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Marina One, Inc. v. Jones

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

May 22, 2014

MARINA ONE, INC. d/b/a JOYS MARINA, ARCHIE F. ALLEN, and LINDA ALLEN, Plaintiffs,
v.
JEAN JONES, Defendant

Decided: May 21, 2014.

For Marina One, Inc., doing business as Joys Marina, Archie F. Allen, Linda Allen, Plaintiff: Danielle Marie Kruer, David Neil Ventker, Marissa Marriott Henderson, Ventker & Warman PLLC, Norfolk, VA.

For Jean Jones, Defendant: Patrick Michael Brogan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Davey & Brogan PC, Norfolk, VA.

OPINION

Page 605

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Raymond A. Jackson, United States District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Jean Jones' second Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 21. Plaintiffs, who are a marina and its owners, filed a Complaint against Defendant, an owner of a boat berthed at the marina whose husband is involved in ongoing state court litigation against Plaintiffs for an injury he sustained at the marina. Plaintiffs, who rely on federal admiralty jurisdiction, allege that Defendant breached a slip agreement. They also seek a declaration that she is obligated to indemnify Plaintiffs in the state court action under that contract and raise other state law tort claims. The Amended Complaint, ECF No. 18, also includes a new declaratory judgment claim regarding Defendant's liability to the marina's owners, Plaintiffs Archie and Linda Allen. Defendant seeks dismissal of the First Amended Complaint as to the Aliens. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The facts alleged in the Amended Complaint are as follows. Plaintiff Marina One, Inc. is a Virginia corporation and the lessee and operator of Joys Marina in Hampton, Virginia (" the Marina" ). Am. Compl. ¶ 4. Plaintiffs Archie and Linda Allen own the property where the Marina is located and lease it to Marina One. Am. Compl. ¶ 5. Additionally, they were the sole shareholders, directors, and officers of Marina One. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. Defendant Jean Jones is the co-owner of a 44-foot Sea Ray vessel that was docked at the Marina. The other owner of the vessel is Defendant's husband, Rick Jones. Am.

Page 606

Compl. ¶ 8. Mr. Jones has filed suit in state court against the Plaintiffs and alleges that in May 2012, he suffered personal injury while disembarking from their vessel at the Marina. Am. Compl. ¶ 20.

Attached to the Amended Complaint is a Slip Lease Agreement (" the Agreement" ) signed on June 27, 2011, and providing for the dockage of the Jones' vessel at the Marina between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012. Am. Compl., Ex. A. Rick Jones is listed as the " Lessee," but the Agreement was signed by Defendant. Above her signature is a certification that the person signing " is the owner of the vessel hereinabove described or is authorized to subj[e]ct such vessel to the provisions of this contract." Id. at 3. Notably, the Agreement provides that the lessee is required to obtain indemnity insurance in the amount of $300,000 and to list the Marina as an additional insured. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. However, when Plaintiffs raised this clause as a defense in Mr. Jones' state court suit, he claimed that he was not bound by the Agreement because Defendant was not authorized to sign the Agreement on his behalf. Am. Compl. ¶ 28.

Plaintiffs now raise five claims against Defendant. Count 1 is a claim for declaratory relief, and alleges that Defendant had the authority to bind herself to the Agreement as the owner of the vessel. As such, she is obligated to indemnify the Marina in her husband's state court suit. Count 2 is a breach of contract claim, and alleges that Defendant breached numerous clauses of the Agreement, such as the requirement to maintain the pier in a safe condition and to defend and indemnify the Marina. Count 3 and 4 are actual and constructive fraud claims, and are raised in the alternative to Counts 1 and 2. (Count 4 is also raised in the alternative to Count 3). They allege that Defendant fraudulently misrepresented that she had the authority to sign the Agreement. Count 5, also raised in the alternative to Counts 1 and 2, alleges that Defendant breached the warranty of authority that she made to the Marina. Finally, Count 6, newly added to the Amended Complaint, seeks a declaration regarding Defendant's duties to the Aliens in the event that the state court finds that the Aliens are the " alter ego" of the Marina.

On March 5, 2014, the Court entered an order denying in part and deferring in part Defendant's first Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 15. It denied the Motion to Dismiss on all but two grounds. First, as to Defendant's argument that the Complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(7) for failure to join Defendant's husband as a party, the Court ordered Defendant to notify him of this suit and deferred ruling pending any notification of his interest. Second, as to Defendant's claim that the Complaint failed to state claim as to the Aliens, the Court granted Plaintiffs leave to amend the Complaint to " sufficiently plead their connection to the contract and tort claims." ECF No. 15, at 20. Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on March 27, 2014, ECF No. 18, and Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss on April 16, 2014, ECF No. 21. ...


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