NNDYM IN, INC. v. UV IMPORTS, INC et al
ORDER denying 95 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Claims against defendant Patel remain set for trial. Signed by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on 2/13/2013. (SMD)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
NNDYM IN, INC.,
UV IMPORTS, INC.,
A ROYAL TOUCH, INC., and
Case No. 3:09-cv-00129-TWP-WGH
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS’ PARTIAL MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This matter presents an issue that has been twice addressed by this Court during the
course of the three-year litigation. Defendant Ujas Patel (“Mr. Patel”) filed his motion for partial
summary judgment (Dkt. 95) on NNDYM IN, Inc.’s (“NNDYM”) claim against him as an
individual party to the contract at issue, or alternatively, a claim to pierce the corporate veil of
UV Imports, Inc. (“UV”) and A Royal Touch, Inc. (“Royal Touch”). The Court previously held
that Mr. Patel was not an individual party to the contract at issue, first when setting aside the
default judgment against Mr. Patel on March 30, 2011 (Dkt. 39) and again when dismissing the
claim against Mr. Patel on November 1, 2011 (Dkt. 76).
After the Court dismissed NNDYM’s claim against Mr. Patel, NNDYM amended its
complaint on December 8, 2011 (Dkt. 85), alleging that Mr. Patel made an oral promise to be
liable for the contract, that this promise is part of the contract, and alternatively, that UV and
Royal Touch were Mr. Patel’s alter egos and the Court should pierce the corporate veil to reach
Mr. Patel. The Court is therefore required to decide, based on the new pleading, whether Mr.
Patel is an individual party to the contract. Finding that genuine issues of material fact preclude
the Court from making this determination and whether UV and Royal Touch were Mr. Patel’s
alter egos, Mr. Patel’s motion (Dkt. 95) is DENIED.
The following undisputed facts are relevant to the current motion. NNDYM owns a
Holiday Inn Express hotel in Tell City, Indiana (“the Hotel”).
UV is a New Hampshire
corporation with its principal place of business in Mooresville, North Carolina. Mr. Patel was a
50% owner of UV, with the remaining interest owned by one other shareholder. Mr. Patel was
the President and CEO of UV until the corporation was sold in late 2009 and he resigned his
position. However, Mr. Patel maintained the responsibility for the current lawsuit, as well as
business affairs up to and from 2009.1 Royal Touch is a North Carolina corporation with its
principal place of business in Morrisville, North Carolina. Mr. Patel was a 50% owner of Royal
Touch, with the remaining interest owned by one other shareholder. Mr. Patel was the President
and CEO of Royal Touch until he sold his shares in late 2009 and resigned his position.
In 2008, the Hotel sought bids for a required renovation project.2 The requirements were
embodied in a property improvement plan (“PIP”). UV, through Mr. Patel, made contact with
NNDYM to discuss the project. At a meeting at UV’s offices sometime in late 2008, Mr. Patel
orally agreed to be individually responsible for the contract between UV and NNDYM. UV and
Royal Touch sent NNDYM a bid and line item quote on December 30, 2008. NNDYM signed
and returned the line item quote to UV and Royal Touch, thereby accepting the bid. Thereafter,
on February 19, 2009, NNDYM sent UV and Royal Touch a letter that set forth the terms and
conditions to which the corporations agreed. Mr. Patel signed the letter as the representative for
For example, at his September 28, 2012 deposition, Mr. Patel testified that he signed corporate paperwork and tax
returns for the fiscal year 2009 even though the documents were prepared and filed in 2010 or 2011.
The renovations were required by the InterContinental Hotel Group to complete renovations to remain a Holiday
UV and Royal Touch and returned it on March 24, 2009. Mr. Patel was NNDYM’s sole contact
for the renovation project undertaken by UV and Royal Touch. Additional facts will be set forth
below as needed.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate if “the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.Com, Inc., 476
F.3d 487, 489–90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court
reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw[s] all
reasonable inferences in that party’s favor.” Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir.
2009) (citation omitted). However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue
may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations,
that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490
(citation omitted). “In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in
search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a
paper trial on the merits of a claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001)
(citation and internal quotations omitted). Finally, “neither the mere existence of some alleged
factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Chiaramonte v. Fashion
Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and internal quotations omitted).
Mr. Patel seeks summary judgment on two issues. First, that he is not an individual party
to the contract between NNDYM, UV, and Royal Touch. Second, that it is inappropriate to
pierce the corporate veil of UV and Royal Touch. The Court will address each issue in turn.
Party to the Contract
NNDYM alleges that Mr. Patel made an oral promise to be individually responsible for
the renovation undertaken by UV and Royal Touch. This promise is alleged to have been made
at a meeting at UV’s corporate headquarters, as well as reiterated in communications between
NNDYM and Mr. Patel. However, the promise is not found in written materials setting forth the
terms and conditions of the renovation, i.e., the line item quote, the PIP, or the February 19, 2009
letter (“the Letter”). In its amended complaint, NNDYM alleges that the entire contract between
Mr. Patel, NNDYM, UV, and Royal Touch consists of the line item quote, the PIP, the Letter,
and Mr. Patel’s oral promise. Mr. Patel contends for the purposes of summary judgment that the
contract consists only of the Letter. See Dkt. 96 at 5 (contending that “the clear and ambiguous
terms of the Letter establish that it was the final agreement between the parties and that Ujas
Patel did not sign the Letter in his individual capacity”). Therefore, Mr. Patel argues, because he
only signed the Letter as a representative of UV and Royal Touch – as this Court has already
determined on two occasions – he is not a party to the contract.
To determine if Mr. Patel’s oral promise is a part of the contract, the Court must first
determine if the Letter represents the final negotiations of the parties. Otherwise, the parol
evidence rule would apply. “When two parties have made a contract and have expressed it in a
writing to which they have both assented as the complete and accurate integration of that
contract, evidence . . . of antecedent understandings and negotiations will not be admitted for the
purpose of varying or contradicting the writing.” Dicen v. New Sesco, Inc., 839 N.E.2d 684, 688
(Ind. 2005) (quotation omitted).
Determining if a contract is completely integrated, that is “constituting a final and
complete expression of all the parties’ agreements,” Hinkel v. Sataria Distrib. & Packaging, Inc.,
920 N.E.2d 766, 769 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), is a question for the Court and requires all relevant
evidence—both parol or otherwise—to be considered. See Franklin v. White, 493 N.E.2d 161,
167 (Ind. 1986); Golsen-Dunlap v. Elan Motorsports Techs., Inc., No. 1:04-cv-00104-LJMDKL, 2012 WL 5878023, at *3 (S.D. Ind. Nov. 20, 2012). Integration clauses, while relevant,
are not determinative. Golsen-Dunlap, 2012 WL 5878023, at *3.
Here, the Court has reviewed the Letter, which Mr. Patel argues is the final integrated
agreement between the parties, the affidavits, and deposition testimony submitted for this
motion. The Letter does not contain an integration clause and the Court does not read “clear and
unambiguous terms” establishing the Letter as the final agreement between the parties. The
Letter states, “For further detail and reference the above mentioned PIPs should be reviewed.”
Thus, the Letter explicitly invokes the PIPs, which suggests it is not an integrated document.
The Letter is silent as to the specific term of whether Mr. Patel is an individual party to the
contract, and while it does list him as only a representative of UV and Royal Touch, the Court
finds that as a whole, it cannot hold as a matter of law that the document is integrated.
Having found that the Letter is not the final integrated agreement between the parties, the
Court finds that the evidence does not establish that Mr. Patel’s oral promise was not included in
the parties’ contract. Evidence of the promise will be admissible to the fact finder to determine if
Mr. Patel was intended to be an individual party to the contract. Therefore, Mr. Patel’s motion
for summary judgment on this issue is DENIED.
Piercing the Corporate Veil
In the alternative, NNDYM alleges that UV and Royal Touch were alter egos of Mr.
Patel, such that the Court should pierce the corporate veil and assign individual liability to Mr.
Patel. NNDYM argues that Mr. Patel misused the corporate form and that Mr. Patel’s affidavit
claiming that both corporations observed corporate formalities is undermined by Mr. Patel’s
deposition testimony. “Efforts to pierce the corporate veil are governed by the law of the state of
incorporation.” Stromberg Metal Works, Inc. v. Press Mech., Inc., 77 F.3d 928, 933 (7th Cir.
1996). UV was incorporated under New Hampshire law, while Royal Touch is incorporated
under North Carolina law.
Therefore, the Court will address the law of each jurisdiction
Piercing the Corporate Veil in New Hampshire
“New Hampshire courts do not hesitate to disregard the fiction of the corporation when
circumstances would lead to an inequitable result.” Terren v. Butler, 597 A.2d 69, 72 (N.H.
1991) (quotation omitted). In New Hampshire, piercing the corporate veil is equitable3 and
occurs when “a shareholder suppresses the fact of incorporation, misleads his creditors as to the
corporate assets, or otherwise uses the corporate entity to promote injustice or fraud.” In re
Martin, 413 B.R. 12, 15 (Bankr. D.N.H. 2008); see LaMontagne Builders, Inc. v. Bowman Brook
Purchase Grp., 837 A.2d 301, 306 (N.H. 2003). The courts have inquired into whether a
shareholder substantially depleted corporate funds, Terren, 597 A.2d at 72, used the corporation
to further private business or if the corporation is undercapitalized, Vill. Press, Inc. v. Stephen
In New Hampshire, piercing the corporate veil is an equitable remedy decided by the courts. LaMontagne
Builders, Inc. v. Bowman Brook Purchase Grp., 837 A.2d 301, 306 (N.H. 2003). Seventh Circuit law dictates that
whether piercing the corporate veil is a jury question depends on the state law applied. See Int’l Fin. Servs. Corp v.
Chromas Techs. Canada, Inc., 356 F.3d 731, 737 (7th Cir. 2004) (finding that under Illinois law, piercing the
corporate veil is an equitable doctrine for the court to decide, and it is not a jury question). Therefore, as to UV,
whether the corporate form should be disregarded is a question for the Court to decide.
Edward Co., Inc., 416 A.2d 1373, 1375 (1980), or disingenuously induced a third party into a
promise that was later breached in bad faith, LaMontagne Builders, Inc., 837 A.2d at 306.
However, “the fact that one person controls two corporations is not sufficient to make the two
corporations and the controlling stockholder the same person under the law.” Vill. Press, Inc.,
416 A.2d at 1375.
Mr. Patel focuses on whether UV was undercapitalized or used for private business, such
as in Village Press, Inc. In Village Press, Inc., there was no evidence that the defendant used the
corporate entity for personal business, nor concerning the capitalization or solvency of the
corporation. 416 A.2d at 1375. Mr. Patel argues and attests that UV (1) was a separate and
distinct legal entity, (2) maintained separate corporate records, submitted state and federal tax
returns, and maintained separate bank accounts and financial records, (3) the corporate records
were maintained at UV’s principal place of business, and (4) UV was not undercapitalized and
remained solvent at all times. Dkt. 96 at 10. Thus, he argues, NNDYM cannot show that UV
was an alter ego because corporate formalities were followed.
NNDYM argues that Mr. Patel’s alleged perpetration of injustice or fraud is akin to
LaMontagne Builders, Inc. There, the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld piercing of the
corporate veil when the trial court found that (1) the shareholder breached an express promise to
plaintiff, (2) the promise was made to prevent the plaintiff from filing a mechanic’s lien, (3) the
shareholder had knowledge the promise would prevent plaintiff from filing the lien, (4) the
shareholder had no intention of honoring the promise, (5) the promise was breached without
good cause, (6) the reasons for breaching the promise were disingenuous and in bad faith, and (7)
the shareholder or his family received a financial benefit. Id.
NNDYM argues that the facts of this case fall within “virtually the same criteria that was
deemed sufficient to pierce the corporate veil in LaMontagne.” Dkt. 97 at 18. Specifically, (1)
Mr. Patel promised to be personally liable for his companies’ work, (2) he did so to secure
NNDYM’s business, (3) he knew the promise was a stipulation before NNDYM would accept
UV’s bid, (4) he had no intention to fulfill his promise, as evidenced by this litigation, (5) his
reasons for breaching the promise are in bad faith, (6) his motion is based on a faulty affidavit,
and (7) his family received a windfall from NNDYM. Dkt. 97 at 18. In its surreply, NNDYM
further argues that Mr. Patel’s September 28, 2012 deposition contradicts the affidavit filed in
support of his motion and contains inconsistencies supporting that corporate formalities have
Additionally, NNDYM has requested, and Mr. Patel has failed to produce,
documents that could support NNDYM’s claim.4
The Court finds that NNDYM has not presented “conclusive” proof that Mr. Patel used
UV to promote a fraud or injustice, “as would be required to pierce the corporate veil at the
summary judgment stage.” Antaeus Enter., Inc. v. Davidson, 774 F. Supp. 2d 409, 416 (D.N.H.
2011) (applying New Hampshire law). However, the record before the Court contains genuine
issues of material fact whether Mr. Patel used UV as an alter ego. So while the Court will not
hold at this stage of litigation that the corporate veil should be pierced, NNDYM has put forth
sufficient evidence to defeat summary judgment for UV. See id. (finding that genuine dispute as
to whether corporate form was used to promote fraud or injustice must be resolved by the court
at trial). Therefore, Mr. Patel’s motion on this issue is DENIED.
Piercing the Corporate Veil in North Carolina
North Carolina courts “will disregard the corporate form or ‘pierce the corporate veil’
when ‘necessary to prevent fraud or to achieve equity.’” State ex rel. Cooper v. Ridgeway
In a January 14, 2013 Order, the Court ordered Mr. Patel to produce the documents to NNDYM.
Brands Mfg., LLC, 666 S.E.2d 107, 113 (N.C. 2008) (quoting Glenn v. Wagner, 329 S.E.2d 326,
330 (1985)). The North Carolina Supreme Court has adopted the instrumentality rule, which
“allows for the corporate form to be disregarded if the corporation is so operated that it is a mere
instrumentality or alter ego of the sole or dominant shareholder and a shield for his activities in
violation of the declared public policy or statute of the State.” Id. at 113–14 (internal quotation
The instrumentality rule has three elements:
“(1) stockholders’ control of the
corporation amounting to ‘complete domination’ with respect to the transaction at issue; (2)
stockholders’ use of this control to commit a wrong, or to violate a statutory or other duty in
contravention of the other party’s rights; and (3) this wrong or breach of duty must be the
proximate cause of the injury to the other party.” Id. at 114. Nonexhaustive factors to consider
include inadequate capitalization, non-compliance with corporate formalities, complete dominion
and control of the corporation so that it has no independent identity, and excessive fragmentation
of a single enterprise into separate corporations. Green v. Freeman, 733 S.E.2d 542, 553 (N.C.
Ct. App. 2012).
The Court finds that NNDYM has presented evidence on the relevant factors creating a
genuine issue of material fact that Royal Touch was an alter ego of Mr. Patel.
significantly, the Court notes that Mr. Patel acted on behalf of both UV and Royal Touch
interchangeably, “sold” his shares of Royal Touch to his wife but no money changed hands, and
Royal Touch leased office space to UV and other corporations owned by Mr. Patel and no lease
records have yet been produced. These facts indicate non-compliance with corporate formalities,
as well as complete dominion and excessive fragmentation. However, for the reasons stated
above in Section B.1, the Court does not find at this stage that NNDYM has established as a
matter of law that Mr. Patel used Royal Touch to cause an injury to NNDYM. The Court
recognizes that in North Carolina, the question of piercing the corporate veil may be presented to
the jury. See Broussard v. Meineke Discount Muffler Shops, Inc., 155 F.3d 331, 350 (4th Cir.
1998) (stating that “veil piercing may present a jury question in North Carolina[, b]ut the
question cannot reach a jury . . . without evidence supporting the claim that one corporation is
merely an instrumentality” of another corporation or shareholder); see also Glenn, 329 S.E.2d at
457–58 (discussing piercing the corporate veil in the context of whether the jury should have
been instructed on the issue); Mark A. Olthoff, Beyond the Form—Should the Corporate Veil be
Pierced?, 64 UMKC L. Rev. 311, 331 (1995) (stating that in North Carolina, the question of
piercing the corporate veil is presented to the jury). Therefore, finding there is ample evidence
creating a genuine issue of material fact on this issue appropriate for the jury; Mr. Patel’s motion
For these reasons, Mr. Patel’s motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. 95) is
DENIED. The claims against him remain set for trial.
Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Danny E. Glass
FINE & HATFIELD
Thomas H. Bryan
FINE & HATFIELD
Edward H. Maginnis
MAGINNIS LAW, PLLC
19 West Hargett Street, Suite 906
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
Mark R. Ramsey
RAMSEY LAW OFFICE
John J. Conway
SULLIVAN HINCKS & CONWAY
Ryan A. Mahoney
SULLIVAN HINCKS & CONWAY
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?