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Secure Identity Solutions, Inc. v. Maxwell

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 12, 2014

SECURE IDENTITY SOLUTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDRE MAXWELL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

TIMOTHY J. SULLIVAN, Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Secure Identity Solution, Inc.'s ("SIS") Motion for Sanctions and for Summary Judgment and/or for Other Appropriate Relief ("Motion") (ECF No. 31). Defendant Andre Maxwell ("Mr. Maxwell") has not filed a response and the time for doing so has passed. Having reviewed the Motion, I find that a hearing is unnecessary on the issue of Mr. Maxwell's liability. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the Motion as to Mr. Maxwell's liability, but hold the issue of damages sub curia.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

SIS filed a Complaint (ECF No. 1) on January 20, 2010 asserting various claims against Mr. Maxwell, and seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief. A scheduling order (ECF No. 8) was entered on April 29, 2010, and the case was referred to a U.S. Magistrate Judge with the parties' consent on the same day. ( See ECF Nos. 9 & 10.) On September 15, 2010, a stay was entered in light of Mr. Maxwell's bankruptcy filing in another district. This stay was lifted on June 14, 2011, but the stay was reinstated on October 3, 2011 in light of a second bankruptcy filing in another district. (ECF Nos. 20 & 22.) As a result of SIS's status report submitted on February 5, 2013 (ECF No. 25), a conference call with the parties was held, the stay was lifted, and a revised scheduling order (ECF No. 28) was entered on April 8, 2013.

Throughout the course of this case, SIS has served several discovery requests on Mr. Maxwell, but he has not produced responses to any of them. ( See ECF No. 31 at 2-3.) Specifically, in light of Mr. Maxwell's failure to respond to SIS's Request for Admissions pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 36 ( see ECF No. 31-4), SIS requests that the Court deem the matters set forth therein as admitted, and find that SIS is entitled to summary judgment on all of the claims asserted in its Complaint. (ECF No. 31.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"The court shall grant summary judgment 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing predecessor to current Rule 56(a)). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). If sufficient evidence exists for a reasonable jury to render a verdict in favor of the party opposing the motion, then a genuine dispute of material fact is presented and summary judgment should be denied. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). However, the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [opposing party's] position" is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 252. The facts themselves, and the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the opposing party, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir.2008), who may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading but instead must, by affidavit or other evidentiary showing, set out specific facts showing a genuine dispute for trial, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Supporting and opposing affidavits are to be made on personal knowledge, contain such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and show affirmatively the competence of the affiant to testify to the matters stated in the affidavit. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

III. ANALYSIS

SIS initially served its Request for Admissions ("Request") on Mr. Maxwell on July 12, 2010. (ECF No. 31-4 at 6.) After a stay was entered in the case, lifted, reinstated, then lifted again, SIS again served its Request on Mr. Maxwell, as well as on an attorney acting on his behalf. ( See ECF No. 31 at 2-3.) Nonetheless, Mr. Maxwell did not respond to the Request. Accordingly, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a) and (b), the matters in SIS's Request are deemed admitted and conclusively established.

Because SIS has conclusively established the matters contained in its Request and Mr. Maxwell has submitted no evidence in opposition to SIS's Motion, the Court finds that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. The Court must still, however, determine whether SIS is entitled to judgment as a matter of law based on the undisputed facts in the record. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

A. Counts I and II

Counts I and II of the Complaint, assert claims for "Breach of Employment Contract" and "Breach of Separation and Release Agreement, " respectively. (ECF No. 1 at 3-4.) In Maryland, to prevail on a breach of contract claim, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a contractual duty and that the defendant materially breached that duty. Taylor v. NationsBank, N.A., 365 Md. 166 (2001). In these counts, SIS alleges that Mr. Maxwell had a contract with SIS "that any business relations [Mr. Maxwell] developed belonged to [SIS]." (ECF No. 1 at 3.) In violation of the terms of this contract, Mr. Maxwell "formed his own business relations with [SIS's] customers and potential customers while employed by [SIS]." ( Id. ) There is no dispute of Mr. Maxwell's contract with SIS, or that he violated the terms of the contract by "secretly and without authority or consent from SIS obtain[ing] business for [himself] from existing SIS customers, " and "continued to work for clients of SIS after [his] termination." ( Id. at 2-3.) Moreover, it is conclusively established that Mr Maxwell breached his contract with SIS by forming his "own business relationships with SIS customers and potential customers" and "by directly competing with SIS." ( Id. at 3-4.) In addition, in Mr. Maxwell's Separation and Release Agreement, he agreed not to disparage SIS. Nonetheless, Mr. Maxwell subsequently "made representations to SIS's customers that SIS is unable to perform its work and that it has been dissolved, " all in an attempt to "subvert SIS's work and to obtain business" for himself. (ECF No. 31-4 at 3.) Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that Mr. Maxwell breached his contracts with SIS and that SIS is entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to Counts I and II of the Complaint.

B. Counts III and IV

Count III of the Complaint asserts a claim of "Interference with Business Relations" and Count IV asserts a claim of defamation (ECF No. 1 at 4-5.) To prevail on a claim of tortious interference with business relationships in Maryland, a plaintiff must prove the following:

(1) intentional and willful acts; (2) calculated to cause damage to the plaintiffs in their lawful business; (3) done with the unlawful purpose to cause such damage and loss, without right or justifiable cause on the part of the defendants (which ...

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