Am. Majestic Constr., LLC v. Junior, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77999 (E.D. Va. May 4, 2020)
American Majestic Construction, LLC (“AMC”) sued Christopher Junior (“Chris”), Paul Junior, and Paul Bao Nguyen (“Paul” and with Chris and Paul Junior, the “Defendants”) for conspiring to falsely present themselves to the public as partners or members of AMC to procure construction contracts for their own benefit. AMC alleged that Chris forged an AMC lien waiver to make it appear that roofing work done on a property previously owned by Chris’ father Paul Junior (the “Property”) had been done by AMC when, in fact, Chris and/or his father had done the work themselves. In Chris’ deposition, he admitted to forging the signature of Walther Morales (“Morales”), a worker who sometimes assisted AMC with its construction projects, on an AMC lien waiver
for the Property. Paul Nguyen was the real estate agent for the sale of the Property. In 2017, the Property’s roof leaked and, ultimately, collapsed. The buyers contacted AMC, believing that AMC had done the work. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the Court denied. During discovery, it was revealed that Chris forged Morales’ name on a lien waiver in 2016. The Court granted the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the grounds that AMC’s claims were barred by Virginia’s statute of limitations because AMC was aware of Chis using AMC’s lien waiver since 2016, when Chris sent a text to Raymond Rahbar, who along with his father owned AMC, stating that he was using AMC’s lien waiver. The Defendants filed a motion for $49,012.50 in attorneys’ fees under the Lanham Act.
The Court denied Defendants’ motion for attorneys’ fees. Under the Lanham Act, reasonable attorneys’ fees may be awarded to the prevailing party in exceptional cases. Here, AMC’s claims were not frivolous and, in fact, survived Defendants’ motion to dismiss. The Court only granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the grounds that AMC’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations, otherwise, the Court noted, AMC would have had a colorable claim. Although AMC’s litigation approach was less than optimally efficient, AMC’s approach was not so unreasonable to render it exceptional. AMC’s objection to Defendants’ request for the production of a global settlement was neither frivolous nor unreasonable because it was debatable as to whether the settlement agreement applied to AMC’s claims given that neither Paul Junior nor Paul Nguyen were not employees or agents, which were covered by the settlement agreement. Finally, the Court rejected the Defendants’ claims that AMC brought the lawsuit as retribution against Chris.