United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Michael Vazquez, U.S.D.J.
case concerns a former National Basketball Association
("NBA") referee's disability insurance policy.
Plaintiff Steven Javie alleges that Defendants Massachusetts
Casualty Insurance Company (now known as Centre Life
Insurance Company) ("MC"), and Sun Life Assurance
Company of Canada (U.S.) ("SL") are unlawfully
refusing to pay benefits to Plaintiff that a representative
guaranteed to Plaintiff when acquiring the policy. D.E. 1.
Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion
to dismiss Counts II, III, and IV of Plaintiffs'
Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and Fed.R.Civ.P.
9(b) for failure to state a claim. D.E. 19. The Court
reviewed the parties' submissions in support and in
opposition and decided the motion without oral
argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b) and L. Civ. R.
78.1(b). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion
to dismiss is granted.
began working as an NBA referee in 1996. Compl. ¶ 8. In
September of the same year, Plaintiff participated in a
referee training camp in New Jersey. Id. ¶
9. As part of this training camp, Plaintiff attended
a union meeting hosted by the National Basketball Referees
Association ("NBRA") on September 29, 1996.
Id. ¶ 9. At the meeting, Steven D. Lucas
promoted a supplemental disability insurance policy offered
by Defendant MC. Id. ¶ 10. Lucas was a sales
representative for Defendant SL, who Defendant MC designated
as administrator for MC's disability income products.
Id. ¶ 11.
meeting, Lucas represented that the policy would cover NBA
referees if they are "totally disabled from being an NBA
official," and is "guaranteed... to age 65."
Id. ¶ 13. Lucas clarified that "[i]f you
can't be an official but you can work in a store some
place you go ahead and work there," as you are still
considered "totally disabled" under the policy.
Id. He emphasized that "[p]ure and simple if
you have an injury or accident that keeps you from doing your
job and your doctor can attest to it you're going to
collects [sic] benefits under this contract. Pure and
simple." Id. ¶ 13. In reliance on these
representations, Plaintiff purchased a supplemental
disability policy (the "Policy") from Defendant MC
on November 1, 1996. Id. ¶ 14; D.E. 1, Ex. A.
the Policy was in effect, Plaintiff suffered an injury that
prevented him from working as an NBA referee. Id.
¶ IV. MC initially acknowledged coverage under the
Policy and began paying benefits to Plaintiff. Id.
¶ 18. Plaintiff then secured alternative employment as
an analyst for ESPN. Id. ¶ 19. As a result, on
May 25, 2017, MC notified Plaintiff that his disability
benefits under the Policy would terminate on June 28, 2017
-before Plaintiff turned 65. Id. ¶¶ 19,
February 27, 2018, Plaintiff brought his Complaint against
Defendants in this Court, alleging the following four Counts:
(I) breach of contract against MC, (II) breach of covenant of
good faith and fair dealing against MC, (III) bad faith in
violation of 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371 against MC, and (IV)
fraud against both Defendants. Id. ¶¶
17-44. Defendants moved to dismiss Counts II, III, and IV of
the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and
Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b) for failure to state a claim. D.E. 19.
Plaintiff filed opposition, D.E. 23, to which Defendants
replied, D.E. 27.
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a
defendant to move to dismiss a count for "failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]" To
withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a
plaintiff must allege "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 complaint
is plausible on its face when there is enough 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). Although the plausibility standard "does not
impose a probability requirement, it does require a pleading
to show more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully." Connelly v. Lane Const.
Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). As a result, a
plaintiff must "allege sufficient facts to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will uncover proof of
[his] claims." Id. at 789.
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, a district court
must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true
and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.
Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d
Cir. 2008). A court, however, is "not compelled to
accept unwarranted inferences, unsupported conclusions or
legal conclusions disguised as factual allegations."
Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 211 (3d Cir.
2007). If, after viewing the allegations in the complaint
most favorable to the plaintiff, it appears that no relief
could be granted under any set of facts consistent with the
allegations, a court may dismiss the complaint for failure to
state a claim. DeFazio v. Leading Edge Recovery
Sols., 2010 WL 5146765, at *1 (D.N.J. Dec. 13, 2010).
of the standard applicable to Rule 12(b)(6) motions, Rule
9(b) imposes a heightened pleading requirement of factual
particularity with respect to allegations of fraud."
In re Rockefeller Or. Props,, Inc. Sec. Litig., 311
F.3d 198, 216 (3d Cir. 2002). Pursuant to Rule 9(b), when
"alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with
particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake
. . . [m]alice, intent, knowledge, and other conditions of a
person's mind may be alleged generally."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). A party alleging fraud must therefore
support its allegations with factual details such as
"the who, what, when, where and how of the events at
issue." U.S. ex rel Moore & Co., P.A, v.
Majestic Blue Fisheries, LLC,812 F.3d 294, 307 (3d Cir.
2016). Accordingly, "[t]o satisfy the particularity
standard, 'the plaintiff must plead or allege the date,
time and place of the alleged fraud or otherwise inject
precision or some measure of substantiation into a fraud
allegation.'" Feingold v. Graff, 516
Fed.Appx. 223, 226 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Frederico v.
Home Depot,507 F.3d 188, 200 (3d Cir. 2007)). This
heightened pleading standard is designed to "ensure ...