New Orleans federal judge dismisses libel, slander, fraud claims in failed purchase agreement case

By Karen Kidd | Apr 26, 2018

NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Record) — After dismissing claims except libel, slander and fraud alleged by Edward B. Mendy and Chef Properties last year in a lawsuit over a property purchase agreement that fell through, a federal judge has dismissed those claims as well, ruling there was no support for the allegations.

"There is no evidence in the record of any specific, defamatory statements made by defendants regarding plaintiffs or their purchase of the subject properties," said U.S. District Court Jane Triche Milazzo, on the bench in Louisiana's Eastern District, in her order and reasons handed down April 3.

"Defendants submit affidavits from defendants Packard and Graham, attesting that no such statements were made. In addition, this court has already held that plaintiffs did indeed breach the agreement by failing to timely tender the second deposit. Truth is an absolute defense to an action for defamation. Accordingly, the defendants have made out a prima facie case that they are entitled to judgment on the plaintiffs' remaining claims."

Mendy and Chef Properties did not file a response to the defense motion for summary judgment, according to the order. "The court may not, however, simply grant the instant motion as unopposed," Milazzo said in her order. "The Fifth Circuit approaches the automatic grant of dispositive motions with considerable aversion. Instead, the proper inquiry to an unopposed motion for summary judgment is to determine whether the facts advanced in the motion and supported by appropriate evidence make out a prima facie case that the movant is entitled to judgment."

Milazzo' order dismissed  Mendy's and Chef Properties' remaining claims in the case with prejudice.

The lawsuit, originally filed May 31, 2016 and since amended four times, over an agreement that didn't go through for  Mendy and Chef Properties to purchase two properties from the defendants. "The plaintiffs subsequently filed suit alleging 16 claims," Milazzo said in the background portion of her order.

"This court has dismissed all of plaintiffs' claims, save their claims for libel, slander and fraud. In doing so, the court held that plaintiffs had not put forth any evidence that defendants interfered with their performance of the agreement and their breach was therefore not justified," she said.

The language in the most recent order resembles that of previous orders in the case. In August, Milazzo dismissed with prejudice all of Mendy's and Chef Properties' claims except for those of libel, slander, and fraud. The previous March, Milazzo issued an order that granted a defense motion to dismiss all of  Mendy's and Chef Properties' claims except for those of libel, slander and fraud but also allowed for an amended complaint to be filed.

"This court agrees that, save a few, plaintiffs' claims are premised on a breach of contract," Milazzo said in her March 2017 order. "Because the plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged a breach of contract, those claims too fail. The plaintiffs' claims for libel, slander and [fraud], however, are based on other grounds and cannot be dismissed solely for plaintiffs' failure to plead a breach of contract."

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