United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
HAZEL V. PETERSON, Plaintiff/ Counterclaim Defendant
JOHNSTON & RHODES BLUESTONE, CO., Defendant/Counterclaim, Plaintiff
M. MUNLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court for disposition is a motion to dismiss filed by
Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Hazel V. Peterson in this
contract action case. The parties have briefed the pending
motion, and it is ripe for disposition.
March of 2011, Hazel V. Peterson and Johnston & Rhodes
Bluestone, Co. entered into a Lease Agreement (hereinafter
“Agreement”). (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 4). The
Agreement stated that Peterson would lease Johnston &
Rhodes a quarry and ledge in the Southeast corner of
Peterson's property, which was located in Equinunk, Wayne
County, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 4). The Agreement
further stated that Johnston & Rhodes would pay Peterson
$50, 000 per calendar year up until year 2021 for the use of
her property. (Id. ¶ 6). Johnston & Rhodes
began quarrying Peterson's land in 2011 and continued to
pay Peterson in accordance with the Agreement until 2017.
(Id. ¶ 5).
2017, Peterson contends that Johnston & Rhodes paid her
only $33, 535.41 of the $50, 000.00 due. Then, in March of
2018, Johnston & Rhodes stopped working at the quarry.
(Id. ¶ 5). Johnston & Rhodes have not paid
Peterson any money since 2017. (Id. ¶ 6).
Peterson alleges that per the Agreement, Johnston &
Rhodes owes her $16, 464.59 for the year 2017, and $50,
000.00 for each subsequent year up until the expiration of
the Agreement in March of 2021. (Id. ¶ 8).
Johnston & Rhodes have refused to compensate Peterson.
(Id. ¶ 8). As such, Peterson filed the instant
Complaint against Johnston & Rhodes on November 19, 2018,
requesting a total of $216, 464.59 for the breached
agreement. In addition, Peterson demands $200, 000 to
properly close the quarry. (Id. ¶ 9). In total,
Peterson requests $416, 464.59 in damages. (Id.
January 16, 2019, Johnston & Rhodes filed a counterclaim
against Peterson alleging unjust enrichment and quantum
meruit claims. (Doc. 5, Answer ¶ 13, 17). Johnston &
Rhodes alleges that it improved a roadway on Peterson's
property, but is now unable to utilize that road.
(Id. ¶ 6). According to Johnston & Rhodes,
Peterson received a benefit from the improvement of the road
and she knowingly and willingly accepted and retained that
benefit. (Id. ¶ 10).
January 25, 2019, Peterson (hereinafter “Counterclaim
Defendant”) filed a motion to dismiss the counterclaims
against her. (Doc. 6). In the meantime, on February 14, 2019,
the parties filed a joint motion to stay the proceedings so
that the parties could attempt mediation. (Doc. 9). We
granted that motion, and the case was stayed until April 24,
2019. (Doc. 16). On April 26, 2019, Johnston & Rhodes
(hereinafter “Counterclaim Plaintiff”) filed its
brief in opposition to Counterclaim Plaintiff's motion to
dismiss, bringing this case to its present posture. (Doc.
court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity statute, 28
U.S.C. § 1332. Counterclaim Plaintiff Johnston and
Rhodes Bluestone Co., is a New York corporation with its
principal place of business also in New York. (Doc. 1, Compl.
¶ 2). Counterclaim Defendant Hazel V. Peterson is a
citizen of the State of Florida. (Id. ¶ 2).
Because complete diversity of citizenship exists between the
parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, we
have jurisdiction over the case. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. As a court sitting in diversity, the substantive
law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case.
Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir.
2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78
Defendant filed her motion to dismiss Counterclaim
Plaintiff's counterclaim pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court tests the sufficiency of
the complaint's allegations when considering a Rule
12(b)(6) motion. All well-pleaded allegations of the
complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most
favorable to the non-movant to determine whether, “
‘under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the
plaintiff may be entitled to relief.' “ Colburn
v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988)
(quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. Cnty. of York,
768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff must
describe “ ‘enough facts to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'
[each] necessary element” of the claims alleged in the
complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Moreover, the
plaintiff must allege facts that “justify moving the
case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of
litigation.” Id. at 234-35. In evaluating the
sufficiency of a complaint the court may also consider
“matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to
the complaint and items appearing in the record of the
case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran &
Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal
conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See
Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del.,
Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse
v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
federal rules require only that Counterclaim Plaintiff
provide “a short and plain statement of the claim
establishing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
a standard which “does not require detailed factual
allegations, ” but a counterclaim plaintiff must make
“a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of
entitlement to relief that rises above the speculative
level.” McTernan v. N.Y.C., 564 F.3d 636, 646
(3d Cir. 2009) (citations and internal quotations and
quotation marks omitted).
Defendant seeks dismissal of Counterclaim Plaintiff's
unjust enrichment and quantum meruit claims on the basis that
that the counterclaims do not plead enough facts to state a
plausible basis for relief. Counterclaim Defendant further
argues that because the counterclaims arise from facts
surrounding an alleged breach of contract claim, suggesting
that a ...