United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Joseph Ives Picillo, Esquire, The Picillo Law Firm LLC, Turnersville, New Jerse, Counsel for Plaintiff.
Sherri A. Affrunti, Esquire, Reed Smith LLP, Princeton Forrestal Village, Princeton, New Jersey, Counsel for Defendants.
NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is the motion [Doc. No. 13] of Defendants, Vanguard Funding, LLC, Ed Bohm, Brian Ofsie, Robert Tuzzo, Nick Maniscalco and Nancy Azzara, seeking judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Plaintiff, Carl DiAntonio, did not file opposition to the motion. The Court has considered Defendants' submissions and decides this matter pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78.
For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
In this action, Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by Defendant Vanguard Funding LLC (hereafter, "Vanguard") as the manager of an office in New Jersey. (Compl. ¶ 10.) According to Plaintiff, he entered into a contract with Vanguard by which Plaintiff was to be paid based upon agreed percentage terms for mortgages produced by Plaintiff or his branch employees. (Id.) Plaintiff purportedly entered into this contract after several conversations, interviews and negotiations with Defendants Tuzzo and Maniscalco, who allegedly attempted to entice Plaintiff to enter into service exclusively producing mortgages for Vanguard. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff contends that Defendants failed to pay Plaintiff what he was owed under the contract. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff avers that the purported basis for Defendants' refusal to pay was that an employee in Plaintiff's office alleged that Plaintiff sexually harassed her, but it was thereafter determined that the employee's allegations were false. (Id. ¶ 16.) Because Defendants failed to pay Plaintiff, he allegedly was forced to terminate his relationship with Vanguard and seek new employment. (Id. ¶ 17.)
Additionally, Plaintiff avers that Bohm and other defendants subsequently made defamatory statements to a company that Plaintiff began working for, telling "high-level officers" that Plaintiff was about to be charged with rape. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff was then called to the head office of his new employer to "face an inquisition" requiring him to defend himself in connection with the false allegations. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff asserts that as a result of the "slanderous and defamatory allegations, " he is the subject of heightened scrutiny causing a "great deal" of stress. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 23.)
Plaintiff filed a thirteen-count complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, and the action was then removed to this Court. Although the counts of the complaint do not contain titles identifying the causes of action, it appears that Plaintiff asserts the following claims: breach of contract (Counts I and V), defamation (Counts II, III, IV, and VII), tortious interference (Counts VI and VIII), and negligence (Counts IX and X). Count XIII appears to be an effort to establish liability against Bohm, Ofsie, and Vanguard under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Counts XI and XII are placeholder claims against fictitious defendants.
Plaintiff brought suit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, and the case was removed to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Defendants' removal notice, however, did not sufficiently establish diversity jurisdiction, and the Court required Defendants to demonstrate that the Court may exercise subject matter jurisdiction over this matter. Defendants filed an amended notice of removal in response to the Court's Order. Upon reviewing Defendants' amended removal notice, the Court is satisfied that there is complete diversity among the parties and that subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
III. STANDARD FOR DISMISSAL
Defendants move for dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) rather than Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In analyzing a Rule 12(c) motion, a court applies the same legal standards as applicable to a motion filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe v. Gov't of V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991).
In considering whether a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim, the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005); see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008) ("[I]n deciding a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), [a district court is]... required to accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences from the facts alleged in the light most favorable to" the plaintiff). A ...