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January 24, 2014     Cape Gazette
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Cape Gazette EW FRIDAY, JANUARY 24- MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 2014 17 Chancery Court dismisses Touch of Italy complaint Plaintiff Ciprietti says no plans yet to appeal By Kara Nuzback knuzback@capegazette.com Delaware Chancery Court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by two local entrepreneurs against a former business partner. Plaintiffs and Touch of Italy owners Robert Ciprietti and Jo- seph Curzi say defendant Louis Bascio lied to them by saying he would not compete with their business after he resigned as a partner. But the plaintiffs' suit fails to state any legal wrong- doing, Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock said in his Jan. 13 de- cision. Sometimes, a lie is just a lie, Glasscock said. Bascio, who partnered with Ciprietti in February 2009 to open Touch of Italy in Rehoboth Beach, left the limited liability corporation in December 2012. Ciprietti claims Bascio told him he was moving to Pennsylvania and would not compete with the business he had been involved with for nearly four years, the judge wrote. More than two months later, Bascio and his brother, co-defen- dant Frank Bascio, formed Frank and Louie's LLC, a rival Italian specialty store on the same block as Touch of Italy. "Louis' former partners, understandably, feel betrayed," Gtasscock wrote. But Bascio was associated with Touch of Italy under an agree- ment that allowed members to leave at any time and included no obligation to forgo competi- tion afterward, Glasscock said. "Thus, Louis faced no legal im- pediment to withdrawing and opening Frank and Louie's as a competing grocery," he wrote. Ciprietti and Curzi filed the initial Chancery Court com- plaint May 30. Lewes attorney Larry Fifer said the plaintiffs should be awarded monetary damages for Bascio's breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent and intentional misrepresentation to the plain- tiffs, and fraud. According to the complaint, when Ciprietti and Bascio part- nered to open Touch of Italy in Rehoboth Beach, Ciprietti sup- plied $100,000 to get the business up and running, while Bascio was tasked with on-the-ground operations at the shop. According to the LLC agree- ment, Ciprietti was to be reimbursed the start-up funds after five years, Fifer wrote. When Bascio notified his partners of his withdrawal, he assured them he would not take Social Continued from page 10 in the center of the county. This was done without the input of residents or elected officials," he said. The lease for the current office - in place for the past decade - along Route 113 north of Georgetown expires this year, said Gina Gilliam, General Services Administration spokes- woman. "This move is a result of an open and competitive pro- curement for leased space that meets the Social Security Admin- istration's space requirements, accommodates their regional operations and offered the lowest overall commercial rent rate to the government," she said. More than 55 percent of So- cial Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients live closer to the new office in Lewes than the office in Georgetown, said SSA spokes- woman Terri Edwards. 'dthough we do not have historical data by ZIP code of Georgetown's visi- tor traffic, we do have statistical information on the number of beneficiaries and recipients," she said. Terri Lewis, SSA communi- cations manager, said the new office will be accessible via public transportation on DART Route 206, which will have a stop near the entrance. "The new of- fice will offer enhanced privacy and security for residents who require face-to-face service," Lewis said. Pettyjohn said additional costs for infrastructure to support the offiCe would likely be required, including a new bus route stop and possibly the addition of a traffic signal. Lewis said residents can visit any office in any state, adding that some residents in western Sussex County could choose the Salisbury, Md., office at 2414 Northgate Drive or the Cam- bridge, Md., office at 828 Airpax Road. Lewis said most Social Secu- rity Administration services do not require an office visit. She said people can go online at socialsecurity.gov to apply for re- tirement, spouse's, disability and Medicare benefits; get a tax sum- mary form; or get a replacement Medicare card. Those 18 and over can set up an account online at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to receive earnings and benefits information, proof of income letter, change their address and start or change direct-deposit information. any action to compete with Touch of Italy's business, and he indicated plans to move to Penn- sylvania, Fifer said. In the complaint, Fifer accused Bascio of misleading his former partners, denigrating the opera- tion of Touch of Italy before his planned departure and trying to steal its employees for his new business, Frank and Louie's. Fifer asked the court for the Bascios to pay the plaintiffs a minimum $100,000 - equal to the start-up funds Ciprietti lost, he said. The Bascios' attorney, David Hutt, filed a motion to dismiss the complaint June 27. "This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and appears to be nothing more than a transpar- ent attempt by plaintiffs to put a competitor out of business by oppressing a start-up venture with the expense of litigation," he wrote. Hutt said he filed the motion . to dismiss because Bascio was not contractually obligated not to compete with Touch of Italy or to repay the $100,000 to Ciprietti. "No reading or interpretation of the operating agreement sup- ports plaintiff's claims," Hutt wrote. In his opinion, Glasscock dis- missed the plaintiffs' charge of conversion - an act that de- prives an owner of his property - without prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs could revisit the charge in a future action. All other counts against the Bascios, including breach of contract, fraud and misrepre- sentation, were dismissed with prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs cannot bring a new lawsuit based on the same subjects. In a phone conversation, Bas- cio said when he resigned from Touch of Italy, he told Cipri- etti and Curzi he did not know what his plans were. "I nev- er said I wasn't going to open up a competing store; I never said anything like that," he said. "They alleged that I lied." On the judge's decision, Bascio said, "I'm thrilled to death." He said he is thankful for the community support and for the help of his attorney, Hutt. "He just did an excellent job pre- senting all the evidence to the courts," Bascio said. Bascio also said he was glad to put the difficult matter behind him. Ciprietti said he feels betrayed FILE PHOTO A LAWSUIT brought by the owners of Touch of Italy against their for- mer partner, Louis Bascio of Frank and Louie's, was dismissed in Chan- cery Court. by Bascio. "You don't do that to friends," he said. "Morally, he understands where we're coming from," Cipri- etti said of Glasscock's opinion. He said he has not yet decided whether to appeal the decision. 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Having been very success- ful in the automotive busi- ness over the last 7 years, he found this to be the per- fect opportunity to continue growing his careen "I just could not pass this up. How often do you get the oppor- tunity to work for a family business that's on their 5th generation of leadership? It is an incredible story that I'm now very proud to be a part of." Mr. Sheetz can be contacted at i.g. Burton BMW in Milford, by phone 302-745-6008, or via email dsheetz@igburtonbmw.com. PAID ADVERTISEMENT