United States District Court, D. Maryland
Mark Coulson, United States Magistrate Judge
Kevin Luten (“Plaintiff”) brought suit against
Defendants R&M Performance, Inc., R&M Performance,
LLC, and Russell Hutchins, Jr. (collectively, the
“Defendants”) for breach of contract, negligent
misrepresentation, and violations of the Maryland Consumer
Protection Act. (ECF No. 1). The parties consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge for all proceedings pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rules 301 and 302. (ECF No. 18).
Currently pending before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment for Immediate Specific
Performance. (ECF No. 6). In considering Plaintiff's
Motion, the Court has also reviewed Defendants'
Opposition to the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and
Plaintiff's Reply thereto. (ECF Nos. 11, 13). No hearing
is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016).
For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment for Immediate Specific Performance
of 2010, Plaintiff Kevin Luten entered into an agreement with
Defendant R&M Performance, owned by Defendants Russell
Hutchins, Jr., for services related to the restoration of his
1975 Ford F-150 Ranger pick-up truck. Over the next six
years, Plaintiff returned to Defendant for additional
restorative work on the pick-up truck as he obtained the
funds to pay for the ongoing restoration. After some e-mail
discussion between the parties in July and August of 2016,
Plaintiff and Defendant agreed that Plaintiff would pay
Defendant $15, 000 for the completion of all remaining work
on the pick-up truck by September 23, 2016. However, the
remaining work was not completed by that deadline. Defendant
attributes this failure to the loss of a particularly skilled
employee (Brian Romine) and Plaintiff's own failure to
provide necessary parts for the restoration. Defendant also
claims that Plaintiff was informed of the loss of the
employee and actually approved the extension of time
necessary to complete the work.
and Defendant were apparently scheduled to have a status call
on June 12, 2017 to discuss progress in the truck
restoration. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant did not call
him as scheduled and also failed to answer Plaintiff's
follow-up calls over the next three days. Defendant asserts
that he was unresponsive due to a hospitalization. Plaintiff
then posted negative and allegedly derogatory reviews about
Defendant on social media. Upon learning of these reviews,
Defendant requested that Plaintiff remove his vehicle and
remaining miscellaneous parts from Defendant's premises.
seeks partial summary judgment on the grounds that a contract
was formed between Plaintiff and Defendant, Defendant
breached that contract, and specific performance of the
contract is the appropriate remedy. Plaintiff asserts that
the “Court should grant partial summary judgment
granting specific performance of the contract, because [he]
and [Defendants] agreed to a scope of work that was clearly
defined and the work was to be completed on [Defendants']
property in the interest of [Plaintiff].” (ECF No. 6,
Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. at 4). The Court will
first address whether the requirements for summary judgment
have been met by Plaintiff, and will then proceed to address
specific performance as the appropriate remedy.
Dispute of Material Fact Precludes Partial Summary
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the Court to
“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.” The moving
party bears the burden “to demonstrate the absence of
any genuine dispute of material fact.” Jones v.
Hoffberger Moving Servs. LLC, 92 F.Supp.3d 405, 409 (D.
Md. 2015) (internal citations omitted). A dispute as to a
material fact “is genuine if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P. Dev. Ltd.
P'ship, 115 F.Supp.35 593, 600 (D. Md. 2015)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)). A nonmoving party “opposing a
properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not
rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,
' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”
Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346
F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). The court is “required
to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light
most favorable to” the nonmoving party, Iko v.
Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007)), but must
also “abide by the ‘affirmative obligation of the
trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and
defenses from proceeding to trial.'” Heckman v.
Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 962 F.Supp.2d 792, 799-800
(quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment for Immediate Specific
Performance, Plaintiff asserts that “[t]he undisputed
evidence shows that R&M entered into a contract to
complete the work set forth in the August 1, 2016 agreement
by September 23, 2016, but failed to do so.” (ECF No.
6, Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. at 4). Plaintiff
further contends that “[t]hese facts establish the
existence of a contract and breach so the only question is
remedy.” Id. The evidence, however, is far
from “undisputed.” A dispute of material fact
exists in this case as to the alleged breach of contract by
Defendants. In its Response to Plaintiff's motion,
Defendants seem to concede the existence of a contract
between Plaintiff and Defendant, but claim that Plaintiff is
actually responsible and at fault for the delay in completing
the restoration work on the truck under the contract.
part of the agreement between the parties made Plaintiff
responsible for the purchase and provision of certain parts
for the pickup that Defendants were then to utilize and
install in the truck as part of the restoration. Defendants
assert that Plaintiff has not provided parts necessary for
the completion of the restoration work: “Additional
parts will be necessary to complete the restoration. For
example, wheels and tires have not been supplied by
[Plaintiff], even though [he] had indicated in his email of
July 25, 2016 that he would buy these soon and ship them. The
vehicle cannot be completed, in part, as [Plaintiff] has not
purchased and supplied all of the parts that he has indicated
he would be responsible for.” (ECF No. 11, Def.'s
Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. at 2). This assertion is supported by
testimony in Defendant Russell Hutchins, Jr.'s affidavit,
attached to Defendants' Response. (ECF No. 11-1, Hutchins
addition, Defendants also claim that Plaintiff was advised of
the loss of the especially skilled employee whose work was
necessary for the completion of the restoration of
Plaintiff's truck, and that Plaintiff approved of the
extension of time that the restoration would thus require.
Id. (“[Plaintiff] was advised of the loss of
Mr. Romine and that the truck would take longer than
anticipated. In talking with [Plaintiff], he was okay with
the job taking longer than expected under the
circumstances.”). Thus, a dispute of material fact
exists as to whether a breach of contract occurred and, if
the breach did occur, whether the contract breach is the
fault of Plaintiff or Defendants. These issues are to be left
to the members of the jury to decide, and preclude a grant of
summary judgment in Plaintiff's favor.
Availability of Specific Performance of a Personal Service
Contract as Remedy
assuming that there is no dispute of material fact that would
preclude partial summary judgment, specific performance is
not an appropriate remedy in this case. The Maryland Court of
Appeals has explained that “[s]pecific performance of a
contract is a matter of sound judicial discretion controlled
by established principles of equity.” Data
Consultants, Inc. v. Traywick, 593 F.Supp. 447, 453 (D.
Md. 1983) (citing Offutt v. Offutt, 106 Md. 236
(1907)). In considering whether to grant specific performance
as relief, courts consider “all of the circumstances of
the particular case in the light of equitable
principles.” Id.; see also Namleb Corp. v.
Garrett, 149 Md.App. 163, 174 (2002) (“Specific
performance may be granted in an appropriate case on the
basis of the strength of the circumstances and equities of
each party.”). As an initial matter, ...