Sibley v. Choice Hotels International, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM & ORDER granting 122 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 124 Motion to Strike; For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's objections to Judge Shields' Order dated December 22, 2015, and Electronic Order dated February 2, 201 6, are OVERRULED and her appeals (Docket Entries 85 and 110) are DENIED. Plaintiff's letter motion to strike (Docket Entry 124) is DENIED. Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry 122) is GRANTED and Plaintiff's claim is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly and mark this case CLOSED. So Ordered by Judge Joanna Seybert on 1/13/2017. C/ECF (Valle, Christine)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
TRECIA LORELLE SIBLEY,
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL, INC.,
RATAN GROUP HOTEL LIMITED LIABILITY CO.
d/b/a RODEWAY INN, RODEWAY INN LONG ISLAND,
RODEWAY INN HUNTINGTON STATION, and/or
HUNTINGTON COUNTRY INN, XYZ CORPORATIONS
1-50, MAHESH RATANJI a/k/a MAHESH M.
RATANJI a/k/a MAHESHCHAND M. RATANJI,
KHOZEM KHARAWALLA, and/or JANE AND JOHN
DOES 1-10, individually and as owner,
Officer, director, shareholder, founder,
Manager, agent, servant, employee,
Representative, and/or independent
Contractor of RATAN GROUP HOTEL LIMITED
LIABILITY COMPANY d/b/a RODEWAY INN,
RODEWAY INN LONG ISLAND, RODEWAY INN
HUNTINGTON STATION, HUNTINGTON COUNTRY INN,
and/or XYZ CORPORATIONS 1-50,
Brian L. Ponder, Esq.
Brian Ponder LLP
200 Park Avenue, Suite 1700
New York, NY 07666
Jennifer Borek, Esq.
Patrick W. McGovern, Esq.
Genova Burns Giantomasi Webster LLC
494 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
SEYBERT, District Judge:
Plaintiff Trecia Lorelle Sibley (“Plaintiff”) commenced
this diversity action asserting a claim for negligence.
pending before the District Court are the following applications:
(1) Plaintiff’s appeal of Magistrate Judge Anne Y. Shields’ Order
dated December 22, 2015 (Docket Entry 85); (2) Plaintiff’s appeal
of Judge Shields’ Electronic Order dated February 2, 2016 (Docket
(“Choice Hotels”), Ratan Group Hotel Limited Liability Company
d/b/a Rodeway Inn, Rodeway Inn Long Island, Rodeway Inn Huntington
Station and/or Huntington Country Inn (“Ratan Group”), Mahesh
Ratanji a/k/a Mahesh M. Ratanji a/k/a Maheshchand M. Ratanji
collectively, “Defendants”) motion for summary judgment (Docket
Entry 122); and (4) Plaintiff’s letter motion to strike Defendants’
motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry 124).
For the following
reasons, Plaintiff’s appeals and motion are DENIED and Defendants’
motion is GRANTED.
Preliminarily, the Court notes that Plaintiff filed a
conjunction with her opposition to Defendants’ motion. (See Docket
The Court’s Electronic Order dated June 2, 2016,
directed Plaintiff to serve her Rule 56.1 Counterstatement on or
before June 17, 2016.
Defendants allege that they previously
received a Rule 56.1 Counterstatement from Plaintiff dated June
(Defs.’ Reply, Docket Entry 130, at 6; Pl.’s 56.1
Counterstmt., Defs.’ Reply Ex. A, Docket Entry 130-2.)
Counterstatement, nor was leave otherwise granted.
the Court will not consider Plaintiff’s Rule 56.1 Counterstatement
dated August 12, 2016, and will solely rely on Plaintiff’s Rule
56.1 Counterstatement dated June 17, 2016.
On July 29, 2012, Plaintiff checked into the Huntington
Country Inn, located at 270 West Jericho Turnpike, Huntington
Station, New York (the “Hotel”).
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 1-2.)
Plaintiff reserved a room for five nights.
discovered a bed bug in her room.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4.)
Plaintiff checked out of the Hotel that same day and received a
full refund of all funds remitted for her stay at the Hotel.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 4-5.)
Defendants allege that the Hotel’s owner during the time
period relevant to this litigation was Roslyn Properties Group LLC
(“Roslyn Properties”), a limited liability company organized under
New York law.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 6-7.)
Plaintiff admits that
allegation but avers that Ratanji was “an Optionee in exclusive
The following material facts are drawn from Defendants’ Local
Civil Rule 56.1 Statement, (Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt., Docket Entry
122-1) and Plaintiff’s Local Civil Rule 56.1 Counterstatement
dated June 17, 2016. Any relevant factual disputes are noted.
All internal quotation marks and citations have been omitted.
possession of the Hotel during all time periods relevant to this
litigation.” (Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 6.) A renewal application
for a permit for the 2012 calendar year lists Roslyn Properties as
the sole owner of the Hotel and Roslyn Management Group, LLC
(“Roslyn Management”), a limited liability company organized under
New York law, as the “Legal Operator or Operating Corporation.”
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 8-10.)
Plaintiff notes that this permit
application is a self-prepared document that does not contain the
managed, and/or maintained the Hotel on July 29-30, 2012[.]”2
(Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 8.)
It is undisputed that permits for
the years 2010 through 2013 were issued to Roslyn Management as
operator of the Hotel.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11.)
The Option Agreement
In 2009, Roslyn Properties and Roslyn Management entered
into an Option and Sale Agreement with “Mahesh Ratanji and/or
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13.)
Roslyn Properties and
Bhupendra Ratanji (“B. Ratanji”), and/or Ratan Huntington LLC
Paragraph 8 of Plaintiff’s 56.1 Counterstatement refers to a
permit application prepared on or about October 30, 2015, but
cites to the Counterstatement’s Exhibit B, which contains a
permit application prepared in 2011. (Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt.
¶ 8; Ex. B, at 20-24.)
(“Ratan Huntington”), a limited liability company organized under
New York Law, were designated as “Optionee.”
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt.
¶¶ 13, 41.) Pursuant to the Option Agreement, Ratanji, B. Ratanji,
and/or Ratan Huntington possessed the option to purchase the Hotel
for $7 million with the option terminating on January 11, 2012.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14.)
The Optionor represented that it “had
good, marketable, fee simple title to the Hotel . . . [and] no
person, firm, or other entity had any right or option to acquire
the Hotel, or any portion thereof, or any interest therein.”
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 15-16.)
On April 1, 2012, the Option Agreement was amended to
delete Ratanji and B. Ratanji as “Optionee” and “state[ ] that all
the rights and obligations contained in the [Option] Agreement
vested exclusively with Ratan Huntington LLC as ‘Optionee’” (the
“Amended Option Agreement”).
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 18-19.)
Amended Option Agreement changed the purchase price to $6.685
million and the termination date to January 11, 2017, and “released
Ratanji and [B.] Ratanji from their obligations arising out of the
Agreement and stated that Ratanji and [B.] Ratanji no longer had
any rights under the Agreement.”
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 20-22.)
The Amended Option Agreement further provided that “the parties
admit and acknowledge that the Optionee is presently in possession
of the property prior to closing.”
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 23.)
However, Plaintiff avers that while the Amended Option Agreement’s
introductory paragraph defines Ratan Huntington as “Optionee,” its
signature page lists a number of individuals--including but not
limited to Ratanji--under the word “Optionee” and Ratanji is listed
as a “confirming part[y].”
(Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 23.)
Huntington, LLC was an Optionee on July 29, 2012.”
Stmt. ¶ 27; Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 27.)
The Employment Agreement
Properties entered into an employment agreement with Ratanji, B.
Ratanji, and/or Ratan Huntington, who were collectively defined as
The Employment Agreement addressed the time period from
February 1, 2009, through January 10, 2012, and charged Ratanji,
B. Ratanji, and/or Ratan Huntington “with ensuring the proper and
complete management of the Hotel.”
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 29-30.)
On July 8, 2010, the Employment Agreement was amended regarding
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 31.)
On April 1, 2012, the Employment Agreement was amended
to “remove[ ] Ranaji and [B.] Ratanji as parties to the Employment
Agreement and vest[ ] all rights and obligations exclusively with
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 32-33.)
Second Amended Employment Agreement extended the terms of the
Employment Agreement to January 11, 2017, defined “Employee” as
Ratan Huntington, and “expressly stated that Ratanji and [B.]
Ratanji were released from their obligations arising out of the
Employment Agreement and that they no longer had any rights under
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 34-36.)
that the Second Amended Employment Agreement lists a number of
individuals including Ratanji as “Employees” on the signature page
Counterstmt. ¶ 38.)
franchise agreement with Choice Hotels with respect to the Hotel
(the “Franchise Agreement”).
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 44.)
Franchise Agreement ends on May 29, 2033, and grants Roslyn
Properties “a non-exclusive, limited, revocable license to use the
Choice system and brand to operate the Hotel.”
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt.
After entering into the Franchise Agreement, Roslyn
Properties began operating the Hotel as a Rodeway Inn.
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 42.)
Sale of the Hotel
On or about March 18, 2014, Roslyn Properties sold the
Hotel to Ratan Huntington; that same day, Ratan Huntington entered
into a franchise agreement with Choice Hotels.
¶¶ 39, 46.)
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt.
Plaintiff alleges that the “purported” warranty deed
with respect to this sale of the Hotel does not indicate that the
deed was filed with Suffolk County and the notary attestation does
not contain a date.
(Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 39.)
renewal application for the 2016 calendar year states that Ratan
Huntington is the sole owner and operator of the Hotel.
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 40.)
Plaintiff states that the permit application is
a self-prepared document.
(Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 40.)
connection to Roslyn Properties Group LLC, Roslyn Management Group
LLC, or Ratan Huntington LLC,” as these entities are separate and
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 50.)
that Roslyn Properties, Roslyn Management, and Ratan Huntington
are “separate and distinct legal entities,” but avers that Ratan
(Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 50.)
Kharawala serves as the Managing Director/Vice President
of iConnect Hospitality (“iConnect”), a hotel and hospitality
industry consulting company, and has been employed by iConnect
since in or about 2011.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 51.)
allege that “Kharawala has never owned, operated or managed the
Kharawalla “[s]erved as VP--Operations & Sales/Marketing for Ratan
Hotel Group based in US for over 50 plus hotels” including the
(Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 53.)
The parties dispute
whether Kharawalla has ever been a member of or employed by Roslyn
Properties, Roslyn Management, or Ratan Huntington.
Stmt. ¶ 54; Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 54.)
In July 2012, Kharawala performed consulting work for
limited liability corporations of which Ratanji was a member.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 56.)
These corporations paid iConnect for
websites for hotels. (Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 57.) Kharawala assisted
with the Hotel’s website.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 58.)
Defendants allege that Ratanji has never personally
owned the Hotel and has never been personally involved with the
Hotel’s day-to-day management and operation.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt.
¶¶ 60-61; Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶¶ 60-61.)
It is undisputed
that Ratanji was not physically present at the Hotel on July 30,
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 62.)
Defendants allege that Ratanji
was never a member of Roslyn Management or Roslyn Properties.
Certification does not indicate whether he was ever a member in
(Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 65.)
Appeal of Judge Shields’ December 2015 Order
On October 21, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel,
arguing that Defendants failed to: (1) “fully comply” with
initial disclosure requirements set forth in Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26, (2) respond to interrogatories and requests for
production, and (3) “properly answer Plaintiff’s requests for
admission under Rule 36” (“Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel”).
Oct. Mot., Docket Entry 78; Pl.’s Oct. Br., Docket Entry 80, at
Plaintiff requested that sanctions be imposed for Defendants’
(Pl.’s Oct. Br. at 20-23.)
Particularly, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants’ Rule 26
disclosure regarding “‘any insurance agreement under which an
insurance business may be liable to satisfy all or part of a
possible judgment in the action or to indemnify or reimburse for
payments made to satisfy the judgment’” stated that no such
insurance agreement existed; however, Defendants referenced an
insurance policy in response to Plaintiff’s request for documents.
(Pl.’s Oct. Br. at 13.)
Additionally, Plaintiff listed several
Defendants allegedly failed to respond to.
(Pl.’s Oct. Br. at 14-
Similarly, Plaintiff argued that certain of Defendants’
disclosures and/or responses were improper or incomplete.
Oct. Br. at 17-20.) On November 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed a letter
motion requesting an extension of discovery (“Plaintiff’s Request
(Pl.’s Nov. Mot., Docket Entry 83.)
On December 22, 2015, Judge Shields denied Plaintiff’s
Motion to Compel and Request for Extension (the “December Order”).
(Dec. Order, Docket Entry 84.) Judge Shields held that Defendants’
Rule 26 disclosures were not inconsistent with their subsequent
position that they did not own the Hotel during the relevant time
frame, and Plaintiff’s document request addressed a broader demand
for “‘a copy of any and all insurance contracts to which you are
(Dec. Order at 7-8.)
Judge Shields further held that
responses were insufficient and noted that “Plaintiff’s request
far exceeds the number of permissible interrogatories allowed to
(Dec. Order at 8-10.)
Plaintiff’s document requests were “clear and sufficient” and
(Dec. Order at 12 (quoting Pl.’s Oct. Br.
With respect to the one specific interrogatory response
Plaintiff identified as insufficient, Judge Shields held that
Defendants’ response was adequate and the information sought in
Plaintiff’s request exceeded the scope of discovery. (Dec.
Order at 8-9.)
Judge Shields rejected Plaintiff’s argument that
Defendants’ responses to her Requests for Admission were “evasive
or incomplete,” holding both that Plaintiff failed to support that
assertion and that Plaintiff’s requests to admit were “completely
ill-suited and disproportional to the needs of discovery in this
(Dec. Order at 13-14.)
Finally, Judge Shields denied
Plaintiff’s request to extend discovery.
(Dec. Order at 16.)
On December 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed an appeal of the
(Pl.’s First App., Docket Entry 85.)
Appeal of Judge Shields’ February 2016 Order
On January 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a “Motion to strike
Second Amended Answer, enter default judgment, and for attorneys
fees and costs,” (“Plaintiff’s January Motion”).
Motion, Docket Entry 101, at 1.)
Plaintiff’s memorandum of law in
support of her January Motion states, in relevant part, that:
“[t]he issue is whether Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(d) permits this Court
to strike the Second Amended Answer , render default judgment,
and order payment of reasonable expenses, including attorney’s
fees, against Defendant CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL, INC. for
willfully failing to appear for its oral deposition on January 26,
2016, after being served with proper notice.”
Docket Entry 103, at 1.)
(Pl.’s Jan. Br.,
On February 2, 2016, Judge Shields denied Plaintiff’s
Judge Shields’ Electronic Order states:
The motion submitted under docket entry 101 is
denied without prejudice. The motion was not
filed correctly, as it should have been filed
as a motion for sanctions under Fed. R. Civ.
P. 37. Moreover, Plaintiff failed to comply
with Judge Shields’ Rules, which require a
pre-motion conference prior to filing a
On February 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed an appeal of Judge
Shields’ Electronic Order and argued that the January Motion was
dispositive and should have been determined by this Court, which
does not require a pre-motion conference for Plaintiff’s motion.
(Pl.’s Sec. App., Docket Entry 110, at 1.)
Electronic Order and determine her January Motion.
App. at 1.)
Motion for Summary Judgment
On July 8, 2016, Defendants filed their motion for
(Defs.’ Mot., Docket Entry 122.)
principally argue that they were not the owners and/or managers of
the Hotel at the time of Plaintiff’s stay.
(Defs.’ Br., Docket
evidence establishes that in 2012, the Hotel was owned by Roslyn
Properties and operated by Roslyn Management, and Choice Hotels
did not enter into the Franchise Agreement with Roslyn Properties
until 2013. (Defs.’ Br. at 13-14.) Additionally, Defendants argue
that even if Ratan Huntington was a manager of the Hotel during
2012, Ratanji is not liable for the acts of a limited liability
company of which he is a member. (Defs.’ Br. at 17-18.) Defendants
allege that Plaintiff’s continued litigation of this action and
defendants evidences an improper attempt to manufacture diversity
and maintain federal jurisdiction.
(Defs.’ Br. at 20-21.)
Plaintiff argues that “evidence shows that Defendants
were in exclusive possession of the subject Hotel.”
Docket Entry 127, at 1.)
Plaintiff avers that Kharawalla admitted
to marketing the Hotel and did not deny operating it, and Ratanji
“has submitted an affidavit admitting that he owns and manages
hotels and is a member of limited liability companies that do the
same, including the subject Hotel.”
(Pl.’s Br. at 3.)
argues that the record does not foreclose the possibility that
Defendants owned, operated, or managed the Hotel, and requests
permission to conduct additional discovery regarding the members
of Roslyn Properties and Roslyn Management and their employment
agreements with Defendants.
(Pl.’s Br. at 3.)
Defendants counter that Plaintiff is not entitled to
additional discovery, as Judge Shields’ December 2015 Order deemed
all document and written discovery closed.
(Defs.’ Reply Br.,
Docket Entry 130, at 7; Dec. Order at 15.)
Defendants note that
in her December Order, Judge Shields referenced their “‘longstanding position that they cannot be responsible because they did
not own the Hotel at the time of Plaintiff’s stay,’” as well as
Plaintiff’s opposition to amending her Complaint due to concerns
regarding the “‘destruction of diversity.’”
(Defs.’ Reply Br. at
7 (quoting Dec. Order at 15).)
Motion to Strike
On July 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a letter motion to
strike Defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on their
failure to strictly comply with the Court’s Individual Rules.
(Pl.’s Mot. to Strike, Docket Entry 124.)
Plaintiff argues that
Defendants filed multiple exhibit documents within a single docket
entry in contravention of Individual Rule II.C.
Strike at 1.)
(Pl.’s Mot. to
Plaintiff requests that Defendants refile their
motion for summary judgment and that the Court strike Defendants’
(Pl.’s Mot. to Strike at 1.)
Plaintiff’s Appeals of Judge Shields’ Decisions
“[W]hen a magistrate judge rules on a non-dispositive
matter, ‘[t]he district judge in the case must consider timely
objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is
clearly erroneous or contrary to law.’”
Bachayeva v. Americare
Certified Special Servs., Inc., No. 12-CV-1466, 2013 WL 4495672,
at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 2013) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 72(a)).
also Moore v. Kingsbrook Jewish Med. Ctr., No. 11-CV-3552, 2012 WL
1078000, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2012) (“[a] magistrate judge’s
dispositive and are reviewed under the ‘clearly erroneous or
contrary to law’ standard of review”).
A magistrate decision is
clearly erroneous when “the court is, upon review of the entire
record, [ ] left with the definite and firm conviction that a
mistake has been committed.”
DiPilato v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 662 F.
Supp. 2d 333, 339–40 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted; alteration in original).
However, a party
seeking to overturn a magistrate judge’s discovery determination
bears a “heavy burden” in light of the broad discretion afforded
magistrate judges with respect to the resolution of discovery
Moore, 2012 WL 1078000, at *5 (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
See Bachayeva, 2013 WL 4495672, at *1
“magistrate judge’s findings should not be rejected merely because
the court would have decided the matter differently”) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
Appeal of December 2015 Order
The Court has reviewed Judge Shields’ December Order and
finds that it is not “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”
FED. R. CIV. P. 72(a).
Plaintiff’s appeal largely consists of a
repetition of her prior arguments along with the general assertion
contrary to the law and federal procedural rules.”
Pl.’s First. App.)
In any event, the Court finds no error in Judge
First, there is no inconsistency between
Defendants’ failure to reference an insurance policy in their Rule
26 disclosures and their production of an insurance agreement in
response to Plaintiff’s request for production.
App. at 1.)
(See Pl.’s First.
As addressed more fully below, Defendants have taken
the position that they do not own the Hotel; thus, it is logical
that they have also taken the complementary position that they do
not possess an insurance policy that would render the insurer
liable to satisfy a judgment in this action or indemnify or
reimburse payments made to satisfy a judgment. Defendants’ failure
to reference such an agreement in their Rule 26 disclosures is not
inconsistent with the production of an insurance agreement in
response to the broader request to produce any insurance policy to
which Defendants are a party.
Second, while Plaintiff argues that Defendants’ alleged
deficiencies with respect to interrogatory and document request
responses were “too voluminous to list,” (Pl.’s First App. at 2),
the Court concurs with Judge Shields that Plaintiff’s failure to
specifically explain what made Defendants’ responses inadequate
renders her motion defective.
Moreover, while Plaintiff argues
that Defendants “claimed privilege to some requests, but did not
comply with [Rule] 26(b)(5),” (Pl.’s First App. at 2), she once
again fails to indicate the specific privilege claims that are
Third, the Court has reviewed Defendants’ responses to
her requests for admission and finds that they comply with the
The Court is not persuaded by Plaintiff’s argument
that “Defendants fail to assert that they made a reasonable inquiry
into the subject matter,” and Plaintiff again fails to provide any
specificity to her argument that Defendants’ responses are somehow
responses to Plaintiff’s requests for admission to state that
“their responses were provided after reasonable inquiry was made.”
(Def.’s Resp., Docket Entry 87, at 5; see also Choice Ltr., Docket
Entry 80-15 at 10-19; Defs.’ Ltr., Docket Entry 80-16 at 11-19.)
Finally, the Court finds that Judge Shields did not err
in denying Plaintiff’s request for an extension of discovery,
(Pl.’s First App. at 4), in light of the absence of any merit to
Plaintiff’s argument that Defendants failed to adequately respond
to her discovery demands.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s objections to
Judge Shields’ December 2015 Order are OVERRULED and her appeal is
Appeal of February 2016 Electronic Order
Plaintiff seeks to label her January Motion as a motion for default
judgment, Judge Shields properly construed Plaintiff’s application
as a motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 37. Plaintiff’s January
Motion expressly requests sanctions pursuant to Rule 37(d) in
connection with Choice Hotel’s alleged failure to appear for a
deposition. (Pl.’s Jan. Br. at 1.)
Plaintiff’s request for the
entry of a default judgment as a sanction does not transform her
sanctions motion into a motion for default judgment.
Shields properly dismissed Plaintiff’s motion without prejudice in
light of her failure to comply with Judge Shields’ Individual
Rules, which require a pre-motion conference prior to filing a
See Individual Rules of Judge Shields, Section
VI., C; Section IX, C.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s objections to the
Electronic Order are OVERRULED and her appeal is DENIED.
Motion to Strike
As set forth above, Plaintiff argues that Defendants
failed to comply with this Court’s Individual Rules by filing
multiple exhibit documents within a single docket entry.
Mot. to Strike, at 1.)
Plaintiff is correct that Defendants’
filing fails to comply with Individual Rule II(C), which provides
that “[a]ll documents filed on ECF in support of motions shall be
labeled and filed as separate entries within the same docket
Nevertheless, “[a] district court has broad discretion
to determine whether to overlook a party’s failure to comply with
local court rules.”
M.V.B. Collision, Inc. v. Allstate Ins. Co.,
728 F. Supp. 2d 205, 209 (E.D.N.Y. Jul. 27, 2010) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted).
Rather than striking
Defendants’ exhibits and directing Defendants to refile their
motion, as suggested by Plaintiff, the Court will exercise its
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion to strike is DENIED.
III. Motion for Summary Judgment4
demonstrates 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).
A genuine factual issue exists where “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed 2d 202 (1986).
determining whether an award of summary judgment is appropriate,
On August 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed a request for oral
argument, alleging that Defendants’ motion for summary judgment
“presents extraordinary circumstances.” (Docket Entry 128.)
The Court disagrees and finds that, as set forth infra, given
the clear absence of any issues of fact, oral argument is not
interrogatory responses, and admissions on file, together with
other firsthand information that includes but is not limited to
Nnebe v. Daus, 644 F.3d 147, 156 (2d Cir. 2011); see
also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c).
The movant bears the burden of establishing that there
are no genuine issues of material fact.
Gallo v. Prudential
Residential Servs., L.P., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994).
the movant makes such a showing, the non-movant must proffer
specific facts demonstrating “a genuine issue for trial.”
v. Buonnadonna Shoprite LLC, No. 06-CV-5191, 2009 WL 3150431, at
*4 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 25, 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation
Conclusory allegations or denials will not defeat
Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 323 (2d Cir.
See also Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.
1991) (a motion for summary judgment will not be defeated based
“merely upon a ‘metaphysical doubt concerning the facts’ or on the
basis of conjecture”) (internal citations omitted).
reviewing the summary judgment record, “‘the court is required to
inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is
sought.’” Sheet Metal Workers’ Nat’l Pension Fund v. Vadaris Tech.
Inc., No. 13-CV-5286, 2015 WL 6449420, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 23,
2015) (quoting McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 109 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir.
Pursuant to New York law, the plaintiff must establish
the following elements to recover on a negligence claim: “‘(1) the
existence of a duty on defendant’s part as to plaintiff; (2) a
breach of this duty; and (3) injury to the plaintiff as a result
Long Beach Road Holdings, LLC v. Foremost Ins. Co., 75
F. Supp. 3d 575, 588 (E.D.N.Y. 2015) (quoting Caronia v. Philip
Morris USA, Inc., 715 F.3d 417, 428 (2d Cir. 2013)). The defendant
is not liable for negligence in the absence of a duty, rendering
“[t]he existence of a duty [ ] an essential element of a negligence
Long Beach Road Holdings, 75 F. Supp. 3d at 588
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
the existence of the defendant’s duty “is, in the first instance,
a legal issue for the Court to resolve.”
Alfaro v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 210 F.3d 111, 114 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted).
As set forth above, the crux of Defendants’ motion is
their argument that they were not the owners and/or managers of
the Hotel at the time of Plaintiff’s stay.
Br. at 12-14.)
(See generally Defs.’
The Court will address Plaintiff’s claims against
each Defendant in turn.
Ratan Group and Choice Hotels
establishing that when Plaintiff stayed at the Hotel in 2012, it
was owned by Roslyn Properties and operated by Roslyn Management.
Defendants have submitted a Permit to Operate Renewal Application
filed in 2011 (the “Permit Application”) that reflects that the
owner of the Hotel was Roslyn Properties and the “legal operator
or operating corporation” was Roslyn Management.
Defs.’ Mot. Ex. 5, Docket Entry 122-3, at 35-40.)
Application indicates that a permit was issued with an effective
date of January 1, 2012, and an expiration date of December 31,
(Permit Appl. at 37.)
Defendants have also submitted
permits to operate a temporary residence issued by the Suffolk
County Department of Health Services to Roslyn Management for the
years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.
(Defs.’ Mot., Exs. 8-11, Docket
Counterstatement asserts that the Permit Application is a selfprepared document, (Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 8), the record does
not contain any evidence to refute the Permit Application, and
Plaintiff admits that Roslyn Properties was the owner of the Hotel
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6; Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 6.)
Parenthetically, Defendants have also submitted a Warranty Deed
dated March 18, 2014, in which Roslyn Properties conveys title to
Ratan Huntington (the “Deed”).
Entry 122-3, at 90-94.)
(Deed, Defs.’ Mot. Ex. 18, Docket
The Deed states that the premises were
previously conveyed to Roslyn Properties pursuant to a deed dated
January 10, 2007.
(Deed at 91.)
It is also worthy of note that the record does not
contain any evidence establishing that Choice Hotels or Ratan Group
owned, operated, or managed the Hotel during 2012.
Properties did not enter into the Franchise Agreement with Choice
Hotels until May 29, 2013.
(Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 44; Franchise
Moreover, while Plaintiff asserts that Ratan Group “has legal
Properties Group LLC, Roslyn Management Group LLC, and Ratan
Huntington LLC,” (Pl.’s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 50), she has not
between these entities.
Hotels and/or Ratan Group’s ownership or management of the Hotel
during the relevant time period, the Court finds that these
entities did not owe Plaintiff a duty.
Ratanji asserts that he was never a member of Roslyn
Management or Roslyn Properties, and he “was never personally
involved with the day-to-day management and/or operation of the
(Ratanji Aff., Defs.’ Mot. Ex. 27, Docket Entry 122-5, at
4-6, ¶¶ 7-8, 10.)
With respect to management of the Hotel, the
Employment Agreement provides that Ratanji, along with B. Ratanji
and/or Ratan Huntington, “ensure proper and complete management of
[the Hotel]” beginning on February 1, 2009, and terminating on or
before January 10, 2012. (Emp’t Agmt., Defs.’ Ex. 15, Docket Entry
122-3, at 75.)
On April 1, 2012, the Employment Agreement was
amended to, inter alia, delete Ratanji’s name, and provided that
“[a]ll the rights and obligations contained in the Employment
Agreement shall now vest exclusively with Ratan Huntington LLC.”
(Sec. Amended Emp’t Agmt., Defs.’ Mot. Ex. 17, Docket Entry 1223, 83-89, at 84-85.)
Plaintiff has failed to adduce any evidence
raising issues of fact as to whether Ratanji served as a manager
or was otherwise involved in operating the Hotel during July 2012.5
Defendants argue that while Ratanji possessed an option
to buy the Hotel pursuant to the Option Agreement, the Amended
Option Agreement “released him from any obligations or rights under
the [Option] Agreement prior to July 29, 2012.”
(Defs.’ Br. at
16.) The Court agrees. Pursuant to the Option Agreement, Ratanji,
B. Ratanji, and Ratan Huntington entered into an option to purchase
the Hotel that expired on January 11, 2012.
(Defs.’ Mot. Ex. 12,
Amendment to the Option Agreement dated April 1, 2012, removed
Contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion, the fact that Ratanji signed
the Second Amended Employment Agreement both as a member of
Ratan Huntington and a “confirming party,” (Pl.’s Counterstmt.
¶ 33), is of little relevance and does not undercut the Second
Amended Employment Agreement’s provision vesting all rights and
obligations under the prior Option Agreement with Ratan
Huntington. (Defs.’ 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 33).
Ratanji as an optionee and provided that “[a]ll the rights and
obligations contained in the Option Agreement shall now vest
exclusively with Ratan Huntington LLC.”
(Am. Option Agmt., Defs.’
Mot. Ex. 14, Docket Entry 122-3, at 65-73.)
The record does not
contain any evidence indicating that Ratanji possessed an option
to buy the Hotel after April 1, 2012.6
Huntington had an option to buy the Hotel through January 11, 2017,
and Ratan Huntington was in “possession of the property” at the
time the agreement was signed. (Am. Option Agmt. at 67-68.) While
Ratanji was undisputedly a member of Ratan Huntington in 2012,
Plaintiff has not raised issues of fact as to whether the corporate
“A member of a limited liability company cannot be held
liable for the company’s obligations by virtue of his [or her]
status as a member thereof.”
Bd. of Managers of Beacon Tower
Condominum v. 85 Adams St., LLC, 136 A.D.3d 680, 682, 25 N.Y.S.3d
233, 237 (2d Dep’t 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted; alteration in original).
However, a member of a limited
The fact that Ratanji signed the Amended Option Agreement as a
member of Ratan Huntington and a “confirming party,” (Pl.’s 56.1
Counterstmt. ¶ 23), does not raise issues of fact as to whether
Ratanji was an optionee subsequent to the execution of the
Amended Option Agreement.
commission of a tort in furtherance of company business.”
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
member of a limited liability company may be subject to individual
liability pursuant to the doctrine of piercing the corporate veil,
which requires that “the shareholder exercised complete domination
and control over the corporation [or LLC] and abused the privilege
of doing business in the corporate [or LLC] form to perpetrate a
wrong or injustice.”
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted; alteration in original).
The Court considers “failure
commingling of assets, and the personal use of LLC funds,” in
determining whether the defendant “abused the privilege of doing
business in the corporate or LLC form.”
Grammas v. Lockwood
Assoc., LLC, 95 A.D.3d 1073, 1075, 944 N.Y.S.2d 623, 626 (2d Dep’t
Ratanji’s commission of torts in furtherance of company business
liability company form, nor does Plaintiff offer so much as an
allegation on this issue.
Accordingly, Ratanji did not owe
Plaintiff a duty.
testifies that he has never been a member or employee of Roslyn
Properties, Roslyn Management, or Ratan Huntington.
Aff., Defs.’ Mot. Ex. 26, Docket Entry 122-5, ¶¶ 4-5.)
also alleges that during July 2012, he worked for iConnect and
performed consulting work for “various LLC’s of which Mahesh
Ratanji was a member.”
(Kharawalla Aff. ¶ 6.)
that he assisted with the marketing of the Hotel but was never an
owner or manager of the Hotel, was never “personally involved with
any day-to-day management or operation of the Hotel”,7 and did not
visit the Hotel.
(Kharawalla Aff. ¶¶ 8-12.)
Plaintiff’s sole support for the notion that Kharawalla
was an owner, operator, manager, or otherwise “in possession” of
Kharawalla “[s]erved as VP—Operation & Sales/Marketing for Ratan
Hotel Group based in US for over 50 plus hotels,” (the “Brochure”).
(Brochure, Pl.’s Decl. Ex. A, Docket Entry 126-1, at 1.)
Brochure, which confirms that iConnect is a company providing
“Hospitality Management and Marketing Services,” does not include
the Hotel on its list of “Management Credentials.”
The Brochure does not indicate when Kharawalla served as VP—
Operation & Sales/Marketing for the “Ratan Hotel Group” or indicate
Plaintiff’s puzzling allegation that Kharawalla “does not deny
operating [the Hotel]” in his Affidavit is belied by
Kharawalla’s previously noted assertion that he was not involved
in the day-to-day operation of the Hotel. (Kharawalla Aff.
what entity or entities own or comprise the “Ratan Hotel Group.”
This document utterly fails to raise any issues of fact as to
Kharawalla’s involvement in the Hotel outside of the consulting
Kharawalla did not owe Plaintiff a duty.
Plaintiff’s Request for Additional Discovery
additional discovery, and more specifically to subpoena documents
from Roslyn Properties Group LLC and Roslyn Management Group LLC
regarding its members and employment agreements with respect to
(Pl.’s Br. at 3.)
However, as previously noted,
Judge Shields deemed document and written discovery closed in her
(Dec. Order at 16.)
Plaintiff failed to make an
application to continue discovery prior to Judge Shields’ Order or
during the several months between Judge Shields’ Order and the
filing of Defendants’ motion.
Now, in an apparent “last ditch”
attempt to continue this case, Plaintiff requests the opportunity
to subpoena non-parties that she has decided not to name as
defendants due to apparent fears of a potential “‘destruction of
(Dec. Order at 16.)
The Court declines to permit
such a fishing expedition and DENIES Plaintiff’s request for
Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is
GRANTED in light of the Court’s determination that Defendants did
not owe her a duty.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s objections to
Judge Shields’ Order dated December 22, 2015, and Electronic Order
dated February 2, 2016, are OVERRULED and her appeals (Docket
Entries 85 and 110) are DENIED.
Plaintiff’s letter motion to
strike (Docket Entry 124) is DENIED.
Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment (Docket Entry 122) is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s
claim is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
The Clerk of the Court is
directed to enter judgment accordingly and mark this case CLOSED.
/s/ JOANNA SEYBERT______
Joanna Seybert, U.S.D.J.
13 , 2017
Central Islip, New York
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