CHenmou Wu v. Del. Tech. Cmty. Coll., C. A. N21C-07-045 EMD

CourtSuperior Court of Delaware
Writing for the CourtEric M. Davis, Judge
PartiesCHENMOU WU, Plaintiff, v. DELAWARE TECHNICAL COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant.
Docket NumberC. A. N21C-07-045 EMD
Decision Date20 October 2022

CHENMOU WU, Plaintiff,
v.

DELAWARE TECHNICAL COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant.

C. A. No. N21C-07-045 EMD

Superior Court of Delaware

October 20, 2022


MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT

Eric M. Davis, Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a civil action involving fraud and negligence. Initially, Plaintiff Chenmou Wu alleged that Defendant Delaware Technical Community College ("DTCC") fraudulently induced Mr. Wu to send $9,650 to a third party for an employment opportunity.[1] Mr. Wu contends that the emails came from a source purportedly associated with DTCC. On October 4, 2021, DTCC filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Wu's Complaint.[2] On January 13, 2022, the Court granted DTCC's first motion to dismiss and gave Mr. Wu leave to amend his complaint.[3]

Mr. Wu filed an amended complaint on February 10, 2022 (the "Amended Complaint").[4]In the Amended Complaint, Mr. Wu now contends that DTCC negligently and fraudulent induced him to pay $9,650 to a third party for an employment opportunity. Mr. Wu contends that he has been damaged in the amount of $199,650.00 due to "massive mental, psychological

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and financial harm."[5] On February 24, 2022, DTCC filed Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (the "Motion").[6] Mr. Wu opposed the Motion and filed his Plaintiff's Motion of Hearing at the Court and Response Defendant's Unreasonable Motions (the "Response") on March 15, 2022.[7]

On July 21, 2022, the Court held a hearing on the Motion and the Response.[8] The Court then took the Motion under advisement. The Court did not ask the parties to submit any additional papers or pleadings. On August 2, 2022, Mr. Wu chose to file his Plaintiff's Additional Evidence, Statements and Conclusion to Against Defendant About the Hearing (the "Supplement").[9]

The Court has considered the Motion, the Response, the Complaint, the Amended Complaint, the arguments made in support of the Motion and the Response, and the Supplement. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall GRANT the Motion.

II. RELEVANT FACTS [10]

Mr. Wu has been a registered student at DTCC since the spring of 2019. [11]

On December 17, 2020, Mr. Wu received an email from dfears1@dtcc.edu (the "Fears Email").[12] The Fears Email reads as follows:

From: Dyamond Fears
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2020 5:43 PM
Subject: PT Personal/Administrative Assistant
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Good Day,

I have an offer for the post of personal assistant which can be done part or full time which pays $450 weekly
To know more about the position apply below.
Click Here
Application will be received and you will get a response between 24-4 hours.
Job Placement &Student Services
Delaware Technical Community College
Copyright _2020 Chippewa Valley Technical College .All rights reserved[13]

Mr. Wu alleges that Dyamond Fears claimed to be looking for a PT Personal/Administrative Assistant position.[14] Mr. Wu did not communicate with Mr. Fears but, instead, Mr. Wu proceeded to communicate with kennethjones040214@gmail.com.[15] Mr. Wu provided the addressee with his bank account information.[16]

On January 6, 2021, Timothy Winstead, the Director of Public Safety for DTCC, alerted Mr. Wu of potential fraud associated with the Fears Email.[17] By this time, Mr. Wu had given $9,650 to kennethjones040214@gmail.com.[18] On January 15, 2021, Gail Charrier communicated with Mr. Wu and advised Mr. Wu that he may have been a victim of fraud/phishing."[19] On March 8, 2021, DTCC's general counsel, Brian D. Shirey, emailed Mr. Wu explaining that DTCC was not associated with either email address and that the matter was

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now closed.[20] Mr. Shirey provided that the Fears Email was the result of a "hack" occurring on December 17, 2020 at 5:43 p.m. and that

Within 10 minutes, the email account in question was identified as having been compromised and deactivated at 5:53 p.m. You did not receive responses to the subsequent emails you sent to that account, including the one you sent later that evening at 7:46 p.m., because the account had already been deactivated.[21]

Mr. Wu filed the Complaint on July 12, 2021, seeking damages from DTCC for Mr. Wu's participation in a fraudulent email scheme originating from dfears1@dtcc.edu.[22] DTCC filed a Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative Motion for a More Definite Statement (the "Original Motion") on October 4, 2021.[23] Mr. Wu submitted his Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative Motion for a More Definite Statement (the "Original Response") on October 15, 2021.[24] The Court reviewed the complaint, the Original Motion and the Original Response. After that review, the Court entered an Order granting the Original Motion but gave Mr. Wu leave to amend his complaint.[25]

Mr. Wu filed the Amended Complaint on February 10, 2022. DTCC filed the Motion on February 24. 2022. Mr. Wu then filed the Response and, subsequently, the Supplement.

III. PARTIES CONTENTIONS

A. DTCC

DTCC argues that Mr. Wu failed to allege a prima facie claim of fraud. Specifically, DTCC states that Mr. Wu only made general and conclusory statements and failed to produce any evidence of false representations or negligence as required by Rule 9(b).[26] Further, DTCC

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argues that Mr. Wu has not established what duty Timothy Winstead owed to Mr. Wu to establish a negligence claim.

DTCC asks the Court to dismiss the Amended Complaint with prejudice and grant any further relief the Court deems necessary.

B. Mr. Wu

In the Amended Complaint, Mr. Wu argues DTCC committed fraud when an unknown third party used an email address that appeared to be associated with DTCC in an email phishing scheme. Mr. Wu asserts that Mr. Winstead was negligent in his duty. In addition, Mr. Wu contends that DTCC has an inadequate email management system[27] and "tried to cover up and distort the facts."[28]

In the Response, Mr. Wu provides that the Motion "made unreasonable excuses, ignored the facts, and made false statements."[29] Further, Mr. Wu contends he has now suffered "massive mental, psychological and financial harm" and has increased the original claim amount to $199,650.[30]

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Delaware law, a party may move to dismiss under this Civil Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[31] In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court (i) accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint; (ii) credits vague allegations if they give the opposing party notice of the claim; (iii) draws all reasonable factual inferences in favor of the non-moving party; and (iv) denies dismissal if

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recovery on the claim is reasonably conceivable.[32] The Court, however, need not "accept conclusory allegations unsupported by specific facts or . . . draw unreasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party."[33] Delaware's pleading standard is "minimal."[34] Dismissal is inappropriate unless "under no reasonable interpretation of the facts alleged could the complaint state a claim for which relief might be granted."[35]

In general, a claim's reasonable conceivability cannot be determined through "matters outside the pleadings."[36] But, "for carefully limited purposes,"[37] the Court may consider "matters outside the pleadings when the document is integral to . . . a claim and incorporated into the complaint."[38] "[A] claim may be dismissed if allegations in the complaint or in the exhibits incorporated into the complaint effectively negate the claim as a matter of law."[39]

The pleading standard is governed by Civil Rule 9. Civil Rule 9(b) requires that "[i]n all averments of fraud, negligence or mistake, the circumstances constituting fraud, negligence or mistake shall be stated with particularity."[40] However, "[m]alice, intent, knowledge and other condition of mind of a person may be averred generally."[41] In order to plead with particularity a party must include the "time, place, contents of the alleged fraud or negligence, as well as the individual accused of committing fraud."[42]

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V. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff Does Not Identify What Fraud DTCC Has Committed

To state a claim of fraud in Delaware a Plaintiff must allege:

1) a false representation, usually one of fact...; 2) the defendant's knowledge or belief that the representation was false, or was made with reckless indifference to the truth; 3) an intent to induce the plaintiff to act or to refrain from acting; 4) the plaintiff's action or inaction taken in justifiable reliance upon the representation; and 5) damage to the plaintiff as a result of such reliance.[43]

To establish a claim for fraud, "a plaintiff must have acted in justifiable reliance on the representation."[44]

Mr. Wu admits that he is unsure who committed the fraud but that the perpetrator used an email associated with DTCC.[45] The email address, dfears1@dtcc.edu, was used to send fake job posting information to Mr. Wu.[46] The Amended Complaint's Exhibit shows that the fraudulent activity was conducted by someone using the kennethjones040214@gmail.com email address.[47]The email of Kenneth Jones is not one associated with DTCC and Mr. Wu does not contend that Mr. Jones is associated with DTCC.

The Amended Complaint attempts to assert a fraud claim against DTCC by arguing that the email phishing incident, i.e., the Fears Email, was a "gross dereliction of duty" on the part of DTCC.[48] While Mr. Wu may allege a claim for fraud against dfears1@dtcc.edu and kennethjones040214@gmail.com, the Court holds that Mr. Wu fails to assert an actionable fraud claim against DTCC.

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B. Mr. Wu Fails to Identify a Person or Persons at DTCC that Made a False Representation of Fact

Mr. Wu identifies two persons at DTCC in the Amended Complaint: Mr. Winstead and...

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