United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
Republic Franklin Insurance Company brings this action
against Defendant Travelers Casualty Insurance Company of
America, seeking a declaratory judgment and alleging various
contractual and equitable claims, in connection with an
insurance coverage dispute. This matter comes before the
Court on Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). There was
no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set
forth below, Plaintiff's motion is
is an insurance company with its principal place of business
in New York. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1. Defendant is an
insurance company with its principal place of business in
Connecticut. Id. ¶ 3. Both parties issued
liability insurance policies to the same New Jersey insurance
brokerage company, The Borden-Perlman Insurance Agency, Inc.
(“B-P”). Id. ¶ 1. The instant
dispute arises out of a lawsuit located in the Northern
District of Texas (the “Texas lawsuit”), in which
B-P's direct competitor charged it with defamation,
tortious interference and other claims. See
Certification of M. Field (“Field Cert.”), Ex. B
¶¶ 47-80, ECF No. 16-3.
asserted its right to a defense under both insurance
policies. See Compl. ¶ 1. Defendant denied B-P
a defense, claiming that its policy did not cover the
allegations in the complaint because they fell under certain
exclusions, including an exclusion known as the Financial
Professional Services Exclusion (the
“Exclusion”). See Certification of S.
Weiner (“Weiner Cert.”), Ex. 3 at 8-9, ECF No.
8-5. Plaintiff also initially denied B-P a defense, claiming
that the allegations resulted from intentional conduct.
See Borden-Perlman Ins. Agency, Inc. v. Utica Mut. Ins.
Co., No. L-2085-13, 2016 WL 1368589, at *1
(N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Apr. 7, 2016), cert. denied
147 A.3d 445 (N.J. 2016) (Table). Consequently, B-P filed
suit against Plaintiff in New Jersey Superior Court, the
conclusion of which resulted in Plaintiff owing B-P a duty to
defend the Texas lawsuit. Id. at *7. Plaintiff
subsequently settled the Texas lawsuit. See Compl.
¶ 1; Def.'s Br. in Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot.
(“Def.'s Opp'n”) 4; ECF No. 16.
then filed the instant action, seeking a declaratory judgment
from this Court finding that Defendant also owed a duty to
defend B-P in the Texas lawsuit, thereby entitling Plaintiff
to all or some of the expenses incurred in its defense of B-P
from Defendant. See Compl. ¶ 1. In its
complaint (the “Complaint”), Plaintiff alleges
that Defendant wrongfully denied B-P coverage because the
Exclusion did not apply to the defamation claim against B-P.
Id. ¶¶ 23-35. Specifically, that claim did
not allege that B-P defamed its competitor “with
respect to ‘any application, receipt or binder' of
insurance” or any other activity related to the
effectuation of insurance. See id., ¶¶
33-34. Defendant answered the Complaint, denying all of the
alleged claims and raising 35 affirmative defenses, including
lack of standing, collateral estoppel, res judicata
and the entire controversy doctrine. See Answer
7-13, ECF No. 5.
now moves this Court to issue a partial judgment on the
pleadings and hold that Defendant owed B-P a duty to defend.
See Mem. in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot.
(“Pl.'s Mem.”), ECF No. 8-1. Plaintiff argues
that Defendant cannot prove that the Exclusion applied to
B-P's defamation claim because the complaint in the Texas
suit did not allege that B-P made the purported defamatory
statements while providing professional services. See
id. at 11-18. Plaintiff further argues that, as a matter
of law, defamatory statements made in the course of
soliciting business do not constitute statements made while
providing professional services. See id. at 13-18.
Finally, Plaintiff argues that New Jersey and Texas law are
identical on the point of whether Defendant owed a duty to
defend and, therefore, the Court need not undertake a choice
of law analysis. See id. at 7-10.
opposes, arguing first that its denials, averments and
affirmative defenses raised in its answer (the
“Answer”) to the Complaint create material issues
of fact to be resolved, which requires denial of the instant
motion. See Def.'s Opp'n at 12-14. In the
alternative, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's motion is
actually a premature motion for summary judgment and the
Court should deny it pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56(d). See id. at 15-17. Defendant further
argues that issues of standing and choice of law should be
resolved prior to a ruling on substantive issues.
Id. at 17-20. Finally, Defendant argues that the
motion is meritless because the cases cited to therein are
inapplicable and because there are many other issues at play
besides the applicability of the Exclusion. See id.
filed a reply, countering that a determination on
Defendant's duty to defend will likely result in an early
resolution of the case. See Pl.'s Reply Br. in
Further Supp. of Its Mot. 1-2, ECF No. 17. Plaintiff also
reiterates many of its previous arguments.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a motion for
judgment on the pleadings will be granted only if “the
movant clearly establishes there are no material issues of
fact, and he is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416
F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Society Hill Civic
Ass'n v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir.
1980)). The court “must view the facts presented in the
pleadings and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party.”
Id. In deciding a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, the court “considers only the [pleadings],
any attached exhibits, documents relied upon in the
complaint, matters of public record, and any indisputably
authentic documents.” See Hlista v. Safeguard
Props., LLC, 649 Fed.Appx. 217, 218 n.2 (3d Cir. 2016)
(quotation and citations omitted); United States v.
Blumenthal, 315 F.2d 351, 352-53 (3d Cir. 1963).
Court agrees with Defendant that the instant motion is
premature. “In considering a [Rule 12(c)] motion by the
plaintiff for judgment on the pleadings the question for
determination is whether on the undenied facts alleged in the
complaint and assuming as true all the material allegations
of fact in the answer, the plaintiff is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” See Blumenthal, 315 F.2d
at 352. “[A] plaintiff is not entitled to judgment on
the pleadings when the answer raises issues of fact that, if
proved, would defeat recovery. Similarly, if the defendant
raises an affirmative defense in his answer it will usually
bar judgment on the pleadings.” Gen. Conference
Corp. of Seventh-Day Adventists v. Seventh-Day Adventist
Congregational Church, 887 F.2d 228, 230 (9th Cir. 1989)
(citing 5 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice &
Procedure § 1368 (1969)).
Answer raises several questions of law and fact that preclude
even a partial judgment on the pleadings here. First,
Defendant raises numerous affirmative defenses that, if
applicable, would preclude recovery by Plaintiff. For
example, Defendant raises the entire controversy doctrine. In
New Jersey, the doctrine “dictates that ‘a party
cannot withhold part of a controversy for separate later
litigation even when the withheld component is a separate and
independently cognizable cause of action.'”
Mocco v. Frumento, 710 Fed.Appx. 535, 539 (3d Cir.
2017) (quoting Paramount Aviation Corp. v. Agusta,
178 F.3d 132, 137 (3d Cir. 1999)). The doctrine
“‘applies in federal courts when there was a
previous state-court action involving the same
transaction.'” Id. (quoting Ricketti
v. Barry, 775 F.3d 611, 613 (3d Cir. 2015)). Here,
Plaintiff unquestionably engaged in “a previous
state-court action involving the same transaction” when
B-P sued it for coverage in New Jersey Superior Court.
Plaintiff could have impleaded Defendant then as a
third-party defendant but chose not to. The Court makes no
present determination as to ...