United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh.
WILLIAM L. RODGERS, Plaintiff,
LINCOLN BENEFIT LIFE COMPANY, ROBERT MARTINI, MARTINI FINANCIAL SERVICES, LLC, Defendants,
Marilyn J. Horan United States District Judge
William L. Rodgers ("Rodgers"), brings the within
action against Defendants, Lincoln Benefit Life Company,
Robert Martini, and Martini Financial Services, LLC
(collectively "Defendants") for Negligent
Misrepresentation (Count I) and Violation of the Pennsylvania
Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (Count II)
based upon Rodgers' purchase of a life insurance policy
from the Defendants. (ECF No. 1-2).
before the Court are Defendants' Motions for Judgment on
the Pleadings, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), wherein
Defendants contend that Rodgers' claims are barred by the
applicable statutes of limitations. Rodgers has responded, in
part, by requesting the Court to convert Defendants'
Motions to Dismiss into Motions for Summary Judgment. Upon
consideration of Rodgers' Complaint (ECF No. 1-2);
Defendants, Robert Martini and Martini Financial Services,
LLC's ("Martini"), and Defendant, Lincoln
Benefit Life Company's (Lincoln Benefit"),
respective Answers (ECF Nos, 10 and 12); Martini's and
Lincoln Benefit's respective Motions for Judgment on the
Pleadings and Briefs in Support (ECF Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30);
Rodgers' Motion to Convert to Summary Judgment and Brief
in Support (ECF Nos. 34 and 35); Rodgers' Responses and
Reply Briefs to Martini's and Lincoln Benefit's
respective Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF Nos.
36, 37, 38, and 39); Lincoln Benefit's and Martini's
respective Reply Briefs to Rodgers' Opposition to Motions
for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF Nos. 44 and 46); Lincoln
Benefit's and Martini's respective Responses to
Rodgers' Motion to Convert to Summary Judgment (ECF Nos.
45 and 47); Rodgers' Replies to Lincoln Benefit's and
Martini's respective Responses to Rodgers' Motion to
Convert to Summary Judgment (ECF No. 48 and 49); and for the
following reasons, Rodgers' Motion to Convert to Summary
Judgment will be GRANTED, and Martini and Lincoln
Benefit's Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings, as
converted to and considered as Motions for Summary Judgment,
will be GRANTED.
February 28, 2019, Rodgers filed this action in the Butler
County Court of Common Pleas. (ECF No. 1). Lincoln Benefit
removed the case on March 29, 2019. Id. In November
1999, Rodgers purchased a Lincoln Benefit Universal Life
policy (the "Policy"), from Martini, which provided
a $500, 000 death benefit. (ECF No. 1-2 at ¶¶ 12,
14). Rodgers, upon advice of Martini, transferred $20, 000 to
Lincoln Benefit so that the return on the investment would
pay for the policy. Id. at ¶ 13 On October 6,
2004, Rodgers received correspondence from Lincoln Benefit
requesting a premium payment in the amount of $40, 000.
Id. at ¶ 16. Martini informed Rodgers that the
stock market had not produced enough return on the initial
$20, 000 investment to pay for the policy premiums.
Id. at ¶ 17. Martini advised that Rodgers'
could instead make a $600.00 per month premium payment in
order to keep the policy in effect. Id. at ¶
18. Thereafter, from November 2004 through June 2016, Rodgers
paid $600.00 per month to Lincoln Benefit. Id., at ¶ 19.
On April 6, 2016, Lincoln Benefit advised that the Policy
would be terminated if Rodgers did not pay $4, 072.14.
Id. at ¶ 21. On April 15, 2016, Martini again
advised Rodgers that the investments had failed to "keep
up," and the cost to continue to maintain the Policy
would increase to $ 1, 241.50 per month. Id. at
¶ 23. In June 2016, Rodgers stopped paying the $600 per
month, and he never paid the requested $1, 241.50 per month.
Id. at ¶ 29 Accordingly, on July 6, 2016, he
received notice that his policy would terminate unless he
paid Lincoln Benefit $3, 958.96. Id. at ¶ 30.
the close of pleadings, Lincoln Benefit and Martini filed
their Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings, arguing that
claims are barred by the respective statutes of limitations.
In response to Defendants' Motions for Judgment on the
Pleadings, Rodgers' submitted an affidavit, which he asks
the Court to consider by converting the Motions for Judgment
on the Pleadings to Motions for Summary Judgment. In his
Affidavit, Rodgers reaffirms the averments from his
Complaint, and adds his reasoning to explain why he did not
file his Complaint until 2019. In his affidavit, Rodgers
asserts that he trusted Martini and that he considered the
shortfall in the policy funding to be an honest mistake until
January 18, 2018, when he, through legal research, realized
that he may have legal claims against Martini and Liberty
Benefit. (ECF No. 35-1).
DefenseMotions for Judgment on the Pleadings
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that "after 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). Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate
only when the movant "clearly establishes that no
material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Minnesota
Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir.
2008) (internal quotations and citations omitted). When
ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a court
generally cannot consider matters outside of the pleadings.
In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec, Litig, 114 F.3d
1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). There is "no material
difference in the applicable legal standards" for a
motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) and a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Spruill v.
Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 n.2 (3d Cir. 2004).
deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), and
similarly a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a court
must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe
the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the
complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief."
Phillips v, Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings
Ltd, 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). To survive
dismissal, a complaint must allege facts sufficient to
"raise a right to relief above the speculative
level." Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of
a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009). In order to determine the sufficiency of a
complaint under Twombly and Iqbal, a court
must engage in the following analysis: First, the court must
take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a
claim. Second, the court should identify allegations that,
because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled
to the assumption of truth. Finally, where there are
well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise
to an entitlement for relief. Connelly v. Steel Valley
Sch Dist, 706 F.3d 209, 212 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting
Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221
(3d Cir. 2011)).
contend that Rodgers' claims for negligent
misrepresentation and Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer
Protection Law (UTPCPL) are barred by the applicable statutes
of limitations. A two-year statute of limitation applies to
Rodgers' negligent misrepresentation and professional
negligence claims. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 5524(7);
Cooper v. Sirota, 37 Fed.Appx. 46, 48 (3d Cir.
2002). A UTPCPL claim is subject to a 6-year statute of
limitations under 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5527; Morse v.
Fisher Asset Mgmt., LLC, 2019 PA Super 78, 206 A.3d 521,
526 (2019). "A party may raise a statute of limitations
defense in a Rule 12(c) motion if its application is apparent
on the face of the complaint." United States v.
Cephalon, Inc., 159 F.Supp.3d 550, 558 n.7 (E.D. Pa.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require that a
complaint anticipate or overcome affirmative defenses such as
the untimeliness of a claim; thus, a complaint does not fail
to state a claim simply because it omits facts that would
defeat a statute of limitations defense. Consistent with this
rule, a defendant may raise the statute of limitations as a
defense in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion only if it is apparent on
the face of the complaint that the claims are not
time-barred. If the bar is not apparent on the face of the
complaint, then it may not afford the basis for a dismissal
of the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). Federal courts have
applied this same rule in the context of a motion for
judgment on the pleadings.
Germinaro v. Fid. Nat'l Title Ins. Co., 107
F.Supp.3d 439, 449 (W.D. Pa. 2015) (cleaned up) (citing and
quoting Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 248-49 (3d
to the Complaint and Answer, without Rodgers' affidavit,
Rodgers' claims of negligent misrepresentation and unfair
trade practices stem from Lincoln Benefit and Martini's
alleged misrepresentation about funding for the Policy and
about the potential for future imposition and increase in
premium payments to maintain the Policy. On the face of the
Complaint, Rodgers pleads that in 2004 he was informed of the
shortfall and that he needed to pay and did pay additional
$600 monthly payments towards premium shortfalls from 2004.
From his Complaint as of 2004, Rodgers knew that funding
shortfalls had occurred and that monthly premium payments
were necessary as a result. He pleads that he made the
monthly payments to maintain the Policy for twelve years. He
did not file any lawsuit until the present complaint, which
he filed in February 2019. Said filing was fifteen years
after he first knew that his 1999 Policy purchase payment of
$20, 000 did not cover the accruing premiums, which was
contrary to the Defendant's representation. Accordingly,
from the face of the Complaint, all claims in the Complaint
were filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations for