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Rd Rod, LLC, As Successor In Interest To Grand v. Montana Classic Cars

December 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge

Before the Court is Defendant Montana Classic Cars, LLC's motion to transfer this action to the United States District Court, District of Connecticut under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons discussed, the Court finds it appropriate to grant Defendant's motion.



At the center of this lawsuit is a 1956 Ferrari 500TR which Plaintiff Ronald Rod acquired in 2007 for $3,650,000. In 2011, Montana Classic Cars acquired the Ferrari for $1,950,000. Rod claims to still own the car. Thus, the parties' dispute is over who owns the Ferrari. In 2007, Rod and Thomas Rhein sought to purchase the Ferrari. Rod lives in Conroe, Texas, and Rhein lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rod signed a promissory note for a $3,650,000 loan from Grand Bank in Tulsa which he used to purchase the car. Rod and Rhein directed the seller to execute a bill of sale transferring ownership of the Ferrari to Ventura Classics, Inc. (Ventura), an Oklahoma entity. Rod and Rhein reportedly agreed that Ventura would serve only as an "accommodation party" which held only "nominal ownership" of the Ferrari. Ventura granted Grand Bank a security interest in the Ferrari.

Rod's loan from Grand Bank matured in September, 2010, and Rod allegedly failed to repay the loan. Consequently, Grand Bank filed a legal action against Rod and Ventura in state court in Oklahoma to protect its interests in the loan and the Ferrari. Grand Bank obtained an Order of Delivery from the court directing that possession of the car be delivered to Grand Bank.

Grand Bank then entered a bailment agreement with Rhein pursuant to which Rhein agreed to hold and preserve the Ferrari on behalf of Grand Bank. The bailment agreement required Rhein to keep the car in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and it prohibited him from releasing it to any third person.

After Rhein obtained possession of the Ferrari, he sought to sell it allegedly without Rod or Grand Bank's permission. In September, 2011, Rhein applied for, and obtained, an Oklahoma certificate of title for the Ferrari which identified Ventura as the owner, but the certificate did not identify Grand Bank as a lienholder.

Rhein contacted and met with Thomas Hamann in Connecticut to solicit his assistance in selling the car. Rhein shipped the car to Bridgeport, Connecticut where it was placed in a showroom.

One of Hamann's associates in Florida, Ted Johnson, contacted Dennis Nicotra of New Haven, Connecticut, to inquire whether Montana Classic Cars was interested in purchasing the Ferrari. Nicotra is the president of a Connecticut corporation named Premiere Resource Group, Inc., which is the sole member of Montana Classic Cars.

Hamann met with Nicotra in Connecticut to negotiate the purchase of the Ferrari. As a result of those negotiations, on October 7, 2011, Montana Classic Cars, through Nicotra, offered to purchase the car for $1,950,000. Rhein, who was in Connecticut at the time, accepted the offer. Rhein executed a bill of sale and an assignment of the Oklahoma certificate of title for the Ferrari. The Ferrari was delivered to Montana Classic Cars in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Montana Classic Cars wire-transferred the purchase funds to Hamann Classic Cars, LLC's bank account in Connecticut. Hamann Classic Cars, LLC disbursed some of those sale proceeds, and transferred the remainder of the proceeds to a trust account held by its attorney in Connecticut, George Kramer. Those proceeds were subsequently depleted from the trust account held by Mr. Kramer, but were later partially restored to the account.

In February and March, 2012, Plaintiff RD Rod, LLC (RD Rod) - a Texas limited liability company with its principal place of business in Conroe, Texas - acquired all of Grand Bank's rights and interests in the Ferrari. Together, Rod and RD Rod pursued legal action against Rhein, Hamann Classic Cars, LLC, and Montana Classic Cars in state court in Oklahoma to assert their rights to the ownership of the Ferrari. By Order entered September 25, 2012, however, the Oklahoma state district court dismissed Montana Classic Cars from that lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Rod and RD Rod commenced this action to establish their ownership rights and interests in the Ferrari. In Count I they advance declaratory judgment claims relative to their ownership rights in the car, and in Count II they allege Montana Classic Cars is liable for the tort of conversion having wrongfully taken possession of the car.

Montana Classic Cars filed a counterclaim against Rod and RD Rod. Montana Classic Cars seeks judgment declaring its ownership, right, title, and interest in the Ferrari, unencumbered by any lien or security interest.

Jurisdiction over Rod and RD Rod's claims, and over Montana Classic Cars' counterclaims, is predicated upon diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).


At issue in Montana Classic Cars' motion is the propriety of transferring this action to the District of Connecticut under authority of 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought[.] 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The district court has considerable discretion in determining whether a transfer is appropriate based on an "individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience [of the parties and witnesses,] fairness[,]" and justice. Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Stewart Org. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988)). The purpose of section 1404(a) "is to prevent the waste 'of time, energy and money' and 'to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense[.]'" Van Dussen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964).

A. This Action Could Have Been Brought in the District of Connecticut

As an independent, threshold consideration, section 1404(a) restricts transfers to only those districts in which the action "might have been brought" based on federal jurisdiction and venue laws. Van Dussen, 376 U.S. at 616-624.

It is undisputed that Rod and RD Rod could have initially brought this action in the District of Connecticut based upon diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Also, venue would be proper in the District of Connecticut as it is a judicial district "in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). All aspects of the transaction between Montana Classic Cars, Hamann, and Rhein ...

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