CRISAFULLI v. AMERITAS LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Claire C. Cecchi on 6/11/14. (jd, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No.: 13-cv-05937 (CCC)
AMERITAS LIFE INSURANCE
COMPANY, CLEO PENNTNGTON,
CECCHI, District Judge:
This matter comes before the Court by way of Defendants Ameritas Life Insurance
Company (“Ameritas”) and Cleo Pennington’s (“Pennington”) motion to dismiss Plaintiff
Gregory Crisafulli’s (“Plaintiff’) complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure l2(b)(l) and
(6) [ECF No. 8-1] and Defendant Matthew Dworetsky’s (“Dworetsky”) separate motion to
dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(i), (2), (5), and (6)
[ECF No, I 7-1.] No oral argument was heard pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.
Based on the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motions to dismiss are granted without
Plaintiff, appearing pro se in this matter, instituted this action on October 4, 2013.
Plaintiff alleges that Ameritas, Pennington, and Dworetsky (together, “Defendants”) have
violated 15 U.S.C. § 6801 entitled “Protection of nonpublic personal information,” 18 U.S.C. §
1341 entitled ‘Frauds and swindles,” 18 U.S.C.
§ 2 entitled “Principals,” and NJ.S.A. § 56:8-
164 entitled “Prohibited and allowed uses of Social Security numbers.” The complaint shows
that Plaintiff had a life insurance policy through Primerica Life Insurance Company. (Compi. p.
1-2.) Plaintiff alleges that he then made an application for a life insurance policy from Ameritas.
Id. Plaintiff used the services of Dworetsky’ to facilitate the application, but Plaintiff alleges he
was misrepresented. Id. Plaintiff claims that he signed the application in advance and received a
medical report to determine if he could get life insurance from Ameritas. Id. However, Plaintiff
states the application was filled in after his signing without his presence and sent to Ameritas by
Dworetsky before his medical results came back. Id. Plaintiff alleges that on October 13, 2011,
Pennington, who is employed by Arneritas, signed and addressed a letter to Primerica Life
Plaintiff claims that this letter included Plaintiff’s social security
number and changed his identity by improperly citing his real name, facilitating identity theft.
Id. Plaintiff claims that “the unsealed letter and bold lettering describing the contents furthers
Ameritas and Pennington filed a motion to dismiss on November 26, 2013.
motion, Ameritas and Pennington have alleged that (1) the qualifications for diversity subject
matter jurisdiction are not met as Plaintiff states he is from Avenel, New Jersey, but does not
state the incorporation or principal place of business address for Ameritas nor any address for
Pennington or Dworetsky and he also does not list any actual damages; (2) the qualifications for
original subject matter jurisdiction are not met as none of the federal statutes that Plaintiff lists
allow for private action; and (3) Plaintiff fails to allege an adequate claim under any of the
statutes, [ECF No. 8-1 p. 8-13.] Plaintiff filed a notice to oppose Ameritas and Pennington’s
‘the time the application was signed, Dworetsky was affiliated with Legacy Planning Group,
LLC located in Keyport, New Jersey.
motion to dismiss on December 23, 2013.
Plaintiff claimed that the damages should be
sufficient enough to meet the amount needed for diversity jurisdiction and that Dworetsky has
more than one place of residence. with a registered address in Connecticut. [ECF No. 9 p. 4, 78.] Ameritas and Pennington then filed a reply brief in further support of the motion to dismiss
on December 30, 2013. They continued to assert that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for
relief and that diversity subject matter jurisdiction is not met as no actual damages were stated
nor was Dworetsky’s state of citizenship given. [ECF No. 10 p. 5.]
Dworetsky filed a separate motion to dismiss on February 20, 2014. Dworetsky alleges
that (1) the qualifications for diversity subject matter jurisdiction are not met; (2) the
qualifications for original subject matter jurisdiction are not met as none of the federal statutes
that Plaintiff lists allow for private action; (3) there was an insufficient service of process on
Dworetsky; and (4) Plaintiff fails to allege an adequate claim under any of the statutes. [ECF
No. 17-1 p. 8-13.] Plaintiff filed a notice to oppose Dworetsky’s motion to dismiss on March 7,
2014 claiming that under California Civil codes 1798.92-1798.97, the civil penalty can be as
much as $30,000. [ECF No. 19 p. 5.] Dworetsky then filed a reply brief in further support of the
motion to dismiss on March 13, 2014 claiming that Plaintiff’s opposition papers do not address
the arguments raised by Dworetsky. [ECF No, 22 p. 2.]
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
1. Legal Standard
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)( I) challenges the
existence of a federal court’s subject matter jurisdiction. When subject matter jurisdiction is
challenged under Rule 12(b)(l). the plaintiff must bear the burden of persuasion.”
Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor. Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991). The court must resolve
motions over subject matter jurisdiction before proceeding to a disposition of the merits.
Carlsberg Resources Corp. v. Cambria Say, and Loan Assn, 554 F.2d 1254, 1256 (3d Cir. 1977).
Determining subject matter jurisdiction, “cannot be overlooked by the court, even if the parties
fail to call attention to the defect, or consent that it may be waived.” Id. (citing Thomas v. Bd.
of Trs. of Ohio State Univ., 195 U.S. 207 (1904)). When challenging a plaintiffs claims using
subject matter jurisdiction, the defendant may either (1) attack the complaint on its face or (2)
attack the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact. Mortensen v. First Fed. Say, and Loan
As&n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977).
With a facial challenge, the court must take the
allegations of the complaint as true and only consider those allegations in the complaint, as well
as the documents referenced therein, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See; Gould
Electronics. Inc. v. U.S., 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing PBGC v. Whitç, 998 F.2d
1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). With a factual challenge, the court may consider evidence outside of
the pleadings and need not presume the truth of the allegations, but is free to weigh the evidence
to determine if the requirements for jurisdiction are met. See Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891; Gotha
v. U.S., 115 F.3d 176, 178—79 (3d Cir. 1997).
To properly invoke subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that his claim “aris[es] under the Constitution. laws, or treaties of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C.
1331. Once a plaintiff alleges that the actions of a defendant have violated
federal law, the question of whether any facts as pled are true, or whether they are legally
sufficient to warrant relief, is one of merit and not of jurisdiction. See Kulick v. Pocono Downs
cjgss’n, 816 F,2d 895, 89798 (3d Cir, 1987) (“Under [Section 1331], a court has
jurisdiction over the dispute so long as the plaintiff alleges that defendant’s actions violate the
requisite federal law
the truth of the facts alleged
(are) a question on the merits”).
Dismissal for lack of jurisdiction will be proper only when the right claimed is “so insubstantial,
implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions.
or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to
involve a federal controversy.” Id. at 899.
“To establish diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a), the party asserting
jurisdiction must show that there is complete diversity of citizenship among the parties and an
amount in controversy exceeding $75,000.” Schneller cx rel. Schneller v. Crozer Chester Med.
387 F. App’x 289, 292 (3d Cir. 2010). For complete diversity of citizenship, each plaintiff
must be a citizen of a different state from each defendant. Gay v. Unipack, Inc., No. 10—6221,
2011 WL 5025116 at *4 (D.N.J. Oct. 20, 2011). Plaintiffs, even when proceeding pro Se, must
affirmatively plead the citizenship of the individual defendants in order for the court to determine
whether complete diversity of the parties in fact exists and thus whether the court has jurisdiction
to adjudicate the matter. See Poling v. K. Hovnanian Enters., 99 F. Supp. 2d 502, 515 (D.N.J.
2000); Phillip v. Atlantic City Med. Ctr., 861 F. Supp. 2d 459, 467 (D.N.J. 2012).
Furthermore, the plaintiff must affirmatively plead the amount in controversy on the face
of the complaint. Gray v. Occidental Life Ins. Co. of Cal., 387 F.2d 935, 937 (3d Cir. 1968).
Determination of the amount in controversy is a federal question to be determined by federal
standards, but the state law is relevant as it defines the right the plaintiff seeks to invoke,
Horton v, Liberty Mut. lns. Co.. 367 U.S. 348, 352-53 (1961). The court must decide the amount
in controversy from the complaint itself, unless it appears or is shown that the amount stated in
the complaint is not claimed in good faith. See id. at 453. In determining that the amount was
not claimed in good faith. it must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than
the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal.” Id. However, the court should not consider in its
jurisdictional inquiry the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged, but can dismiss the case only if
there is a legal certainty that the plaintiff cannot recover more than the required amount in
controversy. $ç Suber v. Chrysler Corp., 104 F,3d 578, 583 (3d Cir. 1997).
2. Plaintiff Has Failed To Sufficiently Demonstrate Subject Matter
Defendants have facially challenged the Courfs jurisdiction, arguing first that it is
apparent from the face of Plaintiffs complaint that the Court lacks original subject matter
jurisdiction, [ECF No. 8-1 p. 11-12; ECF No. 17-1 p. 9.] Defendants all argued in their motions
to dismiss that Plaintiff does not have original subject matter jurisdiction over them because
neither 15 U.S.C.
§ 6801 entitled “Protection of nonpublic personal information,” 18 U.S.C. §
1341 entitled “Frauds and swindles,” nor 18 U.S.C.
§ 2 entitled “Principals,” allow for a private
cause of action. Id. Plaintiff, however, has failed to respond to these claims in his opposition.
Plaintiff listed these statutes in his complaint under cause of action and jurisdiction, but has not
claimed that these statutes allow for a private cause of action. (Compi. p. 1-2.)
Here, Plaintiff has not properly invoked federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
1331 when he pled a cause of action against the defendants for violations of law under 15 U.S.C.
§ 6801, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and 18 U.S.C. § 2. The first statute, 15 U.S.C. § 6801, relates to the
affirmative obligation of each financial institution to protect the security and confidentiality of its
customers. Plaintiffs have no private right of action to bring claims under this statute, Arce v.
Barik of America, No. 13—ev—2776 (JAP), 2013 WL 6054817 at *7 (D.N.J. November 15, 2013).
§ 1341 includes mail fraud and relates to criminal punishment for individuals who
have devised any scheme or artifice to defraud or obtained money or property by means of false
or fraudulent pretenses. However, the Third Circuit has also held that there is no private right of
action under 18 U.S.C.
§ 1341. See Jones v. TD Bank, 468 F. App’x 93,94 (3d Cir. 2012). The
third federal statute, 1 8 U.S.C.
§ 2, deals with individuals who commit an offense against the
United States or aid, abet, counsel, command. induce, or procure its commission. This criminal
statute also does not appear to allow for a private civil cause of action.
Investing Co. Liquidating Trust, 155 F.3d 644. 657 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing Central Bank of
Denver. N.A. v. First Interstate Bank of Denver. N.A., 511 U.S. 164, 176 (1994) (noting that
“[t]he [Supreme] Court rejected the argument that Congress had intended to permit private
actions for aiding and abetting”); Lamont v. Haig. 539 F.Supp. 552, 558-559 (D.S.D. 1982).
Thus, the Court finds that there is an insufficient basis at this time on which to find original
subject matter jurisdiction over Defendants.
Defendants have also facially challenged the Court’s jurisdiction by arguing that it is clear
from the face of Plaintiffs complaint that Plaintiff lacks diversity subject matter jurisdiction.
[ECF No. 8-1 p. 11-12; ECF No. 17-1 p. 8.] In the complaint, Plaintiff has not listed any amount
for damages and he has also only listed his address as well as an address for Ameritas (no
addresses were listed for Pennington or Dworetsky). (Compl. p. 1-2.) Defendants argue that
Plaintiff has not met the statutory amount in controversy requirement of $75,000. [ECF No. 8-1
p. 11-12; ECF No. 17-1 p. 8.] Ameritas and Pennington also claim that Plaintiff has not shown
diversity of citizenship among the parties. [ECF No. 8-1 p. 11-12,]
The Court recoguizes that Plaintiff appears pro se and thus, his complaint is held to a less
stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520-21 (1972). Here, however, Plaintiff has not properly invoked diversity jurisdiction under 28
§ 1332. Plaintiff has not met the amount in controversy requirement as he has not alleged
any amount of damages on the face of the complaint. (Compi. p. 1.) Plaintiff has alleged in his
reply brief that there are violations of federal and state statutes as well as punitive damages and
mental anguish and that the damages in total “should be enough.” [ECF No. 9 p. 4.] However,
since the requisite jurisdictional amount of 575,000 does not appear affirmatively on the face of
the complaint as it must in order for the Court to have jurisdiction, Plaintiff has not properly
invoked diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. See Gray, 387 F.2d at 937.
Furthermore, Plaintiff has failed to properly plead diversity of citizenship among the
parties. Plaintiff, as the party asserting federal jurisdiction, “must specifically allege each party’s
citizenship, and these allegations must show that the plaintiff and defendant are citizens of
different states.” y, 2011 WL 5025116 at *4 (citing American Motorists Ins. Co. v. American
Employers’ Ins. Co., 600 F.2d 15, 16 (5th Cir. 1979)). Even when appearing pro se, a plaintiff
caimot be silent as to the citizenship of the parties. See id. Here, however, Plaintiff has not
specifically alleged the citizenship of Defendants to allow this Court to determine jurisdiction.
Plaintiff has listed the address of Ameritas in Lincoln, Nebraska, but has not stated if this is its
incorporation address or principal place of business. (Compl. p. 1.) According to 28 U.S.C.
1332, a corporation is deemed to be a citizen of every State and foreign state by which it has
been incorporated and has its principal place of business. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332 (2012);
Midlantic Nat, Bank v. Hansen, 48 F.3d 693, 696 (3d Cir. 1995).
Thus, the incorporation
address and principal place of business must be alleged before the Court can determine the
citizenship of Ameritas. See Poling. 99 F. Supp. 2d at 515. With the individual defendants,
Plaintiff does not list the citizenship or any domicile address for Dworetsky or Pennington within
the complaint. (Compi. p. 1.) Citizenship is equated with domicile and this address must be
stated on the face of the complaint before the Court can determine the citizenship of Dworetsky
or Pennington. See Poling, 99 F. Supp. 2d at 515; See Gay, 2011 WL 5025116 at *4 (citing
McCracken v. Muhy, 328 F. Supp. 2d 530. 532 (E.D.Pa. 2004). 4ffd, 129 F. App’x 701 (3d
Cir. 2005)). Thus, these facts must be properly plead before the Court can determine whether
complete diversity is present. See Poling, 99 F. Supp. 2d at 515.
This Court has an independent obligation to address issues of subject matter jurisdiction
prior to addressing any other issues raised by the defendants’ motions. Shaffer v. Gallub, No.
11—6182 (NLH)(AMD). 2012 WL4120505 at *1 (D.N.J. September 19, 2012) (citing Zambelli
Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 418 (3d Cir. 2010)). Since Plaintiff has not
sufficiently plead subject matter jurisdiction, this Court therefore need not discuss Defendants’
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim or insufficient service of process at this time.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby grants Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(l).
Because Plaintiff is
appearing pro Se, and because Plaintiff may be able to plead facts sufficient to demonstrate that
this Court has subject matter jurisdiction to entertain this action, Plaintiff’s complaint is
dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff is granted thirty (30) days from the date of this Opinion to
file an Amended Complaint addressing the pleading deficiencies discussed herein.
appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.
CLAIRE C. CECCHI, U.S.D.J.
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