sale of the yacht, and whether Carlton Phillips, the " primary owner of PWMS," made any representations regarding the pre-existing mortgage. See id.

The defendants assert that on April 13, 2011, approximately eighteen months after the plaintiff purchased the yacht, the plaintiff signed " a handwritten note that he would pay the revolving charge account balance of [at the time] $51,670.80" by the end of June 2011. Id. ¶ 28. The plaintiff disputes this characterization, stating that the handwritten note merely shows that the plaintiff " met Carlton Phillips and would try to obtain a loan in order to pay off the amount he owed PWMS in a single lump sum." Id. The plaintiff avers that, although he was late on several mortgage payments to PWMS for the yacht, id. ¶ 27, he was never late on the payments on his Account, id. ¶ 31.

The parties similarly disagree about the meaning of a handwritten note allegedly signed on June 23, 2011. The defendants aver that in this note, the plaintiff stated " he would pay the new revolving charge account balance of $72,810.00 by July 30, 2011." Id. ¶ 33. The plaintiff disputes this characterization, agreeing only that the plaintiff had agreed, at Defendant PWMS' request, to attempt to secure a loan to pay the balance of his account. Id. The plaintiff states that his signature on this document, as was the case on the previous document, did not signify agreement, but merely that he was present at the meeting, per Mr. Phillips' representations to the plaintiff. See id. The parties also dispute the status of the Plaintiff's Account, with the defendants contending that the plaintiff still " owes" the defendants $73,000 and the plaintiff contending that he no longer owes the money. Id. ¶ 35. The plaintiff did not secure a loan to pay off the entire amount of his Account. Id. ¶ 36. The plaintiff avers that he continued

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to pay his $500 monthly installments, while the defendant contends that the plaintiff's last $500 payment " occurred between August 16-18, 2011." Id. ¶ 38.

The parties vigorously disagree about what happened following the date on which the defendants assert the plaintiff had promised to pay his Account in full, and failed to do so. The defendants contend that the plaintiff " voluntarily agreed to turn into PWMS the yacht, as he was unable to continue to afford it." Pl.'s SMF ¶ 41. To bolster their version of events, the defendants have submitted an affidavit from one of their employees stating that when he arrived to take the yacht back to PWMS, he found a group of people on the boat and the employee contacted the plaintiff to come to the Marina to remove them. Id. ¶ 44; see also Defs.' Mem. Supp. Defs.' Mot. (" Defs.' Mem." ) Ex. K (Aff. of Michael Minor, Shop Foreperson, PWMS (" Minor Aff." )) ¶ 2, ECF No. 49-12. The employee states that the plaintiff arrived, " took the people off the Yacht," and did not object when the employee left with the yacht. Id. ¶ 3.

The plaintiff avers that he " never stated to anyone that [he] wanted to or had to 'turn in' [his] yacht." Pl.'s SMF ¶ 41. Moreover, the plaintiff directly contradicts the Minor Affidavit in all respects, stating he never met the employee at the marina, never allowed a group of people to use his boat, and did not witness his boat being removed. Id. Nevertheless, the parties agree that the defendants' employee took the yacht back to the defendants' marina in Woodbridge, Virginia, between September 8 and September 16, 2011. Minor Aff. ¶ 1; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 44.

The defendants state that they notified the plaintiff that the yacht would be put up for sale and that the plaintiff needed to remove his belongings. Pl.'s SMF ¶ ¶ 46-49. The plaintiff disputes receiving certain communications, id. ¶ 45, attending a meeting the defendants' contend occurred in Virginia on October 4, 2011, id. ¶ 46, understanding why the boat was being sold, id. ¶ 47, the reason why the plaintiff removed his personal items from the boat, id. ¶ 48, and for what reason the boat had been seized, aside from the yacht having " been taken for satisfaction of [the plaintiff's] debt to Prince William Marine Sales," without specifying which debt, the mortgage or the Account, the boat was taken to satisfy, id. ¶ 49.

The defendants submit that the plaintiff further evinced his understanding of circumstances of the yacht's removal because the plaintiff " voluntarily signed [a] Bill of Sale, transferring the Yacht, identified by its name and hull number, back to PWMS." Pl.'s SMF ¶ 56. The plaintiff disputes this contention, stating that he " did not understand the bill of sale forwarded to him and it was not explained to him although he called PWMS seeking clarification" as to what he was signing and why. Id. ¶ ¶ 54-55. The plaintiff contends that his request for clarification was rebuffed by one of the defendants' employees. Id.

The defendants also cite the plaintiff's transfer of the yacht's third party warranty to the yacht's subsequent owner as evidence of the plaintiff's acquiescence to the sale of the yacht. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 57. The plaintiff states that he had never seen the document submitted by the defendants purportedly bearing the plaintiff's signature and transferring the warranty to the yacht's new owner prior to litigation, " would not have understood it if he had seen it," and " contends that his signature on this document is a forgery." Id. (referencing Defs.' Ex. 269).

The defendants have filed two motions to dismiss this matter after removing it from D.C. Superior Court, Defs.' Mot. Dismiss

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(" Defs.' 1st MTD" ) at 1, ECF No. 5; Defs.' Mot. Dismiss (" Defs.' 2d MTD" ) at 1, ECF No. 22, and a Motion to Transfer this matter to the Eastern District of Virginia, Defs.' Mot. Transfer (" Defs.' Transfer Mot." ) at 1, ECF No. 4. The motion to transfer and first motion to dismiss were denied in part and granted in part by this Court in Renchard I, and the second motion to dismiss was denied in part and granted in part at a hearing held May 22, 2014. The plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (" FAC" ), ECF No. 31, with the consent of the defendants in June 2014, which remains the operative complaint.

The FAC contains eight causes of action: Count One for " Wrongful Repossession/Conversion," FAC ¶ ¶ 82-97; Count Two for alleged violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (" CPPA" ), id. ¶ ¶ 98-114; Count Three for negligence, id. ¶ ¶ 115-20; Count Four for gross negligence, id. ¶ ¶ 121-23; Count Five for " Breach of Contract and Breach of Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing," id. ¶ ¶ 124-33; Count Six for Unjust Enrichment, id. ¶ ¶ 134-40; Count Seven for Civil Conspiracy, id. ¶ ¶ 141-46; and Count Eight for Fraud, id. ¶ ¶ 147-53.

The proposed second amended complaint, ECF No. 51-1, contains the same factual allegations and counts as the FAC, with the exception of seven additional paragraphs under the heading " Facts Common to the ADA Count," in which the plaintiff describes the factual predicate for a proposed claim against the defendants for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Prop. 2d Am. Compl. (" PSAC" ) ¶ ¶ 82-89. The PSAC also contains a ninth cause of action for " Discrimination." Id. ¶ ¶ 162-64.

The defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and the plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File are ...

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