Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder ()
SAN JOSE — A lawsuit against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over a $1.7 million real estate deal will proceed mostly intact, a Santa Clara County judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge Patricia Lucas found an alleged oral agreement between Zuckerberg and real estate developer Mircea Voskerician for the transfer of rights to buy a $4.8 million Palo Alto property sufficiently detailed for Voskerician’s breach of contract claim to go forward.
Voskerician claims he sold Zuckerberg his interest in the property, which abuts Zuckerberg’s home, at a large discount because the Facebook mogul promised to help him network with big names in Silicon Valley. But Zuckerberg didn’t follow through with that promise, according to a complaint filed in May. Now Voskerician wants to void his agreement with Zuckerberg and take possession of the Palo Alto property.
Zuckerberg’s attorneys, led by Cooley partner Patrick Gunn, argued the alleged promise of Silicon Valley introductions is unenforceable because it’s not in writing and the contract is irreversible because Voskerician never held title to the land. “Plaintiff’s core claims for breach of contract and rescission are legally and factually untenable,” Gunn wrote in his demurrer. “It is uncertain just what contract plaintiff seeks to enforce of rescind.”
Voskerician’s attorney, David Draper of Terra Law, replied his client only seeks just compensation. Voskerician turned down a separate offer of $4.3 million for his right to the property because of his agreement with Zuckerberg.
“There is nothing unfair, impossible or implausible about what plaintiff suggests,” Draper wrote. “Plaintiff seeks only to rescind the assignment/representation transaction.”
Voskerician contends he reached an oral agreement with Zuckerberg on Dec. 5, 2012. The next day, the parties reduced the financial transaction to writing. Almost a year later, Voskerician claims he confirmed Zuckerberg’s promise of Silicon Valley introductions in a written note.
Lucas ruled those three pieces of the contract are clear enough for the suit to proceed. “The complaint is not uncertain as to the identity of the breaching party or the agreement breached,” she wrote in a tentative ruling Monday.
Lucas also rejected Zuckerberg’s objections to the rescission claim, ruling that it remains possible to void the real estate contract.
Gunn took issue with that ruling at a hearing Tuesday. He argued Voskerician has no right to take the property because the developer never owned it to begin with; he’d made a deposit but hadn’t closed the deal.
“The court doesn’t have the power to assign title to the plaintiff,” Gunn said.
Lucas stuck to her tentative ruling.
However, she granted the defense demurrer as to Voskerician’s concealment claim. Voskerician had argued Zuckerberg never planned to make the introductions, but concealed his true intentions. Lucas ruled that allegation is already covered under a fraud claim.
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