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Facciolo v. Vietri

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

March 22, 2017

RAY FACCIOLO, Plaintiff-Below/Appellant,
v.
NINA VIETRI, Defendant-Below/Appellee.

          Submitted: January 31, 2017

          Melissa L. Rhoads, Esquire Tighe & Cottrell, P.A. Attorney for Plaintiff

          Max B. Walton, Esquire Connolly Gallagher LLP Attorney for Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Alex J. Smalls, Chief Judge

         This is an appeal from a decision by the Justice of the Peace Court pursuant to 10 Del. C § 9571. The underlying dispute involves Plain tiff-Below/Appellant Ray Facciolo ("Plaintiff) seeking reimbursement for certain items and expenses incurred on behalf of Defendant-Below/Appellee Nina Vietri ("Defendant"). Defendant brings this Motion for Summary Judgment (the "Motion") pursuant to Court of Common Pleas Civil Rule 56, arguing certain debts Plaintiff seeks to recover are barred by the statute of limitations. On January 31, 2017, the Court held a hearing on the Motion and reserved decision. This is the Court's decision on the Motion.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 21, 2015, Plaintiff initiated an action against Defendant in the Justice of the Peace Court seeking the remaining balance on a debt allegedly owed. On May 25, 2016, the Justice of the Peace Court held a hearing on the matter, where Defendant moved to dismiss pursuant to JP Court Civil Rule 41(b). On June 1, 2016, the Justice of the Peace Court granted Defendant's motion and dismissed Plaintiffs case. On June 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal to this Court, commencing the present action.

         Plaintiffs complaint on appeal is identical to his complaint-below. The pro se complaint reads: "Please file a debt action against the defendant Nina Vietri for the remaining balance in which she stopped making payments to Plaintiff. Defendant had a history of regular payments. Last payment was in 2014. Due to delinquency in the lack of communication [sic] plan of action the issue has been escalated." On July 5, 2016, Defendant filed an Answer to the complaint, denying all substantive allegations and asserting a number of affirmative defenses.

         On November 1, 2016, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. On November 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response opposing Defendant's Motion. On November 18, 2016, the Court held a hearing on the Motion, and granted leave for the parties to conduct additional discovery. On January 6, 2017, the Court held another hearing on the Motion, and passed the matter to allow Plaintiff time to review Defendant's responses to his requests for admissions. The Court also issued a scheduling order giving the parties an opportunity to file a joint stipulation dismissing certain claims if, upon review of the discovery, both parties could agree such claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Ultimately, the parties could not reach an agreement. Therefore, the Court held another hearing on January 31, 2017, and at the conclusion thereof, reserved decision on the Motion.

         PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         Defendant argues three grounds for summary judgment, all of which stem from an affidavit and bill of particulars filed by Plaintiff in the Justice of the Peace Court. First, Defendant argues certain expenses Plaintiff seeks reimbursement for are barred by the statute of limitations. Specifically, Defendant contends Plaintiffs affidavit states certain debts originate in 2012. These debts are: (1) a July 5, 2012 trip to Myrtle Beach; (2) a September 29, 2012 trip to Atlantic City; and (3) an October 23, 2012 trip to Aruba. Defendant argues no actions to recover these debts can be brought after the expiration of three years from the accruing of such cause of action. Because Plaintiff conceded that these debts were incurred before December 2012, and Plaintiff did not bring this action until December 2015, Defendant contends those debts are barred by the three year statute of limitations.

         Second, Defendant argues Plaintiffs affidavit states he is seeking to collect debts on behalf of persons who are not parties to this action, specifically, Plaintiffs mother and twin cousins. Because Plaintiff is seeking relief on behalf of non-parties, Defendant contends Plaintiff lacks standing to bring these claims because he cannot show an individualized injury-in-fact. Accordingly, Defendant argues these claims must be dismissed.

         Finally, Defendant argues Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts to establish a legally enforceable agreement between the parties. Defendant maintains every alleged debt listed in Plaintiffs affidavit relate to a time period when the parties were in a relationship. In essence, Defendant contends that Plaintiff is trying to force her to repay for gifts that were given to her during the course of their relationship. Moreover, Defendant argues the text messages upon which Plaintiff relies only indicate that she would give Plaintiff money while they were dating. Defendant maintains that this does not amount to a binding contractual commitment which requires her to repay the amounts claimed. Furthermore, Defendant argues there are no ascertainable terms in the alleged agreement, making it unenforceable. For these reasons, Defendant argues she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         Conversely, Plaintiff maintains Defendant's Motion must be denied because the affidavit upon which Defendant relies raises several genuine issues of material fact. Plaintiff contends the affidavit refers to Plaintiff having a history of loaning money to Defendant, some of which Defendant successfully repaid. Plaintiff argues this is inconsistent with Defendant's position that there was no contractual obligation to repay the debt. Furthermore, Plaintiff argues that a partial payment on the debt tolls the statute of limitations, because a new promise to pay is implied from the partial payment of debt. It is Plaintiffs position that he is entitled to trial on the issues to determine whether any of the alleged debts are barred by the statute of limitations. Accordingly, Plaintiff moves the Court to deny Defendant's Motion. Plaintiff does, however, concede a lack of standing to proceed on the two debts allegedly owed to Plaintiffs mother and twin cousins and withdraws those claims.

         LEGAL ...


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