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Deangelo Brothers, Inc. v. Platte River Insurance Co.

October 30, 2009

DEANGELO BROTHERS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
PLATTE RIVER INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before this Court are two motions: a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment by Defendant Platte River Insurance Company (Doc. 6); and a Motion for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff DeAngelo Brothers, Inc. (Doc. 9.) Because a review of the record demonstrates that dismissal or summary judgment is inappropriate at this time, both motions will be denied. This Court has jurisdiction by way of the parties diversity and amount in controversy pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

BACKGROUND

The facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint are as follows: In April of 2006, V-Tech Services, Inc., ("V-Tech"), a Pennsylvania corporation,*fn1 contracted with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation ("PennDOT") to provide vegetation management services for a period of three years. (Compl. ¶ 5, Doc. 1.) DeAngelo Brothers, Inc. ("DBI") in turn subcontracted with V-Tech to complete this work. (Id. ¶ 1.) DBI is a Pennsylvania corporation with a principal place of business in Pennsylvania.

(Id. ¶ 1.) DBI provided services to V-Tech under the subcontractor agreement during 2006, 2007, and 2008. (Id. ¶ 9.) V-Tech did not pay DBI for "certain invoices from 2006 or any invoices for 2008." (Id. ¶ 10.)

Defendant Platte issued a performance and payment bond to V-Tech with respect to the aforementioned vegetation management contract. (Compl. ¶ 6.) The bond defines a potential claimant as "one having a direct contract with [V-Tech] for labor, material or both used in performance of the contract [with PennDOT]." (Id. ¶ 8.) The bond continues that a claimant "who has not been paid in full before the expiration of ninety (90) days after the date on which the last of such claimant's work or labor was done or performed, or materials were furnished by such claimant, may sue on this Bond for such sums as may be justly due claimant." (Id.) More than ninety (90) days have passed since DBI completed its last work. (Id. ¶ 12.) Defendant Platte asserts that DBI failed to properly perform its duties under the subcontractor agreement. (Doc. 6, ¶ 11.) Platte also asserts that DBI "falsely and with malice began a smear campaign whereby Plaintiff wrote and spoke to PennDOT officials about V-Tech allegedly performing inadequately and/or non-performance, which constitutes libel and slander, per se." (Doc. 6, ¶ 15.)

On January 28, 2009, DBI filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County against V-Tech for breach of contract and other actions. (Doc. 6, ¶ 13.) On June 24, 2009, DBI filed this action in the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Platte under the bond. (Doc. 1.) Platte filed a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment on July 21, 2009. (Doc. 6.) DBI filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on July 28, 2009. (Doc. 9.) Both motions have been fully briefed, and are now ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

I. Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. PRO. 12(b)(6). Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "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), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring a complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant [with] the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; see also Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or "'legal conclusions,'" Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997)). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of her claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

II. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56©. A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Id. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D ยง 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the ...


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