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Sullivan v. Dumont

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 16, 2019

JUSTIN B. SULLIVAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DUMONT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM CONCERNING DENIAL OF MOTION [#119] FOR RECONSIDERATION REGARDING THE COOK AGREEMENT

          DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Justin B. Sullivan, a former employee of Dumont Aircraft Charter, LLC, brings this lawsuit against his former employer, its affiliate, Dumont Aviation, LLC, and the owner of the businesses, Kevin Wargo (together “Dumont” or “the Defendants”), for their alleged failure to pay him for work he performed. On March 7, 2019, I granted in part and denied in part the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment regarding various counts. See Sullivan v. Dumont Aircraft Charter, LLC, 364 F.Supp.3d 63 (D. Mass. 2019).

         The Defendants filed a motion [Dkt. No. 119] seeking reconsideration of my judgment with respect to Mr. Sullivan's common law breach of contract claim regarding the Cook aircraft commissions. At the final pretrial conference, I denied the motion for reconsideration in a ruling from the bench. This Memorandum sets forth in writing the reasons for my decision.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         The factual background relevant to the motion was discussed in some detail in my original memorandum and order dealing with the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, see Sullivan, 364 F.Supp.3d at 70-76. I recount here only the factual basis for Mr. Sullivan's breach of contract claim as relevant to the Cook aircraft commissions.

         A. Factual Background

         In August 2015, three months before Mr. Sullivan became an employee of Dumont, he introduced a customer named Gregg Cook to Mr. Wargo. Following the introduction, Mr. Sullivan and Dumont agreed (the “Cook Agreement”) that, if Mr. Cook purchased an aircraft from Dumont, Dumont would pay Mr. Sullivan a commission of $50, 000 plus 5% of future charter sales on the aircraft. Sullivan, 364 F.Supp.3d at 71. This oral agreement was not memorialized in writing and was not explicitly incorporated into any separate arrangements between the parties or into the Term Sheet regarding Mr. Sullivan's employment by Dumont, which the parties concluded in October 2015 (the “Employment Agreement”). Id. at 71-72. The Cook Agreement did not identify any further responsibilities, conditions, or duties that Mr. Sullivan needed to perform to be entitled to a Cook aircraft commission and did not include a specific end date for residual commissions. Id. at 71. In summary judgment submissions, the parties did not contest the terms of this oral agreement or otherwise argue that it had somehow become unenforceable.

         Mr. Cook did, in fact, agree to purchase an aircraft from a subsidiary of the Dumont Group in August 2015; the sale was completed in November 2015 and the Cook aircraft remained in Dumont's charter fleet until August 22, 2017. Id.

         On November 6, 2015, a few days after Mr. Sullivan formally started his employment with Dumont, Dumont paid Mr. Sullivan the $50, 000 commission owed on the Cook Aircraft. Id. On December 31, 2015, Ms. Sullivan received his first residual commission payment in the amount of $3, 772 for revenue generated by the Cook Aircraft in November. Id. He received his second residual payment of $11, 527.78 for revenue generated in December 2015 on January 31, 2016. Id. Both these payments were paid as W-2 wages with the applicable withholdings.

         Mr. Sullivan did not receive any further residual payments for the Cook aircraft, though it remained in operation as part of Dumont's charter fleet until August 2017.[2] Mr. Sullivan voluntarily terminated his employment with Dumont on February 16, 2016 and, as part of that termination, agreed to part ways with no past or future monetary obligations owed by either side. Sullivan, 364 F.Supp.3d at 75-76. At the time, Mr. Sullivan did not mention being owed any residual commissions and the parties did not mention their separate agreement with respect to the Cook aircraft.

         B. Procedural Posture

         On April 13, 2016, Mr. Sullivan filed this action alleging violations of the Massachusetts Wage Act (“Wage Act”), M.G.L. c. 149 § 148, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 207, common law breach of contract, and unjust enrichment and quantum meruit.

         During a hearing regarding the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, Mr. Sullivan conceded that the Cook Agreement was concluded before Mr. Sullivan became an employee of Dumont and therefore fell outside the scope of his claims under the Wage Act and the FLSA.[3] Id. at 78-79 n. 6. Consequently, I considered only whether Dumont's failure to pay Mr. Sullivan any residual payments for revenue generated by Cook aircraft commissions after December 2015 constituted a breach of contract independent of the Employment Agreement. Id. at 88 n. 14. In doing so, I concluded that the Cook Agreement had not been superseded by or incorporated into the Term Sheet which provided the basis for the Employment Agreement; the parties concededly provided no evidence to the contrary. Id. at 89.

         I also concluded that, under the terms of the Cook Agreement, Mr. Sullivan was entitled to receive residual payments for revenue generated by the Cook Aircraft after December 2015. Because the Cook Agreement did not specify an end date and because Dumont pointed to no record evidence indicating that the parties agreed to terminate the Cook Agreement, Mr. Sullivan was entitled to unpaid commissions on the Cook Aircraft through August 22, 2017. Id. at 89. I granted summary judgment to Mr. Sullivan as to liability ...


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