January 11th, 2023 by Rieders Travis in Employment Rights

Rinker v. Aponte, Pa. No. CV-22-00570 (C.P. Lycoming December 19, 2022) (Linhardt, J.)  Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Complaint on June 10, 2022, containing a sole count of breach of contract against both Defendants. Plaintiff alleges that from 2016 to 2019, he contracted with Defendant CLEM Pa., LLC (“CLEM”) via its agent Defendant Felix Aponte (“Aponte”) to distribute and sell products made by CLEM. Plaintiff contends that Defendants terminated his contract on August 27, 2019, purporting to do so under Paragraph 15.1 (b) of the contract, which allows early termination of the contract “in the event that the DISTRIBUTOR or SHAREHOLDER has been involved in the sole opinion of CLEM in any criminal activity … . ” Plaintiff acknowledges that he was charged with a crime in Lycoming County, but avers that he was found not guilty of all charges. Plaintiff contends the provision of the contract allowing early termination for criminal activity did not justify Defendants’ termination of Plaintiff’s contract, and therefore Defendants’ termination was a breach. The Court cannot conclude that Plaintiff’s Complaint is insufficient to state a claim for breach of contract as a matter of law. The mere fact of Plaintiff’s acquittal does not per se establish that CLEM did not have a good faith basis to terminate the contract. Indeed, because criminal convictions must be found beyond a reasonable doubt, Plaintiff’s acquittal may have very little relevance to the ultimate determination in this case. However, Plaintiffs acquittal is at least consistent with him not being “involved in” criminal activity. At this stage of proceedings, the record does not indicate the reason the criminal case was initiated, or whether the circumstances would permit CLEM to reach in good faith the opinion that Plaintiff was involved in criminal activity. For this reason, the Court will deny Defendants’ second preliminary objection to the Complaint.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]



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