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Pullar v. Cappelli

Superior Court of Rhode Island

May 29, 2015


Newport County Superior Court.

For Plaintiff: Maurice J. Cusick, Esq.

For Defendant: Thomas C. Plunkett, Esq.



Before the Court is Defendant Louis Cappelli's (Defendant) Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Anthony Pullar's (Plaintiff) Complaint asserting lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 56. For reasons set forth herein, this Court will treat the instant Motion as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). A hearing was held on February 27, 2015. Decision is herein rendered.



Defendant was the officer and a principal shareholder of Helios Yachting Services, Ltd. (Helios). Plaintiff worked as captain of the S/Y Atlanta (the Atlanta), a 121-foot sailboat owned and operated by Helios. Plaintiff was paid $12, 500 per month for his services as captain. Plaintiff alleges the following: In August of 2006, Plaintiff and Defendant were negotiating Plaintiff's one-year contract to work as captain of the sailboat in the State of New York. Defendant suggested that the contract be made for three years and that if Plaintiff accepted the position for three years he would be awarded a bonus of one additional year's salary, totaling $150, 000. As part of this oral contract, Plaintiff's employment could only be terminated with good cause. Plaintiff accepted these terms. At that time, the Atlanta was located in Rhode Island. Plaintiff worked as captain of the Atlanta until he was terminated on August 1, 2009, one month shy of reaching the three years required for the bonus. Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated without cause and with the sole purpose of not having to pay him the bonus to which Defendant had agreed. In January of 2010, Plaintiff claims that the parties met and agreed that the outstanding $150, 000 bonus would be paid off at a rate of $10, 000 per month. However, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant has failed to make any bonus payments.

Consequently, on April 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed this seven-count Complaint against Defendant in Newport County Superior Court based on Defendant's refusal to pay the $150, 000 bonus. Plaintiff's Complaint includes counts for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and fraud. He also seeks to recover on the theories of unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and equitable estoppel. Moreover, he seeks specific performance from Defendant.

Defendant filed an Answer denying all the allegations in the Complaint and asserted several affirmative defenses, including lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficiency of service of process, statute of frauds, and failure to state a claim with respect to all Counts. Defendant filed the instant Motion claiming that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant and that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

In support of his Motion, Defendant filed a sworn affidavit making several assertions, including that he is a resident of White Plains, New York who has never lived in Rhode Island. Defendant asserts that he has not transacted business in Rhode Island. Although the Defendant admits to visiting Rhode Island on several occasions, he claims that these visits were only for recreational purposes.

Moreover, Defendant attests that he never personally employed the Plaintiff, and that he did not own the sailboat in his individual capacity. Instead, not only was Plaintiff hired, paid and employed by Helios, but Helios also owned the sailboat. Although Defendant admits that he made the decision to hire Plaintiff in September of 2006 in his capacity as an officer and principal shareholder of Helios, Defendant insists that all crewmembers, including Plaintiff, were "at will" employees, who were compensated by Helios directly. He also maintains that there was never a discussion regarding a three-year contract or bonus. He also denies the January 2010 agreement to pay the bonus in monthly installments.

Defendant further contends that Helios was a Cayman Islands corporation and had offices at 115 Stevens Ave., Valhalla, New York. He asserts that Helios purchased the Atlanta before hiring Plaintiff and notes that the Atlanta required a full-time captain and approximately five crew members. Defendant claims that Helios paid for all costs and expenses for the ownership and operation of the Atlanta. All licenses and insurance pertaining to the Atlanta were obtained by, issued to, and held by Helios. Likewise, all maintenance and repair costs for the sailboat were paid by Helios. Additionally, the Atlanta was a British registered vessel that was kept in the Caribbean approximately six months of the year, and in Sag Harbor and Newport for parts of the year.

In further support of his Motion, Defendant submitted portions of Plaintiff's October 21, 2014 deposition. In the deposition, Plaintiff concedes that all payments he received during the time that he was employed were made by Helios and never by Defendant individually. He also acknowledges that all repairs and maintenance to the vessel were paid for by Helios. During the deposition, Plaintiff stated that he did not know of any other substantial business Defendant had in Rhode Island, besides for the Atlanta. He also admitted that because he was ...

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