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Sun State Oil, Inc. v. Pahwa

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

January 8, 2019




         Defendant Suman Pahwa d/b/a K&K Oil (“Pahwa”) asks the Court to dismiss the Complaint against him under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Mot. [3]. For the reasons that follow, Pahwa's Motion to Dismiss is denied.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         Plaintiff Sun State Oil, Inc. (“Sun State”) is a supplier of Citgo-branded gasoline. In July 2012, it entered into a contract with non-party Harvest Enterprise, Inc., d/b/a Harvest Station (“Harvest”) under which Harvest agreed to purchase fuel from Sun State to sell at Harvest's service station on Clinton Boulevard in Jackson, Mississippi. The contract, which had a 10-year term, specified that Sun State would be the sole supplier of fuel to Harvest.

         Sun State says Pahwa knew that Harvest was required to purchase all its fuel from Sun State but Pahwa nevertheless “provided fuel to Harvest . . . on multiple occasions during the time period from 2013 to 2016.” Compl. [1] ¶ 10. And it asserts that Pahwa “provided fuel to other locations in Jackson under contract with Sun State.” Id. ¶ 12. It says a Sun State representative confronted Pahwa about the issue in the summer of 2016, and Pahwa “responded by threatening to kill or do harm to” the Sun State representative. Id. ¶ 15.

         Sun State first sued Pahwa in this Court on October 20, 2017. See Sun State Oil, Inc. v. Pahwa, No. 3:17-CV-836-LG-LRA (“Sun State I”). That lawsuit was dismissed on May 9, 2018, for failure to serve process. Sun State then filed this lawsuit on September 6, 2018. It asserts two claims for tortious interference with a contract/business relations: one based on selling fuel to Harvest and the other based on selling fuel to Sun State's other purchasers in Mississippi. Pahwa moved to dismiss, asserting that Sun State's claims are time-barred and otherwise fail to state a claim; his motion has been fully briefed.

         II. Standard

         When considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the “court accepts ‘all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.'” Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999) (per curiam)). But “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555 (citations and footnote omitted). The “standard ‘simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary claims or elements.” In re S. Scrap Material Co., LLC, 541 F.3d 584, 587 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         Pahwa bases his motion, in part, on an affirmative defense-the statute of limitations. “[W]hen a successful affirmative defense appears on the face of the pleadings, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be appropriate.” Kansa Reinsurance Co., Ltd. v. Congressional Mortg. Corp. of Tex., 20 F.3d 1362, 1366 (5th Cir. 1994); see also Hall v. Hodgkins, 305 Fed.Appx. 224, 227- 28 (5th Cir. 2008) (“If, based on the facts pleaded and judicially noticed, a successful affirmative defense appears, then dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper.”).

         Finally, in considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “must [generally] limit itself to the contents of the pleadings, including attachments thereto.” Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000). An exception to this rule exists for “matters of public record” of which “the court may take judicial notice.” Joseph v. Bach & Wasserman, L.L.C., 487 Fed.Appx. 173, 178 n.2 (5th Cir. 2012). In this case, Pahwa has directed the Court to Sun State's filings in Sun State I. Documents filed in another lawsuit qualify and may be considered without converting Pahwa's motion into one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d) (“If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . ., matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.”).

         III. Analysis

         A. Statute of Limitations

         Pahwa initially argued that Sun State's tortious-interference claims are subject to the one-year statute of limitations applicable to intentional torts. See Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-35. But in reply, he acknowledged that Mississippi caselaw does not support such an argument. Def.'s Reply [11] at 1; see Nichols v. Tri-State Brick & Tile Co., Inc., 608 So.2d 324, 333 (Miss. 1992) (concluding ...

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