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Sprint Nextel Corporation v. The Middle Man, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 19, 2014

SPRINT NEXTEL CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
THE MIDDLE MAN, INC., AND BRIAN K. VAZQUEZ, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. THOMAS MARTEN, District Judge.

The court has before it the defendants' Motion to Certify Class (Dkt. 109) and Motion for Sanctions (Dkt. 110). After reviewing the parties' briefs, the court denies both motions for the following reasons.

I. Background

Sprint filed suit against defendants The Middle Man, Inc. and Brian K. Vazquez (owner of The Middle Man, Inc.) on March 14, 2012, alleging, among other things, breach of contract and trademark infringement. See Dkt. 1. The defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss on May 4, 2012, which the court denied on October 16, 2012. Dkts. 16 & 30. On November 7, 2012, the defendants filed an answer to Sprint's complaint, which included a counterclaim. Dkt. 37. Count I of the counterclaim sought a declaratory judgment that Sprint's Terms & Conditions cannot prevent a Sprint customer from reselling their Sprint phone. Id. at 20-21. Count II of the counterclaim sought a declaratory judgment that the defendants are not liable for trademark infringement for either reselling pre-owned Sprint phones that are labeled with the Sprint name and trademark, or for identifying the network on which the pre-owned phone was originally programmed to operate. Id. at 21-22.

On Sprint's motion, the court dismissed Count II of the defendants' counterclaim, finding it redundant to their affirmative defenses. Dkt. 85. The court also granted judgment on the pleadings to Sprint on Count I of the defendants' counterclaim, [1] finding that Sprint's Terms & Conditions unambiguously restrict Sprint customers from reselling the phones they purchase from Sprint. Dkt. 118.

The defendants filed a motion seeking class certification on counts I and II of their counterclaim on November 27, 2013. Dkt. 109. They previously sought class certification solely on Count I, which the court denied for failing to meet the numerosity requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). See Dkts. 81 & 105. The defendants renew their motion and add Count II, arguing that they can now fulfill the numerosity requirement.

On the same day they filed their motion for class certification, the defendants also filed a Motion for Sanctions (Dkt. 110), which the court takes up at this time.

II. Motion for Class Certification

The court denies the defendants' motion seeking class certification for the simple reason that the claims on which defendants seek class certification are no longer in play. Defendants seek class certification on counts I and II of their counterclaim. However, as stated above, the court granted judgment on the pleadings to Sprint on Count I and dismissed Count II as redundant to the defendants' affirmative defenses.

At the time the defendants filed this motion, the court had granted them partial summary judgment on Count I. However, the court recently granted Sprint's Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. 107) and, in reconsidering the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. 90), granted Sprint judgment on the pleadings on Count I. See Dkt. 118. Class certification would be inappropriate for a claim that has already been resolved.

The result is the same for Count II of the defendants' counterclaim. In their reply brief, the defendants admit that the court dismissed Count II for redundancy, but they request that the court "revise" this ruling "so that the Count can be asserted on behalf of the class." Dkt. 114, at 10. The defendants argue that the other class members "do not have the luxury of asserting the same affirmative defense, " and so ought to be given the chance to join the counterclaim. This argument does not convince the court. Count II has been resolved and the court will not revive it for the sole purpose of justifying class certification.

The court's dispositive rulings on counts I and II effectively render the defendants' Motion for Class Certification moot. Accordingly, the court denies the motion.

III. Motion for Sanctions

The defendants seek sanctions against Sprint pursuant to Rule 11, arguing that Sprint knowingly alleged false facts in its complaint as part of a baseless litigation scheme employed solely to drive competitors out of the ...


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