United States District Court, D. Minnesota
SYLVESTER O. IHEANACHO, individually and d/b/a KTC Transportation Company, and KTC TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, INC., Plaintiffs,
ABC BUS LEASING, INC., Defendant.
Darron C. Knutson, for plaintiffs.
Anthony J. Novak and Mark A. Solheim, LARSON KING, LLP, for defendant.
PATRICK J. SCHILTZ, District Judge.
Plaintiff Sylvester Iheanacho owned and operated plaintiff KTC Transportation Company, a motor-touring company headquartered in North Carolina. Iheanacho leased three buses from defendant ABC Bus Leasing, Inc. ("ABC"). Eventually, the parties got into a dispute over whether Iheanacho was current on his lease payments. After Iheanacho refused to make any more payments, ABC repossessed and sold the buses. Iheanacho sued ABC for breach of contract, negligence, conversion, conducting a commercially unreasonable sale of the buses, and violating the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-1.1.
This matter is before the Court on ABC's motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 51. Because the record makes clear that Iheanacho is not entitled to relief, the Court grants ABC's motion and dismisses all of Iheanacho's claims.
Between 2000 and 2001, Iheanacho and ABC entered into three operating lease agreements, each of which related to a different bus. ECF No. 55-1 Exs. 1-3. The agreements obligated Iheanacho to make monthly payments of between $5, 295 and $5, 475 per bus for 84 months; at the end of the lease term, Iheanacho had the option to buy the buses for between $120, 000 and $135, 000 per bus. Id. The agreements provided that, if Iheanacho fell behind on his payments on an earlier lease, ABC could apply payments that Iheanacho made on a later lease toward what was owed on the earlier lease. Id. Ex. 1 at 5, Ex. 2 at 5, Ex. 3 at 5. The agreements also provided that failure to make timely payments would "constitute an immediate default"-and that, on such a default, ABC had the right to repossess the buses. Id. Ex.1 at 4, Ex. 2 at 4, Ex. 3 at 4. The parties agreed that the lease agreements would be governed by Minnesota law. Id. Ex. 1 at 5, Ex. 2 at 5, Ex. 3 at 5.
Iheanacho's timing was not good. The tourism industry took a nosedive after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and Iheanacho had difficulty keeping up on his lease payments. ECF No. 55-2 Ex. 5 at 60:16-63:16. ABC and Iheanacho entered into a series of refinancing agreements that allowed Iheanacho to lower his monthly payments. Id. Exs. 7-10. Eventually, however, the parties began to dispute whether the payments made by Iheanacho had been properly applied. Iheanacho alleged that not all of his payments had been correctly applied, and he repeatedly demanded that ABC provide a thorough accounting. ABC responded that it had properly credited all of Iheanacho's payments, and ABC has suggested that Iheanacho's confusion was likely caused by the fact that it applied some payments that he made on newer leases to the amounts he owed on older leases. ABC provided some documentation to Iheanacho, but he deemed that documentation to be insufficient. ABC alleges that Iheanacho fell further and further behind on his payments, despite ABC's efforts to work with him.
Although the parties dispute whether and to what extent Iheanacho fell behind on his payments, they agree that Iheanacho stopped making payments altogether in November or December 2008. Iheanacho alleges that he stopped making payments because he had "finished paying for the buses"-i.e., met all of his obligations under the three leases. ECF No. 55-2 Ex. 5 at 102:14. ABC says that Iheanacho was nowhere near being done paying for the buses. After Iheanacho stopped making lease payments, ABC repossessed the buses and resold them for $160, 000 each. ECF No. 54.
A. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is warranted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute over a fact is "material" only if its resolution might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute over a fact is "genuine" only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255.
B. Breach of Contract
Iheanacho claims that ABC breached the lease ...