TOWNSHIP OF WAYNE v. MESSERCOLA Civ. A. No. 91-692 (AJL).
789 F.Supp. 1305 (1992)
TOWNSHIP OF WAYNE, a Municipal Corporation of the State of New Jersey, Plaintiff, v. Louis MESSERCOLA, Thomas Acquaviva, Paul Cavaliere, Jr., Raymond McGrogan, Fair Lawn-McBride Associates, McBride Enterprises, Inc., Keljed/McBride, Rene Spiropoulos and John Doe, Defendants.
United States District Court, D. New Jersey.
March 23, 1992.
J. Fortier Imbert, Asst. U.S. Atty., U.S. Atty's Office, Newark, N.J. for intervenor.
LECHNER, District Judge.
This is an action brought by the Township of Wayne ("Wayne") against defendants Louis Messercola ("Messercola"), Thomas Acquaviva ("Acquaviva"), Paul Cavaliere, Jr. ("Cavaliere"), Raymond McGrogan ("McGrogan"), Fair Lawn-McBride Associates ("Fair Lawn-McBride"), McBride Enterprises, Inc. ("McBride Enterprises"), Keljed/McBride, ("McBride") (Fair Lawn-McBride, McBride Enterprises and McBride are collectively referred to as the "McBride Defendants"), Rene Spiropoulos ("Spiropoulos") and John Doe, a fictitious defendant ("Doe").
Currently before the court is the motion of Wayne for partial summary judgment pursuant to Fed.Rule Civ.P. 56(b) against Cavaliere on Count Seven and Count Eight of the Amended Complaint.
Facts and Procedural History
The facts of this case surrounding bribe payments by Fair Lawn-McBride to Messercola relating to a real estate development project for Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corporation (the "Calvin Klein Project") are not disputed. From 1 January 1986 through 8 September 1988, Messercola was mayor of Wayne. Gerber Aff., Ex. B,
During the period beginning 1985 through 1987 McBride Enterprises and its affiliate, Fair Lawn-McBride, were the developers of an office and distribution center on or off Barbour Pond Road in Wayne. Velie Aff., ¶ 2. During the summer of 1986 Messercola discussed with an associate of Fair Lawn-McBride whether Fair Lawn-McBride would be interested in developing the Calvin Klein Project in Wayne. Messercola Plea Tr. at 17. The proposed project was the development of an office, manufacturing and warehouse facility for Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corporation. Id.; Velie Aff., ¶ 2. Fair Lawn-McBride indicated it was interested in developing the Calvin Klein Project. Messercola Plea Tr. at 18.
Messercola agreed to assure the Calvin Klein Project would be approved by Wayne for the payment of a bribe. Id. at 18-19. Fair Lawn-McBride and Messercola also agreed that the bribe would not be a direct cash payment from Fair Lawn-McBride to Messercola. Id. at 18. They agreed to disguise the bribe by having Fair Lawn-McBride enter a brokerage agreement with a third person and have the bribe pass to the third person in the form of a commission (the "Commission Agreement"). Id. at 19. In December 1986 Wayne approved the Calvin Klein Project with the assistance of Messercola. Id.
In 1986 Cavaliere learned of the agreement between Fair Lawn-McBride and Messercola regarding the bribe and the Commission Agreement.
The Commission Agreement holds Cavaliere out as the real estate broker who introduced Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corporation to Fair Lawn-McBride. Id. at 21; Velie Aff., Ex. B at 1. The Commission Agreement provided for payment of $273,000 in commission to Cavaliere, payable in two equal installments on 15 January 1987 and 15 September 1987. Velie Aff., Ex. B at 1. On 28 January 1987 and 13 October 1987 Cavaliere received payments of $136,500 each from Fair Lawn-McBride. Id., Exs. D, F. Of the $273,000, Cavaliere kept $96,000 for himself and delivered the remaining $177,000 to Messercola. Cavaliere Plea Tr. at 21; Messercola Plea Tr. at 20.
Count One of the Amended Complaint alleges a claim for RICO violations against Messercola, Acquaviva, Cavaliere, Spiropoulos, Point View, Siflinger, Stanford and Finkelstein. Amended Complaint at 6-13. Count Two of the Amended Complaint alleges a claim for conspiracy to violate RICO against Messercola, Acquaviva, Cavaliere, Spiropoulos, Point View, Siflinger, Stanford and Finkelstein. Id. at 13-14. Count Three of the Amended Complaint alleges a claim for breach of the common law fiduciary duty against Messercola and for aiding and abetting of the breach of fiduciary duty against Spiropoulos and Point View. Id. at 14-15.
Count Four of the Amended Complaint alleges a common law claim for conspiracy to breach fiduciary duties against Messercola, Spiropoulos and Point View. Id. at 15-16. Counts Five and Six of the Amended Complaint allege common law claims for breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting of the breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy against Messercola and Acquaviva. Id. at 16-19.
Counts Nine and Ten allege common law claims for breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy to breach a fiduciary duty against Messercola, Acquaviva, Stanford, Finkelstein and Siflinger. Id. at 21-23. Counts Eleven and Twelve allege claims for N.J.S.A. 2C:41-2 and 2C:5-1 against Messercola, Acquaviva, Spiropoulos, Cavaliere, Point View, Stanford, Finkelstein and Siflinger. Id. at 23-25. As previously stated, the claims against Acquaviva, Spiropoulos, Point View, Siflinger and Finkelstein have been dismissed. See supra p. 1306 n. 2.
On 17 April 1991 Wayne approved a bond ordinance for the issuance of $8,000,000 in bonds for the acquisition of High Mountain Park in Wayne. Opp. Brief, Ex. C. This property was owned by Fair Lawn-McBride or its affiliates. Id. at 3.
Also on 17 April 1991 Wayne approved the settlement of the federal and state claims against the McBride Defendants. Opp. Brief, Ex. B. On 6 May 1991 Wayne entered a settlement agreement with the McBride Defendants (the "McBride Settlement Agreement"). O'Brien Aff., Ex. B. Under the McBride Settlement Agreement, the McBride Defendants paid Wayne $150,000 for the release of all claims asserted against them in this action and an action brought in state court.
The McBride Settlement Agreement provided, in pertinent part:
Id. §§ 4.2-4.5. The McBride Settlement Agreement defines Third Party as "any other person(s), firm(s), corporation(s), partnership(s) and/or other entities who are not named or otherwise described in "D" below but who are or may be claimed to be responsible for the same damage or injury to [Wayne] for which this Release is given."
Wayne moves for partial summary judgment on Counts Seven and Eight against Cavaliere on the ground that Cavaliere aided and abetted Messercola's breach of fiduciary duty. Moving Brief at 9-16. Wayne argues that as an aider and abettor Cavaliere is liable to it for damages. Id. at 18-19; Reply Brief at 9-13.
Cavaliere concedes his liability as an aider and abettor to Messercola,
A. Summary Judgment Standard of Review
To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must establish "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [it] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c). The present task is to determine whether disputed issues of fact exist, but a district court may not resolve factual disputes in a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
Although the summary judgment hurdle is a difficult one to overcome, it is by no means insurmountable. As the Supreme Court has stated, once the party seeking summary judgment has pointed out to the court the absence of a genuine issue of material fact,
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586-87, 106 S.Ct. at 1355-56 (emphasis in original, citations and footnotes omitted). In other words, the inquiry involves determining "`whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'" Brown v. Grabowski,
Once a case has been made in support of summary judgment, the party opposing the motion has the affirmative burden of coming forward with specific facts evidencing a need for trial. see Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Maguire v. Hughes Aircraft Corp.,
B. Appropriate Damages
Cavaliere argues that, in the absence of more specific proof, the measure of damages is $177,000 which represents the amount of the bribe paid by Fair Lawn-McBride to Messercola. Opp. Brief at 2. In addition, Cavaliere argues the $177,000 must be offset by any recovery from either Messercola or the McBride Defendants. Id. Cavaliere argues a genuine issue of material fact exists on the issue of whether the McBride Settlement Agreement was intended to release Cavaliere as a joint tortfeasor.
Continental Management dealt with a counterclaim of the United States to recover bribes the plaintiff paid to Federal Housing Authority employees. The court found the plaintiff liable to the defendant employer for inducing the employees' breach of fiduciary duty. The Continental Management court explained the reason for imposing aider and abettor liability as follows:
527 F.2d at 617 (citations and footnote omitted).
The court stated once liability is determined, damages need not be proved through specific and direct injury, but rather, "it is enough to show the fact and amount of the bribes." Id. at 618. In accepting the amount of bribes paid as the amount of damages, the court observed:
Id. at 618.
The Continental Management court held the amount of the bribe is a reasonable measure of damage because it is "the value the [briber] placed on the corruption of the [bribee's] employee's; on the other side ... is that the [briber] hoped and expected to benefit by more than the sum of the bribes." Id. at 619 (emphasis added). The court concluded, so long as double recovery is not awarded for the bribes, the aider and abettor who is a joint tortfeasor with the agent is "jointly liable to the principal for the agent's secret profits." Id.; see also Jaclyn, 170 N.J.Super. at 368,
Cavaliere argues the amount of damages must be limited to the $177,000 paid to Messercola and does not include the $96,000 he kept for himself. Opp. Brief at
The bribe was $273,000. It represents the value of obtaining approval on the Calvin Klein Project. The $273,000 was shared by Messercola and Cavaliere. Indeed, the payment to Cavaliere was necessary to disguise the bribe to Messercola. Cavaliere knew he was participating in a bribery scheme and that the Commission Agreement was only a means to disguise the $273,000 bribe. Cavaliere Plea Tr. at 19. The $96,000 Cavaliere retained was payment for services rendered in participating in this scheme. The policy of giving full relief to the principal who was subject to a bribery scheme requires that Wayne recover the full value of the corruption. Accordingly, the full amount of damages to be awarded with respect to claims based on the Calvin Klein Project is $273,000.
Cavaliere correctly points out, and Wayne does not contest, the fact that Wayne can only recover once for the bribery scheme. Continental Management, 527 F.2d at 619. With respect to the Calvin Klein Project, Wayne sought damages from Messercola, Cavaliere and Fair Lawn-McBride. See Complaint and Amended Complaint. The McBride Settlement Agreement released Fair Lawn-McBride of any liability it may have with respect to the Calvin Klein Project as well as other claims in this action and the state action for which Wayne claimed a total of $308,000.
Because Cavaliere and Fair Lawn-McBride are joint tortfeasors, the effect of the McBride Settlement Agreement on the amount of recovery must be considered. Under New Jersey law, "the release of one joint tortfeasor does not release the other joint tortfeasor, unless ... the consideration constitutes full compensation or is accepted as such." Barticheck v. Fidelity Union Bank/First Nat'l State,
In this case, Cavaliere has made no efforts to show the McBride Settlement Agreement was intended to be full compensation for the claims based on the Calvin Klein Project. The facts indicate the contrary. Wayne received $150,000 under the McBride Settlement Agreement in settlement of three claims it had against Fair Lawn-McBride and its affiliates for which Wayne claimed damages totalling $308,000. As discussed, with respect to the Calvin Klein Project, Wayne suffered damages in the amount of $273,000. See supra p. 1312. Fair Lawn-McBride asserted defenses to three claims against it; accordingly, the $150,000 represented a compromise agreement with respect to all three claims. By the time the McBride Settlement Agreement was entered, Cavaliere and Messercola had already pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme. Wayne had no need to settle its claims with Cavaliere.
Importantly, the McBride Settlement Agreement specifically states it is not intended to release third persons who may also be liable on the same claims. In light of the facts that the amount paid under the McBride Settlement Agreement represents a compromise, that Cavaliere had no defenses against Wayne and that Cavaliere was not released under the McBride Settlement Agreement, Cavaliere's conclusory allegations that a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding whether the parties intended the McBride Settlement Agreement to constitute full compensation strains credulity. Such empty conclusory
Nevertheless, the amount of damages must be offset to the extent Wayne received partial recovery from the McBride Defendants on the bribery scheme relating to the Calvin Klein Project.
Cavaliere argues the McBride Defendants paid $150,000 in full and final satisfaction of the claims against them. Opp. Brief at 2-3. Wayne argues only $100,000 was paid in compensatory damages for settlement of the three claims it asserted against the McBride Defendants. Reply Brief at 12. Accordingly, Wayne argues the amount of recovery on each claim must be prorated against the $308,000 claimed in compensatory damages against the McBride Defendants. Id.
Under the terms of the McBride Settlement Agreement, of the $150,000 paid in settlement of the federal and state claims, "one-third ( 1/3 ) of such amount represents reimbursement to WAYNE for professional fees and related litigation expenses in its actions and two-thirds ( 2/3 ) of such amount is payment for alleged common law compensatory damages." McBride Settlement Agreement, § 3.3. Therefore, according to the intent of the parties the amount of damages paid with respect to the state and federal claims is $100,000, not $150,000.
As suggested by Wayne, the prorated share of the damages paid on the Calvin Klein Project claim is 88.63 percent of the $100,000.
For the reasons set forth above, the motion for partial summary judgment is granted and damages are awarded against Cavaliere in the amount of $184,370.
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