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O'Hare v. Mezzacappa

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 8, 2015

BERNIE O'HARE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOANN MEZZACAPPA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

HENRY S. PERKIN, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Defendant Joann Mezzacappa's ("Defendant Mezzacappa") Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (6), filed by Defendant Mezzacappa on April 22, 2015.[1] The Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss was filed on May 4, 2015. This Court has jurisdiction over this diversity suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332(a)(1).[2] Having reviewed and considered the contentions of the parties, the Court is prepared to rule on this matter.

Procedural History

On March 30, 2015, Plaintiff Bernie O'Hare ("O'Hare") commenced this action by filing a suit in diversity against Defendant Mezzacappa pursuant to the Pennsylvania Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act ("PUFTA"). 12 Pa.C.S. § 5104. O'Hare seeks to collect on a previously obtained judgment against Defendant Mezzacappa's daughter Tricia Mezzacappa ("Tricia"). O'Hare alleges that Tricia transferred property to Defendant Mezzacappa in order to fraudulently avoid O'Hare's attempt to levy judgment on the property. O'Hare seeks to recover through this litigation the $67, 140.00 owed by Tricia from Defendant Mezzacappa, and in addition seeks punitive damages against Defendant Mezzacappa for the allegedly fraudulent transfer.

Facts

According to the Complaint, the pertinent facts to this Court's determination are as follows:

O'Hare obtained a defamation verdict in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County against Tricia on March 28, 2014 in the sum of $67, 140.00. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) ¶5. At that time and throughout the litigation Tricia was the owner in fee simple of the unencumbered premises at 817 Ridge Street, West Easton Borough, Northampton County. Id. at ¶6. On April 2, 2014, Tricia transferred the Ridge Street property to Defendant Mezzacappa by quitclaim deed. Id. at ¶8. On April 3, 2014 the deed was recorded. Id. Defendant Mezzacappa paid no consideration for the property. Id. at ¶9. On July 30, 2014, the trial court denied post-trial motions and entered judgment for O'Hare against Tricia for $67, 140.00. Id. at ¶11. Although Tricia has appealed that judgment in state court, she failed to post the required bond to prevent execution of the judgment against her property. Id. at ¶12.

Upon learning that the Ridge Street property had been transferred from Tricia to Defendant Mezzacappa, O'Hare contacted Defendant Mezzacappa and gave her the option to vacate the transfer and return the property to Tricia. Id. at ¶13. Defendant Mezzacappa refused to do so, and retained legal counsel. Id. at ¶14. Plaintiff then filed the present suit to collect on the judgment under PUFTA. See Complaint (Dkt. No. 1).

Standard of Review

On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ P. 12(b)(1), the court must consider whether the allegations in the complaint are sufficient to invoke jurisdiction over the case. Kehr Packages v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406 (3d Cir. 1991). The plaintiff bears the burden of alleging facts sufficient to invoke proper subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 1409. A claim should be dismissed under rule 12(b)(1) if it is wholly impossible for it to invoke subject matter jurisdiction, not merely "because the legal theory is probably false." Kulick v. Pocono Downs Racing Ass'n, 816 F.2d 895, 898 (3d Cir. 1986). A 12(b)(1) motion is easier to survive than a 12(b)(6) motion. Lunderstadt v. Colafella, 885 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir. 1989).

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, the court construes all factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and looks to see if there is a reasonable reading of the complaint under which the plaintiff could be entitled to relief. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224 (3d Cir. 2008). The complaint must contain more than a mere recitation of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory allegations of wrongdoing to survive a 12(b)(6) motion. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554 (2007). The complaint must include a claim for relief that is not just possible, but plausible after the court makes reasonable inferences from facts presented in the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

Discussion

Defendant Mezzacappa asserts three intertwined bases for dismissal. First, Defendant Mezzacappa asserts that the Complaint does not meet the $75, 000.00 minimum amount in controversy to invoke federal diversity jurisdiction because the state court judgment amount is only $67, 140.00. Second, Defendant Mezzacappa asserts that the Plaintiff cannot recover more than the judgment amount through an unliquidated tort because the Plaintiff fails to state a claim for punitive damages against Defendant Mezzacappa, instead stating claims only against Tricia. Third, Defendant Mezzacappa asserts that Tricia is an indispensable party to this litigation and that her joinder would eliminate this Court's jurisdiction by destroying diversity of citizenship. For the following reasons, this Court disagrees with Defendant Mezzacappa on all bases and denies the motion for dismissal. For purposes ...


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