CRONCE v. TRISTATE EROSION CONTROL COMPANY INC. et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 11/3/2014. (dmr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 14-3397 (JBS/KMW)
TRISTATE EROSION CONTROL
COMPANY INC., et al,
Keith J. Gentes, Esq.
LIEBLING MALAMUT LLC
1939 Route 70 East
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
Attorney for Plaintiff
Kevin M. McKeon, Esq.
MARSHALL DENNEY WARNER COLEMAN & GOGGIN
200 Lake Drive East
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
Attorney for Defendant
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
In this products liability action, Defendant Mack Trucks,
Inc. (hereinafter, “Defendant”) moves to dismiss Plaintiff James
Cronce’s (hereinafter, “Plaintiff”) Complaint on statute of
limitations grounds. [Docket Item 3.] In his Complaint,
Plaintiff alleges that a faulty step collapsed when he attempted
to exit his truck.
Plaintiff therefore asserts product defect
and failure to warn claims against Defendant, the truck’s
Plaintiff also names as a defendant “for
discovery purposes only[,]” his employer, Tristate Erosion
Control Co., Inc. (hereinafter, “Tristate”).
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will convert
Defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion for summary
judgment, and the parties will have fourteen (14) days to adduce
any additional evidence concerning the statute of limitations
For purposes of the pending motion, the Court accepts
Plaintiff’s allegations as true and draws the facts from the
Complaint and its exhibits. Plaintiff drove a “Mack R Series
heavy-duty” truck in connection with his employment as a truck
driver for Tristate. (Compl. at ¶¶ 2, 4.) On April 13, 2012,
Plaintiff attempted to exit his truck when a “faulty” step
broke, causing him to fall to the ground. (Id. at ¶ 4.)
Plaintiff initiated a products liability action in the
Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County. Defendant
thereafter removed this action, and now moves to dismiss
Plaintiff’s Complaint with prejudice, asserting that Plaintiff
filed the initial Complaint four (4) days after the expiration
of the applicable limitations period. (Def.’s Br. at 1-2.)
so asserting, Defendant relies upon two exhibits appended to its
motion: one being a copy of Plaintiff’s Complaint marked “Filed”
by the Superior Court on April 17, 2014 (Ex. A); the other being
a screenshot of the New Jersey Courts Public Access website,
which identifies the filing date for Plaintiff’s Complaint as
April 17, 2014. (Ex. B.)
Plaintiff asserts in opposition that he submitted a
complaint to the Superior Court on April 11, 2014, but
inadvertently omitted the requisite case information statement.
(Pl.’s Br. at 1).
Notwithstanding the initial defect, Plaintiff
argues that application of a state court rule enabled him to
preserve his original submission date by curing the defect
within ten (10) days of initial submission. (Id. at 5, 6).
Consequently, though initially “filed” on April 17, 2014,
Plaintiff asserts that the curative effect of the state court
rule rendered his Complaint timely filed on April 11, 2014.
(Id.) In support of this position, Plaintiff attaches several
exhibits, namely, a copy of the Complaint stamped “Received” by
the state court on April 11, 2014 (Ex. A); a letter from New
Jersey Civil Case Management directing Plaintiff to submit a
completed case information statement (Ex. B); a case information
statement stamped “Filed” by the Superior Court on April 17,
2014 (Ex. C); and a screenshot of the New Jersey Courts Public
Access website, which identifies the filing date for Plaintiff’s
Complaint as April 11, 2014. (Ex. D.)
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the 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.’” Fleisher
v. Standard Ins. Co., 679 F.3d 116, 120 (3d Cir. 2012)
Defendant seeks dismissal solely on the grounds that the
expiration of the applicable limitations period precludes
Plaintiff’s claims. Though certain statute of limitations
questions can be resolved at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage, the
statute of limitations dispute in this instance squarely
requires consideration of facts extraneous to the pleadings and,
therefore, the Court will convert the Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment.
It is undisputed that a two year limitations period, set
forth in N.J.S.A. § 2A:14-2, applies to Plaintiff’s claims. See
Brown v. Foley, 810 F.2d 55, 56 (3d Cir. 1987) (stating that in
New Jersey, “an action for an injury to the person caused by a
wrongful act, neglect, or default, must be convened within two
years of accrual of the cause of action.”). In this case,
Plaintiff’s injury occurred on April 13, 2012 and the parties do
not dispute that the applicable limitations period expired on
April 13, 2014.
In their submissions, however, the parties
append materials beyond the pleadings that must be considered by
the Court in order to resolve the timeliness of Plaintiff’s
However, in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a
district court may not consider matters extraneous to the
pleading. See In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114
F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (holding that a district court,
in ruling on a motion to dismiss, should not have considered
information from the brief supporting the motion to dismiss);
see also City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256,
259 (3d Cir. 2009) (“When deciding a motion to dismiss, it is
usual practice for a court to consider only the allegations
contained in the complaint, exhibits contained in the complaint
and matters of public record.”).
Rather, the Court may only
consider a “‘document integral to or explicitly relied upon in
the complaint,’” or an “‘undisputedly authentic document’” if
such document forms the predicate for the complaint. In re
Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc., Sec. Litig., 184 F.3d 280, 287
(3d Cir. 1999) (citations and emphases omitted).
Where matters outside the pleadings are relied upon in a
12(b)(6) motion, a district court must either deny the motion or
convert it to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) provides that:
If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters
outside the pleadings are presented to and not
excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as
one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties
must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all
the material that is pertinent to the motion.
In this action, the Court cannot, solely upon the
allegations set forth in the Complaint and any integral or
explicitly relied upon documents, determine whether Plaintiff
timely filed his Complaint. Although the exhibits proffered by
the parties may ultimately prove probative in resolving the
timeliness issue, the Court cannot consider the parties’
exhibits including, any notations by the state court or internet
screenshots of the state court docket, within the context of a
Rule 12(b)(6) analysis.
See Eli Lilly & Co. v. Roussel Corp.,
23 F. Supp. 2d 460, 475 (D.N.J. 1998) (“[U]nless a Court
converts a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into a motion for summary
judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, the Court cannot consider
material outside the pleadings (i.e. facts presented in briefs,
affidavits or exhibits).”).
Nor is a statute of limitations bar
apparent from the face of Plaintiff’s Complaint.
Complaint appended to Defendant’s Notice of Removal does not
facially reflect any filing date.
[Docket Item 1-1.]
the exhibits appended to the parties’ submissions set forth
competing positions concerning the timeliness of Plaintiff’s
filing—resolution of which clearly requires the Court to
consider factual disputes and other materials, not simply the
allegations of Plaintiff’s Complaint.
See Bethel v. Jendoco
Const. Corp., 570 F.2d 1168, 1174 (3d Cir. 1978) (“If the
[statute of limitations] 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).”).
The Court will therefore
convert the pending motion and hereby gives notice of the
Consequently, because the Court must consider facts beyond
the pleadings to resolve the pending motion, the Court will
convert the Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion.
parties will have fourteen (14) days to adduce any additional
evidence concerning the statute of limitations issue by
submitting evidence in the format required by Rule 56, which may
be accompanied by a short supplemental letter-brief.
November 3, 2014
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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