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Tuttle v. Nationwide Affinity Insurance Company of America

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 22, 2019

NICHOLE TUTTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONWIDE AFFINITY INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Nina Y. Wang, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the court on Defendant Nationwide Affinity Insurance Company of America's (“Defendant” or “Nationwide”) Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on Plaintiff's Second Claim for Relief (“the Rule 12(c) Motion”) [#13, filed March 12, 2019]. Plaintiff Nichole Tuttle (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Tuttle”) filed a Response on April 3, 2019 and Nationwide filed a Reply on April 4, 2019. [#16; #18]. Oral argument was scheduled for Monday, May 20, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom A 502 before Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang, but was vacated following Plaintiff's counsel illness at the scheduled time. [#26]. The undersigned presides with the parties' unanimous consent [#14], the Order of Reference dated March 26, 2019 [#15], and pursuant to section 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). Upon review of the Motion, briefing, and applicable legal standard, Defendant's Rule 12(c) Motion is DENIED without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are drawn from the operative Complaint in this matter and are taken as true for the purposes of this Motion. [#3]. This case arises from a car accident between Ms. Tuttle and a third party, Matthew Montano (“Mr. Montano”), on July 18, 2016. [Id. at ¶ 4]. At the time of the accident, Ms. Tuttle was insured by Defendant Nationwide under policy number PPBM0050062649 (“the Insurance Policy”) with a UM/UIM limit of $500, 000.00. [Id. at ¶ 6]. On January 19, 2017, Nationwide gave Ms. Tuttle authority to settle her claim against Mr. Montano for the limits of his policy or $25, 000. [Id. at ¶ 7].

         Ms. Tuttle claims that she has not been fully compensated for her injuries, damages and losses sustained from the collision with Mr. Montano. Specifically, she claims $100, 000 in past non-economic damages; $200, 000 in future non-economic damages, $47, 586.83 in past economic damages, $100, 000 in permanent impairment damages, and a second, indeterminate amount of future non-economic damages. [#3 at ¶¶ 5, 17]. She alleges that she has provided all relevant information necessary for Nationwide to investigate, evaluate, and negotiate a resolution of Plaintiff's claim for UIM benefits, and Nationwide has unreasonably delayed and denied payment of such benefits. [Id. at ¶ 18]. In her first Claim for Relief, Ms. Tuttle contends that Nationwide has breached its insurance contract with her. [Id. at ¶ 14]. In her second Claim for Relief, she asserts that Nationwide has unreasonably delayed payment of Plaintiff's claims for benefits in violation of Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 10-3-1115 and -1116, because “Nationwide's delay in paying Plaintiff the value of her UIM claim is unreasonable given the claim is two years old and in light of the injuries and losses Plaintiff has suffered.” [Id. at ¶ 19].

         Defendant Nationwide Affinity Insurance Company of America (“Defendant” or “Nationwide”) filed an Answer, and then an Amended Answer, to the Complaint on February 28, 2019. [#10; #11]. Then, on March 12, 2019, Nationwide filed this instant Motion, seeking judgment on the pleadings on the Second Claim for Relief. [#13].

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) may be filed only “[a]fter the pleadings are closed.”[1] Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule 12(c) Motion is evaluated under the same standard applicable to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Corder v. Lewis Palmer Sch. Dist. No. 38, 566 F.3d 1219, 1223-24 (10th Cir. 2009). But the court considers a broader factual record when evaluating a Rule 12(c) motion; the court is not limited to the well-pled allegations contained in the Complaint but instead considers “the complaint, the answer, any written documents attached to them, and any matter of which the court can take judicial notice for the factual background of the case.” L-7 Designs, Inc. v. Old Navy, LLC, 647 F.3d 419, 422 (2d Cir. 2011); see also Hall v. D.C., 867 F.3d 138, 152 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (“A Rule 12(c) motion considers the defendants' answers together with the complaint . . . .”); Hous. Auth. Risk Retention Grp., Inc. v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 378 F.3d 596, 600 (7th Cir. 2004) (“In a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court considers the pleadings alone, which consist of the complaint, the answer, and any written instruments attached as exhibits.”). The Court accepts all of Plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations as true, views those allegations in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and additionally affords the non-movant all reasonable inferences from those allegations. Sanders v. Mountain Am. Fed. Credit Union, 689 F.3d 1138, 1141 (10th Cir. 2012).

         A court should not grant a Rule 12(c) motion unless “the moving party clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Ciber, Inc. v. ACE Am. Ins. Co., 261 F.Supp.3d 1119, 1125 (D. Colo. 2017) (quoting Park Univ. Enters., Inc. v. Am. Cas. Co., 442 F.3d 1239, 1244 (10th Cir. 2006)). A motion for a judgment on the pleadings “only has utility when all material allegations of fact are admitted or not controverted in the pleadings and only questions of law remain to be decided by the district court.” 5C Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 1367 (3d ed., Apr. 2019 update).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Evidence Considered

         Before turning to the merits of the Motion, the court begins by considering Plaintiff's objection to the court's consideration of the attachments to Nationwide's Answer, i.e., the correspondence between the parties. Plaintiff argues that “it is reversible error to consider matters outside the pleadings and failing to convert the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.” [#16 at 3]. Defendant argues that a court has broad discretion to consider such matters without conversion to a Rule 56 motion as attachments to the Answer may be considered under Rule 10(c) which provides that “[a] copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.” [#18 at 1-2].

         The resolution of this preliminary issue is not unambiguous. Wright & Miller, § 1371. Certain Circuit Courts of Appeal have expressly concluded that the attachments incorporated to the Answer are within the record for Rule 12(c) motions per the language of Rule 10(c). See, e.g., L-7 Designs, 647 F.3d at 422; Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134-35 (11th Cir. 2002); N. Indiana Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of S. Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998). But other courts have not found an answer's attachments incorporated into the answer and properly before the court for a Rule 12(c) motion. See, e.g., Clark v. Chase Home Fin., LLC, No. 08-cv-0500 JM(RBB), 2008 WL 2326307, at *4 (S.D. Cal. June 3, 2008) (“Defendants fail to cite a single authority where a court has considered documents attached to the answer in ruling on either a Rule 12(b) or Rule 12(c) motion.”); Toliver v. City of New York, No. 10 CIV. 3165 PAC JCF, 2012 WL 7782720, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 10, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, No. 10 CIV. 3165 PAC JCF, 2013 WL 1155293 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2013). For its part, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (“Tenth Circuit”) appears to have not squarely analyzed the question of whether exhibits to an answer can be considered in adjudicating a Rule 12(c) Motion, but has relied upon the general proposition that “documents attached to the pleadings are exhibits and are to be considered in [] [the context of a] Rule 12(c) motion.” Park Univ. Enterprises, Inc. v. Am. Cas. Co. Of Reading, PA, 442 F.3d 1239, 1244 (10th Cir. 2006), abrogated on other grounds Magnus, Inc. v. Diamond State Ins. Co., 545 Fed.Appx. 750, 753 (10th Cir. 2013).

         Within the District, some courts have articulated what constitutes the record to be limited exhibits attached to the complaint or documents that are central to the allegations of the complaint. See, e.g., XY, LLC v. Trans Ova Genetics, LC, 333 F.Supp.3d 1097, 1101 (D. Colo. 2018) (“In ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court may consider the complaint, any material that is attached to the complaint, and the answer.”). But other courts in this District have stated the standard more broadly, presumably capturing exhibits to an answer. See, e.g., UnitedStates v. Zazi, 356 F.Supp.3d 1105, 1114 (D. Colo. 2018) (“Documents attached to the pleadings, however, are subject to full consideration in a court's review of a Rule 12(c) motion.” (citing Park Univ. Enterprises, Inc. v. Am. Gas. Co. of Reading, PA, 442 F.3d 1239, 1244 (10th Cir. 2006)); see also United States v. Wahdan, 325 F.Supp.3d 1136, 1138 (D. Colo. 2018) (“The factual record in conjunction with a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is the same as that under Rule 12(b).”). Some of our sister courts within the Tenth Circuit have squarely addressed the issue, finding that exhibits to an answer are properly considered in conjunction with the adjudication of a motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Richard v. Perkins, 373 F.Supp.2d 1211, 1215 (D. Kan. 2005); Burkett v. Convergys Corp., No. 2:14-CV-376-EJF, 2015 WL 4487706, at *9 (D. Utah July 23, 2015) (“Because of the procedural posture of this motion, the Court will ...


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