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Batchelor v. Alexis Properties, LLC

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

February 23, 2018


          Submitted: December 5, 2017



         Before the Court are Defendants John Welcome's (hereinafter "Defendant Welcome"), Alexis Properties' (hereinafter "Defendant Alexis") and Melissa Hopkins's (hereinafter "Defendant Hopkins") motions to dismiss. The motions request dismissal of all counts of the complaint filed by Ms. Janet Batchelor (hereinafter "Plaintiff), who seeks damages relating to a lease of a property located at 5099 N. Dupont Hwy. Ste B, Dover, DE 19901 (hereinafter the "Property").

         The facts recited are those as alleged in Plaintiffs' complaint.[1] On May 4, 2016, Plaintiff signed a lease prepared by Defendant Welcome (hereinafter the "Lease"), which would lease the Property, owned by BB Properties of Delaware, LLC, to Plaintiff for the term of June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017. Plaintiff intended to use the property to operate a dance studio, and, in anticipation of taking possession, incurred certain expenses. Upon assuming possession on June 1, 2016, Plaintiff found the premises filled with garbage and debris, rendering it unfit for her purposes, and began efforts to put it into a condition such that the premises could be used.

         On June 30, 2016, the Property was sold to Defendant Alexis, but Defendant Welcome continued to manage the Property. Shortly thereafter, Defendants Alexis and Welcome leased the Property's storage unit and parking lot to a third party in violation of the Lease. The third parties' use of these areas hindered Plaintiffs use of the Property. On March 2, 2017, and again on May 2, 2017, Plaintiff gave Defendants notice that she would be vacating based on Defendants' actions. Plaintiff vacated on May 31, 2017. Thereafter, Defendants threatened legal action, and later, employing the services of Defendant Hopkins, filed a summary possession complaint and a debt action, which were legally groundless and intended to extort money from Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed this suit, alleging various breaches of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith, and malicious prosecution.

         Three motions to dismiss are now before the Court, one filed by Defendant Alexis, a second by Defendant Welcome, and the third by Defendant Hopkins.

         In its motion, Defendant Alexis argues that dismissal is appropriate due to (1) a failure to plead damages and (2) a failure to allege standing, as Plaintiff was not a party to the rental agreement.

         Defendant Welcome's motion to dismiss is largely identical to that filed by Defendant Alexis, but also argues that Defendant Welcome was improperly named instead of, Inc. Defendant Welcome provides no law or authority indicating that such would be appropriate.

         Defendant Hopkins moves only to dismiss the claim for malicious prosecution. Dismissal, she argues, is warranted because (1) all actions she filed were filed with probable cause and in good faith; (2) Plaintiff has failed to plead damages; and (3) the summary possession action was voluntarily dismissed and did not terminate in Plaintiffs favor.

         On a motion to dismiss, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that "there are no material issues of fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[2] Upon this Court's review of a motion to dismiss, "(i) all well-pleaded factual allegations are accepted as true; (ii) even vague allegations are well-pleaded if they give the opposing party notice of the claim; (iii) the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party; and (iv) dismissal is inappropriate unless the plaintiff would not be entitled to recover under any reasonably conceivable set of circumstances susceptible of proof."[3] Additionally, "a pro se pleading is judged by a 'less stringent standard' than a pleading or document filed by an attorney."[4]

         As an initial matter, the Court finds that because Defendant Welcome failed to cite any legal authority or to craft a legal argument to persuade the Court that he should be dismissed because he was acting as a mere agent of, Inc., he has failed to demonstrate entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on that basis. Insofar as he wishes the complaint to be amended, such an application is properly brought by Plaintiff.[5] The Court shall consider further arguments concerning the strength of claims against Mr. Welcome personally at the summary judgment phase.

         Because the multiple motions to dismiss before the Court contain similar arguments, the Court shall address the motions collectively, on an issue-by-issue basis. First, the Court shall consider whether Plaintiff has standing to bring all claims, then whether she has failed to plead damages, and finally whether dismissal of the malicious prosecution claim against Defendant Hopkins is warranted.

         A. Standing

         Defendants Alexis's and Welcome's motions to dismiss assert that Plaintiff lacks standing to pursue her claims against them. This is so, Defendants argue, because Plaintiff is suing for breach of a rental agreement, even though she is not the tenant named on the agreement: the Lease ...

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