Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Case of the Day: Lee v. Rusu, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94126 (N.D. Cal. June 19, 2017)


[Note: on Lexis, the case is captioned as Mi v. Serban Rusu, which is incorrect. Plaintiff's name is Mi Sook Lee, with Lee being the surname.]

Korean couple who temporarily resided in San Francisco planned to purchase a valuable Tommaso Balestrieri violin for their daughter from the daughter's violin teacher for $500,000. After making several installments of payments totaling in $270,000, the daughter decided not to become a violinist. Plaintiffs allege the defendants--the violin teacher and his wife--initially promised to give a refund, then backed out of that promise. Defendants moved to dismiss.

The court denied the motion to dismiss. Despite some inconsistency in the complaint, the court found that the complaint met the pleading requirements of Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court also found that the statute of limitations has not run, and the plaintiffs stated a claim for rescission of contract and novation.


I am married to a concert violinist, and we had our share of pain while dealing valuable musical instruments. Most people do not realize how expensive musical instruments can be, and how little transparency there is in the musical instrument market. It is yet another less-recognized area of U.S.-Asia interaction, considering how many young Asians grow up to be top-tier classical musicians who study and and work in the United States.

The factual situation is a mess, and unfortunately fairly typical: massive amount of money changes hands with no written contract spelling out the terms. It is also striking how poor the lawyering is in the case. The court subtly points out the many inconsistencies in the complaint, which should have been caught in the drafting stage.

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