United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A Ruiz United States Magistrate Judge.
December 12, 2016, Plaintiffs Matthew Hale and Patrick Lyons,
pro se, (hereinafter "Plaintiffs") filed a
Complaint. (R. 1). After the case management deadlines were
set by the District Judge, the parties consented to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. (R. 19
& 21). After what appears to be rather limited discovery,
the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (R. 25
& 26). The parties filed opposition briefs and reply
briefs respectively. (R. 31, 32, 33, 34).
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate where the record "shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Non-moving parties may rest
neither upon the mere allegations of their pleadings nor upon
general allegations that issues of fact may exist. See
Bryant v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 490 F.2d 1273, 1275
(6th Cir. 1974). The Supreme Court held that: . .
. [Rule 56] mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
Sixth Circuit in Street v. J.C Bradford & Co.,
886 F.2d 1472 (6th Cir. 1989), has interpreted
Celotex and two related cases, Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986), and
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio, 475 U.S. 574 (1986), as establishing a "new
era" of favorable regard for summary judgment motions.
Street points out that the movant has the initial burden of
showing "the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact" as to an essential element of the non-movant's
case. This burden may be met by pointing out to the court
that the responding party, having had sufficient opportunity
for discovery, has no evidence to support an essential
element of his or her case. Street, 886 F.2d at
1479. The respondent cannot rely on the hope that the trier
of fact will disbelieve the movant's denial of a disputed
fact, but must "present affirmative evidence in order to
defeat a properly supported motion for summary
judgment." Id. In ruling on a motion for
summary judgment, the court must construe the evidence, as
well as any inferences to be drawn from it, in the light most
favorable to the party opposing the motion. Kraus v.
Sobel Corrugated Containers, Inc., 915 F.2d 227, 229
(6th Cir. 1990). In other words, at the summary
judgment stage, it not a judge's function to weigh the
evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but rather to
determine whether there is a genuine issue of fact for trial.
Id. at 249.
Pro Se Pleadings
Sixth Circuit has held that "pro se pleadings
are to be liberally construed and that in some cases active
interpretation is required to construe a pro se
petition to encompass any allegation stating federal
relief." Johnson v. United States, 457
Fed.App'x 462, 467 (6th Cir. 2012) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (citing Franklin v. Rose,
765 F.2d 82, 85 (6th Cir. 1985); White v.
Wyrick, 530 F.2d 818, 819 (8th Cir. 1976)).
Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that generous
construction of pro se filings is not limitless.
Liberal construction "does not require those courts to
conjure up questions never squarely presented to them, "
"to construct full blown claims from sentence fragments,
" "to anticipate all arguments that clever counsel
may present in some appellate future, " or "to
transform the district court from its legitimate advisory
role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the
strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a
party." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d
1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985); accord Crawford v.
Crestar Foods, 210 F.3d 371 (6th Cir. 2000);
Fayne v. Clipper, 2013 WL 459895 at *3 (N.D. Ohio
Feb. 6, 2013) (Boyko, J.); Stancik v. CNBC, 420
F.Supp.2d 800, 808 (N.D. Ohio 2006). Courts have not
abrogated basic pleading essentials in pro se suits.
See, e.g., Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521, 92
S.Ct. 594, 596 (1972) (per curiam); Wells v. Brown,
891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989). Pro se
litigants are required to state their claims in an
understandable and efficient manner. Stone v.
Warfleld, 184 F.R.D. 553, 555 (D. Md. 1999). The court
is not required to manufacture allegations which are not
properly pled. McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19
(1st Cir. 1979); Ayers v. John Does 1-10,
No. Cl-94-285, 1995 WL 313681, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 28,
1995); Abdool-Rashaad v. Setter, 690 F.Supp. 598,
600 (S.D. Ohio 1987).
in mind that pro se pleadings are entitled to
liberal construction, the court construes the Complaint as
attempting to raise three causes of action, two of which are
not cognizable. First, though articulated in the language of
an infringement claim, the Plaintiffs allege that they are
co-authors of several musical compositions created while they
were in a band together with the Defendant. (R. 1). Second,
Plaintiffs claim that Defendant, a co-author of the musical
compositions, infringed on their rights by registering a
copyright in said musical compositions that was inaccurate,
by failing to share proceeds stemming from the musical
compositions, and by generally failing to credit them as
co-authors. Id. Third, Plaintiffs allege
"[c]ontract fraud" stemming from a contract that
was entered into between Defendant and a third-party-Opus 1
Music. Id. The court addresses these three causes of
action in reverse order.
Complaint alleges that non-party Opus 1 Music and Defendant
entered into an agreement resulting in the placement of one
of the allegedly joint musical compositions in a movie. (R.
1). Plaintiffs further allege that Opus 1 Music is a
licensing company that "requires that the band owns the
master recordings." Id. Because Plaintiffs
allege that they were co-authors of the musical works in
question and helped pay for the master recordings, they
believe Defendant perpetrated a fraud upon Opus 1 Music.
however, have not alleged that they were a party to the
contract between Defendant and Opus 1 Music; and, therefore,
they lack standing to bring a breach of contract claim
against Defendant or to bring a claim that Opus 1 Music was
fraudulently induced into entering a contract with Defendant.
"It is well established that a contract is binding only
upon parties to a contract and those in privity with
them." Res. Title Agency, Inc. v. Morreale Real
Estate Servs., Inc.,314 F.Supp.2d 763, 770 (N.D. Ohio
2004) (citing Samadder v. DMF of Ohio, Inc., 154
Ohio App.3d 770, 778, 798 N.E.2d 1141 (Ohio Ct. App. 2003);
American RockMechanics, Inc. v. Ther mex Energy
Corp.,80 Ohio App.3d 53, 58, 608 N.E.2d 830 (Ohio Ct.
App. 1992)). "Accordingly, an action for breach of
contract can only be maintained by the parties to the
contract or those deriving rights from the contracting
parties, such as an intended third-party beneficiary."
Res. Title Agency, Inc., 314 F.Supp.2d at 770
(citing Grant Thornton v. Windsor House, Inc., 57
Ohio St.3d 158, ...