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Suggs v. Wichard

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 10, 2016

Terrell Suggs, Plaintiff,
v.
Maire Wichard, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6). (Doc. 24.) For the following reasons, the Court dismisses the claims with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Terrell Suggs is a professional football player for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League ("NFL"). Plaintiff was represented by sports agent Gary Wichard until Mr. Wichard passed away in March 2011. Defendant Maire Wichard is Mr. Wichard's widow and the executrix of Mr. Wichard's Estate ("Estate"). Defendant Pro Tect Management, LLC, ("Pro Tect") is the company through which Mr. Wichard did business.

         In 2009, Gary Wichard negotiated a contract between Terrell Suggs and the Baltimore Ravens that would run through 2014. Pursuant to the terms of the NFL Players' Association ("NFLPA") Standard Representation Agreement ("SRA"), Plaintiff agreed to pay Mr. Wichard three percent of his annual compensation under the contract. After Mr. Wichard's death, on November 15, 2011, Plaintiff retained a new Contracts Advisor, Joel Segal, to replace Mr. Wichard.

         Plaintiff made commission payments of $102, 000 and $147, 000 to the Estate for the 2011 and 2012 NFL seasons, respectively. (Doc. 1 at 6-7.) These amounts represented three percent of Mr. Suggs's total compensation for those seasons. Plaintiff later refused to pay commissions for the 2013 and 2014 NFL seasons despite receiving demand letters from Mrs. Wichard on behalf of the Estate. (Doc. 1 at 10.) In March 2014, the Estate filed a Grievance against Plaintiff through NFLPA arbitration to collect the 2013 commissions. (Doc. 24-1 at 24.) Plaintiff then filed hisz own Grievance against the Estate and Pro Tect for failing to represent him after Gary Wichard's death. (Id.) These Grievances were arbitrated together before an arbitrator.

         The arbitrator held that Plaintiff was required to pay the Estate $172, 800- $192, 000 based on Plaintiffs compensation for the 2013 NFL Season, discounted by 10% because Mr. Wichard and the Estate had failed to fully represent Plaintiff in the "enforcement" of the 2009 contract. (Id. at 28-29.) On March 24, 2015, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia confirmed the arbitration award for the 2013 NFL season. (Id. at 44.) The Estate filed another Grievance against Plaintiff with the NFLPA to recover commissions for the 2014 NFL season. (Doc. 25-1 at 16.) On December 16, 2015, the arbitrator awarded the Estate $234, 800. (Id. at 23.) This award was confirmed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on April 5, 2016. (Doc. 31-2 at 2.)

         Now, Plaintiff brings suit against Mrs. Wichard and Pro Tect, alleging unjust enrichment and breach of an implied contract.[1] The two claims arise out of the same simple and undisputed set of facts: After Gary Wichard's death, Plaintiff paid commissions to the Estate, and neither Mrs. Wichard nor Pro Tect performed any agency services on Plaintiffs behalf. Plaintiff asserts that this constitutes unjust enrichment, as "it would be inequitable and against good conscience to permit Defendants to retain the fees [collected] for services that were never performed." (Doc. 1 at 13.) He also asserts that by accepting and later demanding payments, Defendants entered into an implied contract with Plaintiff to perform agency services, and breached this contract by not performing those services. He offers no explanation, however, as to how payments that he owed and paid to the Estate were separately owed and paid to Mrs. Wichard or Pro Tect.

         Mrs. Wichard, a citizen of California, and Pro Tect, a California limited liability corporation, seek to dismiss Plaintiffs action for a lack of personal jurisdiction or, alternatively, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Personal Jurisdiction

         Ordinarily, a court should resolve issues of jurisdiction before deciding any questions going to the merits of a claim. See, e.g., Sinochem Int'l Co. Ltd. v. Malaysia Int'l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 430-31 (2007). However, in certain circumstances, "[a] court may assume the existence of personal jurisdiction and adjudicate the merits in favor of the defendant without making a definitive ruling on jurisdiction." Lee v. City of Beaumont, 12 F.3d 933, 937 (9th Cir. 1993) (emphasis added), overruled on other grounds by Cal. Dep't of Water Res. v. Powerex Corp., 533 F.3d 1087 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Strong College Students Moving Inc. v. College Hunks Hauling Junk Franchising LLC, No. CV-12-01156-PHX-DJH, 2015 WL 12602438, at *5 (D. Ariz. May 15, 2015); Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Elec-Tech Int'l Co., Ltd., No. 14-cv-02737-BLF, 2015 WL 1289984, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2015). This is particularly appropriate where the jurisdictional issue is a close question but the "substantive merits underlying the issue are facilely resolved in favor of the party challenging jurisdiction." Kotler v. Am. Tobacco Co., 926 F.2d 1217, 1221 (1st Cir. 1990), vacated on other grounds, 505 U.S. 1215 (1992); see also Norton v. Mathews, Ml U.S. 524, 530-31 (1976); Logan Farms v. HBH, Inc. DE, 282 F.Supp.2d 776, 785 (S.D. Ohio 2003). This is such a case, and the Court will therefore move directly to the sufficiency of Plaintiff s claims.

         II. Failure to State a Claim

         Defendants proffer several different theories as to why Plaintiffs claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim: collateral estoppel, res judicata, the statute of frauds, the statute of limitations, and deficiencies in both claims as a matter of law. Collateral estoppel prevents Plaintiff from re-litigating issues that prove fatal to his claims on their ...


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