Jolly v. Gallo, Case No.: CPU4-19-003504

CourtCourt of Common Pleas of Delaware
Writing for the CourtCarl C. Danberg Judge
PartiesRe: William Jolly v. Joseph Gallo and Brad Wagner
Decision Date24 November 2020
Docket NumberCase No.: CPU4-19-003504

Re: William Jolly
v.
Joseph Gallo and Brad Wagner

Case No.: CPU4-19-003504

COURT OF COMMON PLEAS FOR THE STATE OF DELAWARE

November 24, 2020


Carl C. Danberg Judge

William Jolly
2923 Harper Street
Philadelphia, PA 29240

William J Rhodunda, Jr. Esq.
Rhodunda, Williams & Kondraschow
1521 Concord Pike, Ste. 205
Wilmington, DE 19803

Megan McGovern, Esq.
600 North King Street, Suite 400
Wilmington, DE 19889

LETTER OPINION ON DEFENDANTS MOTION TO DISMISS

PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On October 19, 2019, William Jolly ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against Brad Wagner and Joe Gallo ("Defendants"). Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Defendants hired Plaintiff to complete the plumbing work for Hangman Brewing, LLC. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that the parties signed a contract to perform the work for $21,400.00. The complaint further alleges that Plaintiff was given a partial deposit of $5,400.00 but never received full payment on the contract. Plaintiff's alleges Defendants are in breach of contract and demands $17,100.00, return of Plaintiff's equipment and payment of workers compensation insurance. On November 7, 2019, Defendant, Wagner filed a motion to dismiss. On November 13, 2019, Defendant, Gallo filed an answer denying Plaintiff's claims and asserting Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

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On January 31, 2020, this Court heard Defendant, Wagner's motion to dismiss. At the hearing, this Court ordered Plaintiff to provide documentation demonstrating to the Court that, (1) Plaintiff is a party to the contract involved in this breach of contract action and/or (2) that Plaintiff has standing to sue Defendant on behalf of James Twyman Home Remodeling. The Court has provided the Plaintiff with an extensive period of time to supplement the record. Plaintiff did file supplemental documentation and the Court determined that an additional hearing in this matter was not necessary. Plaintiff has failed to provide the court with proof that Plaintiff is the real party in interest in this matter. Defendant Wagner filed a response to Plaintiff's supplemental documents. Defendant, Wagner request that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's action and grant Defendant attorney's fees. This is the final decision of the Court on Defendants motion to dismiss.

DISCUSSION

Generally, under Delaware law, someone who is not a party to the contract has no legal rights under the contract and lacks standing to sue for breach of contract.1 A party must have standing to bring a breach of contract action. Standing "refers to the right of a party to invoke the jurisdiction of a court to enforce a claim or to redress a grievance."2 Standing is a threshold inquiry that must be established in order for the Court to exercise its judicial powers.3 In determining whether a party has standing to pursue a claim, the Court shall only consider the question of whether the party is entitled to file the claim, and not the underlying merits of the subject matter of the controversy.4

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In Delaware, the interpretation of a contract is a question of law suitable for determination on a motion to dismiss.5 Although dismissal is only proper if the defendants' interpretation is the only reasonable construction as a matter of law.6 A motion to dismiss for lack of standing presents "a threshold question relating to jurisdiction."7 8 As stated by the Delaware Supreme Court, "the interpretation of a contract as a prerequisite to [a party's] standing is . . . a determination involving the merits."9 Where "the issue of standing is so closely related to the merits, a motion to dismiss on lack of standing" is properly evaluated for its failure to state a claim rather than a lack of jurisdiction."10

In considering motions to dismiss filed pursuant to CCP Civil Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must assume that all well-pled facts in the complaint are true.11 The complaint should not be dismissed unless "the plaintiff would not be entitled to recover under any reasonably conceivable set of circumstances susceptible to proof."12 "The Court is required to accept only those 'reasonable inferences that logically flow from the face of the complaint, [it] is not required to accept every strained interpretation of the allegations proposed by the plaintiff.'"13

Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he is a party to the contract. Plaintiff's signature appears on one of the documents provided to the Court. As explained by Defendant, Wagner in a draft memorandum to the Court, Plaintiff supplied a signature on a document related to insurance, not the alleged contract at the heart of this litigation. In addition, Defendant, Wagner alleges that

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Plaintiff has taken the liberty to hand select documents and combine them to make a "contract." The Court agrees that Plaintiff has failed to provide the Court proof he is a party to the contract. The only contract the Court does have bears the signatures of James Twyman and Brag Wagner. This contract is for $5,400.00 and Defendants have demonstrated that this payment was made in full and made at the time the contract was executed.

Delaware law does permit a third-party to recover where the parties to the underlying contract intended to confer a benefit to that third party. Therefore, someone that is not a party to a contract can recover if they intended to be a third-party beneficiary to the contract. A third-party's right to recover contractual damages turns on the intent of...

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