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Nguyen v. Estate of Ta

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

August 2, 2019

KHUE NGUYEN, Plaintiff,
v.
ESTATE OF THIN THI TA (HAI PHU NGUYEN AS HEIR AND ADMINISTRATOR), ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN MCBRYDE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Came on for consideration the. motion of defendants Hai Phu Nguyen served as administrator of the Estate of Thin Thi Ta ("Hai Phu") and Thao Xuan Ta for summary judgment.[1] The court, having considered the motion, the response of plaintiff, Khue Nguyen, the reply, [2] the record, and applicable authorities, as well as the arguments[3] at the hearing conducted June 25, 2019, finds that the motion should be granted. The court further finds that plaintiff's motion for nonrecognition of alleged Vietnamese judgments and to strike and disregard portions of defendants' brief should be denied. And, the court is denying plaintiff's motion for leave to file supplemental briefing and evidence.

         I. Background and Plaintiff's Claims

         On September 27, 2018, plaintiff filed his complaint in this action, naming a number of defendants. Doc.[4] 1. By memorandum opinion and order signed December 6, 2018, the court dismissed plaintiff's claims against defendants Ngo Thi Ngoan ("Ngoan"), Hien The Ta ("Hien"), and Lai Xuan Ta ("Ta") for lack of personal jurisdiction. Doc. 26. The dismissal of those claims was made final by separate final judgment. Doc. 27. By order signed February 1, 2019, the court dismissed plaintiff's claims against defendant Hoa Thi Ta Le ("Hoa") for failure to comply with the court's January 3, 2019 order regarding service of process. Doc. 37. The dismissal of those claims was made final by separate final judgment. Doc. 38. And, by order and separate final judgment signed July 3, 2019, the court dismissed the claims against defendants Hai Phu Nguyen, Mai Tuyet Nguyen, Que Dang Nguyen, and Anh Kim Nguyen, individually as heirs of Thin Thi Ta. Docs. 127 & 128.

         In his complaint, plaintiff alleges:

         In October 1982 Ms. Ha Thi Thu Thuy ("Thuy") and Mr. Ta Van Viet ("Viet") agreed in writing to form a partnership known as Snow White to manufacture and sell embroidery-craft products in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Doc. 1 at PageID[5] 4, ¶ 3. Each partner had a 50% ownership interest in Snow White. Id. at PageID 5, f 9, The partnership automatically renewed each year except if Viet were to migrate to France to live with his sons. Id. In 1985, Viet married his second wife, Ngoan. Id. ¶ 11. In June 1989, Viet died. Id. ¶ 12. In or around July 1989, Thuy paid a large amount of gold to Ngoan and Hien buy out the partnership interest of Viet's heirs and to allow Thuy to continue to operate the Snow White business. Id. at PageID 6, ¶ 14. Thuy then owned 100% of the Snow White partnership. Id., ¶ 15. Thuy continued the partnership business with the consent of Viet's heirs. Id. ¶ 16. On or about November 2012, Thuy returned from a business trip to find that Ngoan had taken over the manufacturing facility used by Snow White. She had evicted the employees, removed the signage, and placed the partnership assets in an unknown location. Id. ¶ 19. Thuy made verbal demand on Ngoan for return of the property. Id. ¶ 20. Ngoan called the police to report that Thuy was trespassing and Thuy was evicted as a result. Id. ¶ 21.

         On November 21, 2012, Thuy filed a lawsuit with the local government (in Vietnam) seeking to recover possession of the Snow White property and business assets from all defendants, who are heirs of Viet. Id. ¶ 23. Defendants executed notarized documents to appoint Ngoan as their legal representative. Id. ¶ 24. The seizure of the realty and personal property and refusal to return them caused Thuy extreme hardship and financial disability. Id. ¶ 26. In 2018, Thuy sold and assigned to plaintiff the Snow White partnership, real estate, business assets, and claims the subject of this action. Id. ¶ 28.

         Plaintiff sues defendants for breach of contract and for wrongfully, illegally detaining partnership assets through aiding and abetting. He seeks to recover the personal property (business assets) of Snow White or $553, 648, the value of such property; possession, occupation, and use of the real property used for Snow White's business; and, damages for loss of use of the realty until it is returned.

         II. Grounds of the Motion

         Defendants urge four grounds in support of their motion. First, the doctrine of res judicata bars plaintiff's claims. Second, the claims are barred by limitations. Third, the claims are barred by collateral estoppel. And, fourth, Hai Phu is not a proper party. Doc. 80.

         III. Summary Judgment Principles

         Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the court shall grant summary judgment on a claim or defense if 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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (198 6). The movant bears the initial burden of pointing out to the court that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. V. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 325 (1986). The movant can discharge this burden by pointing out the absence of evidence supporting one or more essential elements of the nonmoving party's claim, "since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323. Once the movant has carried its burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party must identify evidence in the record that creates a genuine dispute as to each of the challenged elements of its case. Id. at 324; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) ("A party asserting that a fact ... is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . . ."). If the evidence identified could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in favor of the nonmoving party as to each essential element of the nonmoving party's case, there is no genuine dispute for trial and summary judgment is appropriate. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Go. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 597 (1986). In Mississippi Prot. & Advocacy Sys., Inc. v. Cotten, the Fifth Circuit explained:

Where the record, including affidavits, interrogatories, admissions, and depositions could not, as a whole, lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no issue for trial.

929 F.2d 1054, 1058 (5th Cir. 1991).

         The standard for granting a motion for summary judgment is the same as the standard for rendering judgment as a matter of law.[6]Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. If the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, 475 ...


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