Lenz et al v. The Michaels Organization et al
ORDER: "Defendants The Michael's Organization LLC, Michaels Management Services, Inc., and Interstate Realty Management Co., Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss and Notice of Joinder in Defendant AMC East Communities LLC's Motion to Dism iss" (Doc. 43) is granted in part and denied in part. The motion is granted as to Count VI against the Michaels Affiliates. The motion is otherwise denied. The Michaels Affiliates are directed to file an answer on or before October 30, 2020. See Order for details. Signed by Judge Thomas P. Barber on 10/16/2020. (ANL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
JOSHUA LENZ, et al.,
Case No. 8:19-cv-2950-T-60AEP
THE MICHAELS ORGANIZATION,
LLC, et al.,
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART “DEFENDANTS THE
MICHAEL’S ORGANIZATION LLC, MICHAELS MANAGEMENT SERVICES,
INC., AND INTERSTATE REALTY MANAGEMENT CO., INC.’S MOTION
TO DISMISS AND NOTICE OF JOINDER IN DEFENDANT AMC
EAST COMMUNITIES LLC’S MOTION TO DISMISS”
This matter is before the Court on “Defendants The Michael’s Organization
LLC, Michaels Management Services, Inc., and Interstate Realty Management Co.,
Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss and Notice of Joinder in Defendant AMC East Communities
LLC’s Motion to Dismiss,” filed on April 30, 2020. (Doc. 43). On June 1, 2020,
Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition. (Doc. 45). After reviewing the motion,
response, court file, and the record, the Court finds as follows:
Plaintiffs are members of the United States Military and their spouses that are
currently or formerly housed at MacDill Air Force Base (“MacDill AFB”) in Tampa,
Florida. According to Plaintiffs, Defendant Clark MacDill Design Build (“Clark”)
failed to properly design and build their homes, and Defendants AMC East
Communities, LLC (“AMC”), The Michaels Organization, LLC (“Michaels”), Michaels
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Management Services, Inc. (“MMS”), and Interstate Realty Management Company
(“Interstate”) failed to maintain and manage their housing, which has resulted in
widespread and well-known problems with mold and led to serious injuries and safety
issues for Plaintiffs, prospective class members, and their families. Plaintiffs allege
numerous causes of action against Defendants, including: breach of contract (Count I),
breach of the implied warranty of habitability (Count II), violation of the Florida
Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”) (Count III), negligence (Count
IV), gross negligence (Count V), and unjust enrichment (Count VI).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint contain “a short
and plain statement of the claim showing the [plaintiff] is entitled to relief.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a). While Rule 8(a) does not demand “detailed factual allegations,” it does
require “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements
of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). In order to survive a motion to dismiss, factual allegations must be sufficient
“to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.
When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, review is generally limited to the four
corners of the complaint. Rickman v. Precisionaire, Inc., 902 F. Supp. 232, 233 (M.D.
Fla. 1995). Furthermore, when reviewing a complaint for facial sufficiency, a court
“must accept [a] [p]laintiff’s well pleaded facts as true, and construe the [c]omplaint in
the light most favorable to the [p]laintiff.” Id. (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232,
236 (1974)). “[A] motion to dismiss should concern only the complaint’s legal
sufficiency, and is not a procedure for resolving factual questions or addressing the
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merits of the case.” Am. Int’l Specialty Lines Ins. Co. v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, 8:09cv-1264-T-26TGW, 2009 WL 10671157, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 9, 2009) (Lazzara, J.).
Defendants The Michael’s Organization LLC, Michaels Management Services,
Inc., and Interstate Realty Management Co., Inc. (collectively, the “Michaels
Affiliates”) move to dismiss the amended complaint. As grounds, the Michaels
Affiliates argue that the amended complaint constitutes a shotgun pleading, and that
Plaintiffs have otherwise failed to sufficiently state their negligence, gross negligence,
and unjust enrichment claims. The Michaels Affiliates also adopt AMC East
Communities LLC’s motion to dismiss.
Joinder in AMC East Motion and Shotgun Pleading
The Michaels Affiliates join in AMC East Communities LLC’s Motion to
Dismiss, including its argument that the amended complaint constitutes a shotgun
pleading. The Court denied that motion on September 23, 2020. (Doc. 54). The Court
will address the Michaels Affiliates’ remaining arguments.
Counts IV and V – Negligence and Gross Negligence
In the motion, the Michaels Affiliates argue that Plaintiffs fail to adequately
allege the legal duties imposed on them, or how they each individually breached those
duties. The Michaels Affiliates further argue that Plaintiffs cannot hold them liable
as alleged agents and therefore vicariously responsible for the principals’ alleged
failure to perform certain affirmative duties.
Upon review, the Court finds that the amended complaint sufficiently alleges
that the Michaels Affiliates had a legal duty to Plaintiffs as property managers to keep
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the premises in a reasonably safe condition and remediate moisture, mold, and other
dangerous conditions, and that they breached those duties because they were aware of
the moisture and mold problems but failed to properly remediate or take adequate
corrective action. These counts do not seek to hold the Michaels Affiliates liable as
agents for AMC East. Rather, Plaintiffs allege that the Michaels Affiliates committed
their own acts and omissions for which they are themselves liable. The motion to
dismiss is denied as to these grounds.
Count VI – Unjust Enrichment
In the motion, the Michaels Affiliates argue that Plaintiffs have failed to
properly plead an unjust enrichment claim because they cannot allege that there was
any direct benefit to the Michaels Affiliates. The Court agrees.
“To state a claim for unjust enrichment, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the
plaintiff conferred a benefit on the defendant, who had knowledge of the benefit; (2)
the defendant voluntarily accepted and retained the benefit; and (3) under the
circumstances it would be inequitable for the defendant to retain the benefit without
paying for it.” Tilton v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc., 8:05-cv-692-T-30TGW,
2007 WL 80858, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 8, 2007).
In this case, Plaintiffs cannot sufficiently allege that they conferred a direct
benefit on the Michaels Affiliates – the “administrative fees paid out of the BAH rents
paid to Defendant AMC” are, at best, an indirect benefit received by the Michaels
Affiliates. See id. (explaining that an indirect benefit is not sufficient to support a
claim for unjust enrichment). Moreover, Plaintiffs have improperly based their unjust
enrichment claim upon the wrongful conduct of the Michael’s Affiliates. See id.
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(dismissing unjust enrichment claim based upon the wrongful conduct of defendants).
Plaintiffs’ right of recovery, if any, sounds in negligence. As such, the motion to
dismiss is granted as to Count VI.
It is therefore
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
(1) “Defendants The Michael’s Organization LLC, Michaels Management Services,
Inc., and Interstate Realty Management Co., Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss and
Notice of Joinder in Defendant AMC East Communities LLC’s Motion to
Dismiss” (Doc. 43) is hereby GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
(2) The motion is GRANTED as to Count VI against the Michaels Affiliates.
(3) The motion is otherwise DENIED.
(4) The Michaels Affiliates are directed to file an answer on or before October 30,
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers, in Tampa, Florida, this 16th day of
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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