United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MCBRYDE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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. The court, having considered the motion,
the response of plaintiff, Khue Nguyen, the reply,
record, and applicable authorities, as well as the
arguments 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.
Background and Plaintiff's Claims
September 27, 2018, plaintiff filed his complaint in this
action, naming a number of defendants. Doc. 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 &
complaint, plaintiff alleges:
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 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.
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.
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.
Grounds of the Motion
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.
Summary Judgment Principles
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).
standard for granting a motion for summary judgment is the
same as the standard for rendering judgment as a matter of
law.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 ...