Judge Weinstein

Read the Full-Text Opinion

PLAINTIFF Hong Kong firm sold 17 containers of apparel to Pretty Girl Inc. The apparel was shipped to Trends Sportswear Ltd., and then transferred to Pretty Girl. All 17 shipments were “double” invoiced to circumvent U.S. customs duties. One invoice understating the value, quantity and quality of goods was presented to customs officials. All parties knew of the scheme. Plaintiff sought the $1.7 million unpaid balance on the 17 shipments, whose total price exceeded $3.1 million. Defendants denied existence of a contract but argued that any contract would be rendered unenforceable by its connection with customs fraud. Discussing Nameh v. Muratex Corp., the court denied defendants summary judgment, concluding that the parties’ contract was not facially improper. Citing McConnell v. Commonwealth Pictures Corp., it deemed the double invoicing only indirectly related to the contract, rather than being “central to or a dominant part of the plaintiff’s whole course of conduct in performance of the contract.” Because defendants invoked the illegality doctrine as a sword of personal gain, dismissal of plaintiff’s contract breach claims on grounds of illegality was unwarranted as conferring on defendants an undeserved windfall.