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Barker v. Hostetter

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2015

DANIEL AND KRISTEN BARKER, h/w, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WILMER L. HOSTETTER AND JOYCE L. HOSTETTER, et al., Defendants, & GARY ROEDER, et al., Third-Party Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

RONALD L. BUCKWALTER, District Judge.

Currently pending before the Court are three separate Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) by Third-Party Defendants Envirotec, Inc., Joseph Link and H&H Rock Companies; Wastewater Monitoring, Inc.; and Leo Kob Environmental, LLC, Leo Kob Co., Inc., Leo Kob Company, and Richard A. Erb[1] (collectively "Kob Companies") (all moving parties referred to collectively as "Third-Party Defendants"). For the following reasons, the Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings are granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Related Procedural History and Factual Background

The Plaintiffs in this case brought suit against Defendants Keystone Custom Homes, Inc. and Willow Creek, LLC, and Defendants Wilmer L. Hostetter and Joyce L. Hostetter (collectively "Defendants") in November 2013, setting forth nine causes of action: (1) violations of various sections of the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1701, et seq.; (2) fraud in the inducement; (3) negligent misrepresentation; (4) failure to disclose descriptions of any liens, defects or encumbrances on or affecting title to Hopewell Ridge in violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Planned Community Act, 68 Pa. Con. Stat. §§ 5103, 5402(a)(20), 5402(a)(22), 5402(a)(26), 5402(a)(27), 5402(a)(29), and 5411; (5) breach of fiduciary duty; (6) breach of express warranty; (7) breach of the implied warranties of habitability and workmanship; (8) violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Law, 73 Pa. Con. Stat. §§ 201-2(4)(v), (vii), (xiv), and (xxi); and (9) civil conspiracy. See Barker v. Hostetter, No. Civ.A.13-5081, 2014 WL 1464319, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 15, 2014) (citing First Amended Complaint). "The essence of [Plaintiffs'] claims is that the Defendants withheld material information from the Plaintiffs and misrepresented facts about the sewage system and water supply at Hopewell Ridge. Such actions, according to Plaintiffs, were intended to induce the Plaintiffs into purchasing lots in Hopewell Ridge because in the Defendants' experience, other buyers who had become aware of the sewage system and water supply problems at Hopewell Ridge terminated their purchase agreements with the Hostetter Defendants." Id . (citing First Amended Complaint).

Defendants subsequently brought a Joint Third-Party Complaint against numerous entities and individuals, including the moving Third-Party Defendants. The Court previously dismissed Defendants' Third-Party Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) with respect to Third-Party Defendants Hugh V. Archer, individually and doing business as Mavickar Environmental Consultants, Mavickar Environmental Consultants Inc., Mavickar Environmental Engineering Consultants, LLC, The Mavickar Group, LLC; Chesapeake Environmental Solutions, Inc., Hugh V. Archer doing business as Chesapeake Environmental Solutions; Tri-Tech Resources, Inc., Tri-Tech Resources, Inc., doing business as Lake, Roeder, Hillard & Associates; Gary Roeder; and Terr Aqua Facility Planning Consultants, LLC. See Barker v. Hostetter, No. Civ.A.13-5081, 2014 WL 6070757 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 13, 2014). Defendants filed a Motion to Reconsider this Court's decision dismissing Defendants' claim against those Third-Party Defendants, which was denied on February 11, 2015. (See Docket No. 65.)

B. Factual Background Related to the Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings[2]

In the Third-Party Complaint, Defendants incorporate by reference the factual allegations set forth in Defendants Keystone Custom Homes, Inc.'s and Willow Creek, LLC's Answer to First Amended Complaint with Affirmative Defenses and Cross-claim ("Keystone Answer") and Defendants Wilmer and Joyce Hostetter's Answer to the First Amended Complaint with Affirmative Defenses and Cross-claims ("Hostetter Answer"), attached to the Joint Third-Party Complaint as Exhibit 1. (Third-Party Compl. ¶ 1.) Defendants also incorporate by reference, without admitting the truth of the averments contained therein, the factual allegations set forth in Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint, which is attached to the Joint Third-Party Complaint as Exhibit 2. (Third-Party Compl. ¶ 2, Ex. 2.) As stated above, Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint sets forth allegations against Defendants concerning the presence of nitrate contamination on the Plaintiff homeowners' lots in the Hopewell Ridge development and Defendants' alleged misrepresentations and omissions regarding the contamination and sewage connections on the lots and in connection with Plaintiffs' purchases of their homes.[3] See Barker v. Hostetter, No. Civ.A.13-5081, 2014 WL 1464319, at *1-5 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 15, 2014).

Third-Party Defendants Joseph Link, Envirotec, Inc., Wastewater Monitoring, Inc., and H&H Rock Companies, together with Third-Party Defendants Kob Companies, installed the EnviroServers and monitored their performance following installation. (Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 32-36, 38, 47.) H&H Rock Companies was the exclusive mid-Atlantic distributor of EnviroServer technology, trained the Kob Companies on how to install and maintain the EnviroServers, and authorized the Kob Companies to provide installation and maintenance services on the EnviroServers used at Hopewell Ridge. (Id. ¶ 39.)

According to the Third-Party Complaint, Defendants relied on the technical expertise of the moving Third-Party Defendants to design and obtain approval of the appropriate septic systems for use in Hopewell Ridge. (Id. ¶ 48.) Defendants assert that "Plaintiffs claim to have suffered certain damages as the result of issues that arose during the construction, installation, and operation of the EnviroServers and related facilities" at Hopewell Ridge. (Id. ¶ 54.) According to Defendants, "the Third Party Defendants all were responsible for the permitting, approval, design, construction, installation, operation, maintenance, and monitoring of the EnviroServers and related facilities at [Hopewell Ridge]." (Id. ¶ 55.) Defendants stated further that the damages Plaintiffs allegedly suffered "occurred while Third Party Defendants were in control of the EnviroServers and related facilities as set forth above and as set forth in the Keystone Answer and the Hostetter Answer." (Id. ¶ 56.) Thus, according to Defendants, "the Third Party Defendants acted negligently and with reckless disregard of the interests of Plaintiffs in failing to properly select, design, construct, install, operate, maintain, and monitor the EnviroServers and related facilities and in failing to take any action to address the alleged substantial deficiencies in the EnviroServers and related facilities that led to any alleged injury suffered by Plaintiffs." (Id.)

The sole count in the Third-Party Complaint is for indemnification and contribution. Specifically, Defendants allege that "[i]f Plaintiffs sustained any damages as alleged, which is denied, such damages were caused entirely by reason of the negligence, carelessness, recklessness, breaches of express and/or implied contracts, or violation of law, by Third Party Defendants and/or the employees and/or agents of each of them, there being no active wrongdoing on the part of Defendants contributing thereto." (Id. ¶ 58.) Defendants allege that on that basis, "Third Party Defendants are alone liable to Plaintiffs, jointly and several liable with Defendants, or liable over to Defendants, any liability on behalf of Defendants being expressly denied." (Id. ¶ 59.)

Third-Party Defendants Envirotec, Inc., Joseph Link, and H&H Rock Companies filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on December 12, 2014. Defendants filed a Response in Opposition on December 19, 2014. Third-Party Defendant Wastewater Monitoring, Inc. filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on December 18, 2014. Defendants filed a Response in Opposition on December 31, 2014. The Leo Kob Third-Party Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Third-Party Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(c) on January 16, 2015. Defendants filed a Response in Opposition on February 5, 2015. The Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings are now ripe for judicial review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion for judgment on the pleadings "will not be granted unless 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 Soc'y Hill Civic Ass'n v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980); see also DiCarlo v. St. Mary Hosp., 530 F.3d 255, 259 (3d Cir. 2008) ("Judgment will only be granted where the moving party clearly establishes there are no material issues of fact, and that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.") (citation omitted). Courts "must view the facts presented in the pleadings and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Sikirica, 416 F.3d at 220 (citing Soc'y Hill Civic Ass'n, 632 F.2d at 1054). "The Court may consider matters of public record, and authentic documents upon which the complaint is based if attached to the complaint or as an ...


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