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Silipena v. American Pulverizer Co.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 27, 2017

EDWARD SILIPENA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
AMERICAN PULVERIZER CO., et. al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          HON. JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Motion of Defendant American Pulverizer and Hustler Conveyor Company (“Defendants”) to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 13] Counts I, II, V, and VI of the Complaint and to Strike Plaintiff's claim for Punitive Damages and on Defendant Pinnacle Engineering Inc.'s (“Pinnacle”) Motion to Dismiss for failure to provide an Affidavit of Merit [Dkt. No. 44]. The Court has considered the written submissions of the parties and the arguments advanced at the hearing on November 7, 2016, which relate to Pulverizer's motion. For the reasons stated on the record that day and those that follow, Defendant Pulverizer's motion is granted in part and Defendant Pinnacle's motion is denied.

         In relevant terms, the Complaint alleges that Plaintiffs purchased a machine from Defendants for the intended use of shredding and sorting automobile parts. By all accounts the “shredder” is a massive machine that dismantles old cars and sorts the various scrap metals. Shortly after installation of the machine, it malfunctioned and a fire ensued. Compl. ¶¶ 63, 64, 69. The fire disabled the machine and Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, loss of profitability, revenue, and other assets. Id. at ¶ 77. The Counts relevant to this motion are as follows: Count I Strict Liability, Count II Negligence, Count V Breach of Implied Merchantability, and Count VI Fraudulent Concealment. The Complaint also seeks Punitive Damages. Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b) (6).

         Pinnacle moves to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiffs failed to supply an Affidavit of Merit as required by N.J.S.A. §2A-53A-2. Plaintiffs' claims against Pinnacle relate to Pinnacle's sale of defective equipment and/or products and Pinnacle's negligent assistance in the installation of the equipment. Pinnacle argues that Plaintiffs' assertion of claims of negligence and design and manufacturing defects, and breach of services rendered by licensed engineering professionals implicates the Affidavit of Merit Rule. In other words, because Plaintiffs allege that Pinnacle deviated from the acceptable standard of care, Pinnacle asserts that the submission of an Affidavit of Merit is required before Plaintiffs can proceed with their claims. Plaintiffs have not submitted an Affidavit of Merit in support if the claims against Pinnacle. The Court will address the issues in turn.

         I. Standard of Review- Motion to Dismiss

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move for dismissal of a claim based on “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if the alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), ordinarily only the allegations in the complaint, matters of public record, orders, and exhibits attached to the complaint, are taken into consideration. See U.S. Express Lines, Ltd., 281 F.3d at 388; Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pa. Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir. 1990). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead evidence. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 561 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). The question before the Court is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (2007). Instead, the Court simply asks whether the plaintiff has articulated “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         “A claim has facial plausibility[1] when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         The Court need not accept “‘unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, '” Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted), however, and “[l]egal conclusions made in the guise of factual allegations . . . are given no presumption of truthfulness.” Wyeth v. Ranbaxy Labs., Ltd., 448 F.Supp.2d 607, 609 (D.N.J. 2006) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)); see also Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005) (“[A] court need not credit either ‘bald assertions' or ‘legal conclusions' in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss.”)). Accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-80 (finding that pleadings that are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth).

         Further, although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). See also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”).

         Thus, a motion to dismiss should be granted unless the plaintiff's factual allegations are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal citations omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘shown'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Finally, “if a complaint is subject to a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must permit a curative amendment unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile.” Great Western Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 174 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal citation and quotation omitted; emphasis added).

         II. Discussion

         As a preliminary matter, in briefing and during oral argument, Plaintiffs concede the dismissal of the claim for punitive damages and the Court will dismiss the claim with prejudice.[2]

         Like the majority of the Complaint, Plaintiffs' claim of fraudulent concealment is drafted in general terms, without identifying the specific parties at issue: there are six Plaintiffs and six Defendants named in the Complaint. The Complaint is replete with general references to “Plaintiffs” and “Defendants” without any information as to the nature of the relationship between and or among the parties and/or attribution of the alleged conduct or inaction. This fact alone implicates Twombly's mandate, which requries that, in the absence of detail, a ...


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