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1101 Crnb, LLC v. Feed the Children

January 13, 2011

1101 CRNB, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEED THE CHILDREN, INC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson, United States District Judge:

*NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff 1101 CRNB, LLC's ("Plaintiff") initiated the instant action alleging that Defendant Feed the Children, Inc. ("Defendant"), obstructed Plaintiff from using an alleged easement, located over a shared common parking area, to access the truck loading docks of Plaintiff's warehouse. As relief, Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, an injunction requiring Defendant to remove a fence currently separating the parking area. In that connection, Plaintiff asserts that it is entitled to an implied easement, an easement by acquiescence and/or an easement by estoppel. In the present matter, Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff fails to state a claim and that New Jersey does not recognize easements by acquiescence or estoppel. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part; Counts II and III of the Complaint are dismissed.

I. Factual and Procedural History

For the purpose of this Opinion, all facts alleged in the Complaint are assumed to be true. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir.2008). Plaintiff is a New Jersey Limited Liability Company and owns real property located at 1101 Corporate Road, North Brunswick, New Jersey ("CRNB Property"). Compl., ¶ 1. Defendant is an Oklahoma not-for-profit corporation and owns real property located at 1111 Corporate Road, North Brunswick, New Jersey ("FTC Property"). Compl., ¶ 3. The two properties are adjacent to each other, and were once parts of the same larger tract of land that was subdivided in 1971 by then owner Pensud Realty Co., Inc. ("Pensud Realty"). Compl., ¶ 6. In 1986, both properties were transferred by Pensud Realty to Peusud Company Limited Partnership ("Pensud LP"). Compl. ¶ 7-8. In 1996, Pensud LP sold the CRNB Property to Plaintiff, the current owner, Compl., ¶ 12, and sold the FTC Property to 1111 CR Associates, LLC, who in 2000, sold it to Defendant, the current owner. Compl. ¶ 12, 14.

Both the FTC Property and CRNB Property contain warehouses that were constructed in 1971, and have been continually operated since that time. Compl., ¶ 17. The warehouses and loading docks of both properties were constructed in such a way that they faced one another, with a common parking area separating the two docks. Compl., ¶ 18. A portion of the parking area is a part of the FTC Property, with the rest belonging to the CRNB Property. Id. According to Plaintiff, the common parking area was used by tractor trailers to access the loading docks of both warehouses, and has been used that way since the properties were under common ownership. In fact, that area was being used for that purpose before a dispute arose between the parties. Compl., ¶ 19-26. Plaintiff further alleges that at all times, this use of the common parking area was known and allowed by owners of both properties, past and present. Id.

In 2009, a dispute arose between Plaintiff and Defendant over the maintenance of the parking area, and thereafter, Defendant erected a fence across the border of the two properties, effectively dividing the parking area. Compl., ¶ 27-28. The presence of this fence, Plaintiff asserts, makes it difficult for tractor trailers to access the loading locks on the CRNB Property, and is jeopardizing the continuation of the lease for the property between Plaintiff and its current lessee, Church & Dwight. Compl., ¶ 30.

Plaintiff filed the instant action in the Superior Court of New Jersey on March 25, 2010, seeking, among other things, an injunction requiring Defendant to remove the fence and enjoining it from interfering with the use and enjoyment of the parking area by Plaintiff and its leasees and assignees. In that regard, Plaintiff bases this right upon the fact that it is entitled to an easement for purposes of ingress and egress. Defendant removed the action to this Court on June 2, 2010, asserting diversity jurisdiction. Subsequently, Defendant filed the instant motion on June 22, 2010.

II. Standard of Review

When reviewing a motion to dismiss on the pleadings, courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233 (citation and quotations omitted). In Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Supreme Court clarified the 12(b)(6) standard. Specifically, the Court "retired" the language contained in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46). Instead, the factual allegations set forth in a complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. As the Third Circuit has stated, "[t]he Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: 'stating ... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly, 555 U.S. at 555).

In affirming that Twombly standards apply to all motions to dismiss, the Supreme Court recently explained the principles. First, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1948-49 (2009). Second, "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. Therefore, "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 1949. Ultimately, "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to 'show' such an entitlement with its facts." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). Moreover, in deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of plaintiff's claim. Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217, 222 n. 3 (3d Cir.2004).

The Third Circuit recently reiterated that "judging the sufficiency of a pleading is a context-dependent exercise" and "[s]ome claims require more factual explication than others to state a plausible claim for relief." West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc. v. UPMC, No. 09-4468, 2010 WL 4840093, at *8 (3d Cir. Nov. 29, 2010). This means that, "[f]or example, it generally takes fewer factual allegations to state a claim for simple battery than to state a claim for antitrust conspiracy." Id. That said, the Rule 8 pleading standard is to be applied "with the same level of rigor in all civil actions." Id. at *7 (quoting Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. at 1953).

III. Discussion

A. Implied ...


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