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Arinc Inc. v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 30, 2019

ARINC, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES L. MARTIN, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. Mark Coulson United States Magistrate Judge

         This suit arises out of Plaintiff ARINC, Inc.'s employment and termination of Defendant James L. Martin. 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 Nos. 35 & 36). Pending before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 39). The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's Motion and Defendants' Response, (ECF Nos. 39, 41), and will, in its discretion, consider Plaintiff's delayed Reply.[1] (ECF No. 43). No. hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons below, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED as to the breach of contract claim and DENIED as to its alternative claim of unjust enrichment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Martin is a former employee of ARINC. (ECF No. 2). On August 10, 2009, Mr. Martin was transferred to ARINC's Asia/Pacific Division as its new Managing Director. (ECF No. 39-3). ARINC informed Mr. Martin that the new role required his temporary international assignment to the Republic of Singapore. (Id.). Such temporary international assignments came with terms and conditions (the “Assignment Terms”) to assist in an employee's relocation. (Id.). Among those Assignment Terms are incentive provisions, such as tax equalization and tax preparation. (Id.).

         ARINC utilizes tax equalization incentivize employees to accept such temporary international assignments. Tax equalization provides for ARINC to assume any new tax liabilities that arise from the international placement to keep an assigned employee's tax burden relatively unchanged. To achieve this goal, ARINC charged Mr. Martin a hypothetical tax but paid his actual liabilities to the Republic of Singapore, the United States, and the State of Maryland. (Id.). And would then conduct a tax settlement equalization calculation to determine the portion of the tax unrelated to the international assignment. Once determined, the international assignee would be sent the tax settlement and, if monies were owned, have to pay ARINC back for the portion unrelated to the international assignment. Occasionally, tax equalization would lead to situations where ARINC provided relocated employees with “advances equal to the estimated or actual amount of taxes, ” (Id. at 8), and in anticipation of needing to provide such advances ARINC included with the Assignment Terms an Acknowledgement of Tax Advance Liabilities, (the “Acknowledgment, ” collectively with the Assignment Terms, the “Contracts”). The Acknowledgment detailed how such advances constituted “an obligation by” the employee to ARINC and how such advances would be reconciled with a final yearly tax equalization settlement calculation (“Tax Settlement”). (Id.). The Acknowledgement obligated an employee to repay any advances “for each taxable year within 60 days after completion of the Tax Equalization Settlement Calculation for the same taxable year” by either applying that year's tax reimbursement or by reimbursing ARINC by cash or check. (Id.). Furthermore, the Assignment Terms, designated an accounting firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (“PWC”), to prepare an internationally assigned employee's taxes in conformity with the tax equalization provisions. (Id. at 9). In preparation for his assignment to Singapore, Mr. Martin signed the Assignment Terms on August 10, 2009 and signed the Acknowledgement on September 15, 2009. (Id. at 7-9).

         On January 31, 2013, Mr. Martin's temporary international assignment ended. (ECF No. 41-2). He repatriated to the United States and ARINC terminated his employment. (Id.). On February 1, 2013, Mr. Martin executed an agreement with ARINC that permitted him to exercise his stock option in exchange for a waiver of claims against ARINC. (See ECF No. 41-7). Notwithstanding his termination, PWC continued to handle Mr. Martin's 2013 taxes in the manner defined by the Contracts. In April 2014, ARINC, through PWC, advanced $105, 000.00 the Comptroller of Maryland and $200, 000.00 to and Internal Revenue Service to secure extensions for the filing of Mr. and Mrs. Martin's 2013 joint tax returns. (ECF No. 39-1). On January 26, 2016, PWC delivered the Tax Year 2013 Tax Settlement to Mr. Martin that reflected a debt of $261, 229.00. The debt has yet to be repaid. (ECF No. 39-2).

         ARINC filed this suit in the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County, Maryland but the Martins removed it to this Court. (ECF Nos. 1 and 2). ARINC now moves for Summary Judgment on the breach of contract claim against Mr. Martin for breach of the Contracts, or alternatively, on the unjust enrichment claim against Mr. and Mrs. Martin for failure to repay monies advanced by ARINC to secure the joint tax return filing extensions. (ECF No. 39).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         Federal 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 (D. Md. 2013) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)). And although pro se litigants are given some latitude, “even a pro se party may not avoid summary judgment by relying on bald assertions and speculative arguments.” Smith v. Vilsack, 832 F.Supp.2d 573, 580 (D. Md. 2011).

         B. Evidentiary Objections

         As an initial matter, ARINC's Reply primarily challenges this Court's ability to consider the information within Mr. Martin's opposition or any of the documents provided with that opposition because the filing lacks any authenticating affidavits.[2] (ECF No. 43). This, however, is no longer the standard dictated by Rule 56. The 2010 amendments to Rule 56 “eliminated the unequivocal requirement that documents submitted in support of a summary judgment motion must be authenticated.” Brown v. Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Inc., No. DKC 11-0769, 2012 WL 3136457, at *6 (D. Md. July 31, 2012). “Thus, instead of a clear, bright-line rule (‘all documents must be authenticated'), Rule 56(c)(2) now prescribes a multi-step process by which a proponent may submit evidence, subject to objection by the opponent and an opportunity for the proponent to either authenticate the document or propose a method to doing so at trial.” Williams v. Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Dep't, 86 F.Supp.3d 398, 407 (D. Md. 2015) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Consequently, “the objection [now] contemplated by the amended Rule is not that the material has not been submitted in admissible form, but that it cannot be.” Ridgell v. Astrue, No. DKC 10-3280, 2012 WL 707008, at *9 (D. Md. Mar. 2, 2012) (internal quotations and citation omitted). ARINC's blanket objection is quintessentially one of form over substance. It does not directly or specifically challenge any content as inadmissible or inauthentic, therefore, the Court may consider Mr. Martin's submissions in resolving this motion for summary judgment.

         C. Breach of ...


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