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Murphy v. The International Druidic Society

United States District Court, Third Circuit

June 20, 2013

PATRICIA J. MURPHY, et al.
v.
THE INTERNATIONAL DRUIDIC SOCIETY, et al.

MEMORANDUM

HARVEY BARTLE III J.

Plaintiff Patricia J. Murphy ("Murphy"), individually and as administrator for the estate of Edward Turner, has sued defendants The International Druidic Society ("IDS"), Judy Ellen Taylor, Steven Turner, Allen Turner, Russell Turner, Jamie Taylor, and Marlow Taylor. Murphy has alleged racketeering under 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. as well as various state law claims.[1]Before the court are the motions of Jamie Taylor, Steven Turner, and Judy Ellen Taylor to dismiss plaintiffs' amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a clam upon which relief can be granted.

I.

When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008); Umland v. Planco Fin. Servs., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). We must then determine whether the pleading at issue "contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim must do more than raise a "'mere possibility of misconduct.'" Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). Under this standard, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. This court may consider the allegations in the complaint along with matters of public record and any exhibits attached to the complaint. E.g., Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

In addition, when fraud is alleged, Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires the plaintiff to "state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake." Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). This is a higher pleading standard than what is generally required under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The heightened pleading standard gives defendants "notice of the claims against them, provides an increased measure of protection for their reputations, and reduces the number of frivolous suits brought solely to extract settlements." In re Burlington Coat Factory Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1418 (3d Cir. 1996).

II.

The following facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Murphy was a long-time friend of Edward Turner. Defendant IDS is a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation. Defendants Judy Ellen Taylor, Steven Turner, Allen Turner, and Russell Turner are the children of Edward Turner, and defendants Jamie Taylor and Marlow Taylor are his grandchildren. In 1986, after having been the victim of a burglary, Murphy consulted with Edward Turner about the safety and security of her finances. He convinced Murphy to allow him to control her financial affairs and to deposit her funds into bank accounts he controlled. He told her that he would place her money into the accounts of IDS, which he controlled, and that he would use her funds to purchase certificates of deposit in a federally insured bank.

Thereafter, from 1987 through September 2006, Edward Turned handled Murphy's financial affairs. He deposited funds from the salary she received, from the sale of real estate she owned, and from the sale of several stocks she had acquired into one or more bank accounts titled in the name of IDS or IDS and Edward Turner. In these accounts, Edward Turned co-mingled his funds with Murphy's funds. By September 22, 2006, Murphy's funds which Edward Turner held for her in these accounts totaled $259, 759. In September 2006, he used Murphy's funds to purchase two certificates of deposit at TD Bank North N.A., a federally insured bank, in the joint name of IDS and Edward Turner, in the amount of $114, 633.53. The maturity date for each of these certificates of deposit was April 5, 2008, and each had an interest rate of 1.511%.

In September 2006, Murphy noticed that Edward Turner's health was beginning to deteriorate. She told him that she was concerned about the security of her money. He reassured her and on September 22, 2006 issued a promissory note verifying the total that Murphy would be repaid by him when the certificates of deposit reached their maturity in April 2008. Murphy informed defendants Judy Ellen Taylor, Steven Turner, Jamie Taylor, and Marlow Taylor of the promissory note.

On August 3, 2006, Edward Turner signed a power of attorney naming Judy Ellen Taylor as his attorney-in-fact. On or about July 12, 2007, a corporate resolution of IDS, signed by Edward Turner, Judy Ellen Taylor, and Marlow Taylor, was filed with TD Bank North, N.A. This resolution authorized Judy Ellen Taylor to sign checks for IDS and to withdraw funds from its account. Following the signing of this resolution, Judy Ellen Taylor "began systematically looting and depleting the funds in the IDS account in a common scheme with the other named defendants, " by drawing checks made payable to herself and the other defendants. In addition, on July 20, 2007 and September 17, 2007, Judy Ellen Taylor cashed out the two certificates of deposit and transferred those funds into the IDS account.

In April 2008, Murphy made repeated demands for payment under the promissory note to Edward Turner, Judy Ellen Taylor, and Steven Turner, but no payments were made. She also made repeated requests to Judy Ellen Taylor, Steven Turner, Jamie Taylor, and Marlow Taylor for them to provide the current address and health status of Edward Turner so that she could collect the funds due to her, but they "collectively conspired to conceal" his residence and health status.

On August 27, 2009, Murphy sued Edward Turner and IDS in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to enforce her rights under the promissory note and to compel payment. On April 28, 2010, Murphy learned that Edward Turner had died on March 3, 2010 in Burlington County, New Jersey. She then contacted the named defendants to ask them to open an estate on behalf of Edward Turner and have the estate make payment to her based on the promissory note. The defendants did not do so. Murphy filed a petition in Burlington County, New Jersey to have an administrator for the estate of Edward Turner appointed by the court. On July 29, 2011, an order was entered in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Burlington County, appointing Murphy as the administrator of the estate of Edward Turner.

Following this appointment, Murphy amended her complaint in the Court of Common Pleas to substitute herself as the administrator of the estate of Edward Turner as the proper party defendant in that action. Accordingly, Murphy was both plaintiff and defendant in that action. Trial was held on August 13, 2012 in the Court of Common Pleas. Notice was sent to Judy Ellen Taylor, Steven Turner, Allen Turner, Jamie Taylor, and Marlow Taylor, but they did not attend. The court ruled in favor of plaintiff Murphy and against the estate of Edward Turner in the amount of $315, 798, which included interest on the promissory note at the statutory rate of 6% per year from April 2008 to August 2012.

On November 29, 2012, Murphy filed this action, both individually and as the administrator for the estate of Edward Turner, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, seeking to recover that $315, 798, plus interest and costs, from IDS, Judy Ellen Taylor, Steven Turner, Allen Turner, Russell Turner, Jamie Taylor, and Marlow Taylor, jointly and severally. She brought four counts: civil conspiracy; fraud; theft and conversion; racketeering under the federal and state Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations statutes, namely 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 1962, 1964 ("RICO") and 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. ยง 911; and "complaint in ...


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