GREENSKIES RENEWABLE ENERGY, LLC et al v. ARCH INSURANCE COMPANY
OPINION. Signed by Judge Susan D. Wigenton on 9/13/17. (cm, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
GREENSKIES RENEWABLE ENERGY,
LLC, MICHAEL SILVESTRINI, ANDREW
CHESTER, ARTHUR S. LINARES, and
LUIS A. LINARES,
Civil Action No: 16-5243-SDW-LDW
September 13, 2017
ARCH INSURANCE COMPANY,
WIGENTON, District Judge.
Before this Court is Defendant Arch Insurance Company’s (“Arch” or “Defendant”)
Motion to Dismiss Greenskies Renewable Energy, LLC (“Greenskies”), Michael Silvestrini
(“Silvestrini’), Andrew Chester (“Chester”), Arthur S. Linares, and Luis A. Linares’ (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”) Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 9(b).
Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1391. This opinion is issued without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
78. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Arch is an insurance company that issues performance and payment surety bonds on behalf
of construction companies. In 2012, Arch issued surety bonds in the amount of $50,000.00
(“Greenskies Bonds”) to Greenskies, a solar energy company “engaged in the installation of solar
panels and related energy systems for commercial, industrial and municipal entities.” (Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 1, 13-14.) On or about July 24, 2012, in connection with the issuance of those bonds,
Plaintiffs entered into a General Indemnity Agreement with Arch (“Greenskies GIA”). (Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.) Signatories to the Greenskies GIA were Greenskies as Principal/Indemnitor,
and Centerplan Construction Company, LLC (“Centerplan”), Robert Landino (“Landino”),
Silvestrini, Chester, Arthur Linares and Luis Linares as Indemnitors. (Dkt. No. 35-1 Ex. 2 at 8-9.)
All of the Greenskies Bonds eventually “were discharged with no claims made against any bond.”
(Am. Compl. ¶ 2.)
The Greenskies GIA defines “Indemnitor” as any signatory to the GIA “or any other
agreement that incorporates by reference the terms of” the Greenskies GIA. (Dkt. No. 35-1 Ex. 2
at 1.) The Greenskies GIA defines “Principal” as
[a]ny Indemnitor on behalf of which [Arch] may execute a Bond and/or any Person
whose name is or has been furnished to [Arch] by any of the Indemnitors or on
behalf of which [Arch] has issued any Bond at the request of any Indemnitor,
including, but not limited to, any of the Indemnitors named or referred to as
‘Principal’ in any bond, undertaking or recognizance. The term ‘Principal’ also
includes any present or future direct or indirect subsidiary, successor, affiliate or
parent of any Indemnitor and any partnerships, LLCs, LLPs or other entities owned
in whole or in part by any named Indemnitor.
(Dkt. No. 35-1 Ex. 2 at 1.) The term “Bond” is defined as “[a]ny and all bonds, including but not
limited to surety bonds, undertakings, guaranties, and any renewals or extensions thereof issued
by [Arch], or issued by another at the request of [Arch], on behalf of Principal, whether issued
prior to or subsequent to the effective date of this Agreement.” (Dkt. No. 35-1 Ex. 2 at 2.)
Between 2010 and 2016, Arch also issued separate performance and payment bonds worth
millions of dollars for two large construction projects to Centerplan and Center Earth, LLC
(“Center Earth”) (“Centerplan Bonds”). (CT Compl. ¶¶ 14-28.) 1 Pursuant to the issuance of those
bonds, Arch executed indemnity agreements with Centerplan and Center Earth, as well as with
Landino, the owner and CEO of Centerplan and Center Earth, his wife Kelly Landino, and several
companies also owned by Landino. (CT Compl. ¶¶ 15-17.) Those agreements, which were
executed on or about July 10, 2010, October 15, 2010, and January 26, 2016 (collectively, the
“Centerplan GIAs”) all identified Centerplan as the “Principal/Indemnitor” and Landino as an
“Indemnitor.” (CT Compl. ¶¶ 15-17; Dkt. 36-2.) Greenskies is not a signatory to the Centerplan
GIAs. Aside from Centerplan and Landino being Indemnitors for the Greenskies Bonds and
Principal and/or Indemnitors on the Centerplan Bonds, the two sets of bonds are unrelated. (Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 3-4.)
After executing the Centerplan GIAs, Arch received claims against the Centerplan Bonds.
(CT Compl. ¶ 29.) 2 As of November, 2016, Arch had “made payments totaling $8,424,302.57 to
resolve some of the payment bond claims that have been asserted against it, and has also incurred
References to “CT Compl.” refer to the Complaint filed in Arch Ins. Co. v. Centerplan Constr. Co., LLC et al., No.
3:16-cv-1891 in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut on November 16, 2016. That suit
details the issuance of, and the litigation surrounding, the Centerplan Bonds.
In response to these claims, Arch demanded that the parties to the Centerplan GIAs make their “books, records and
other financial documents” available for Arch’s review. (CT Compl. ¶ 34.) In August, 2016, Arch also gave notice
to those same parties that claims had been made under the bonds, demanded that the parties “procure [Arch’s]
discharge from the [Centerplan] Bonds under which claims had been asserted and from all liability under those
Bonds,” demanded that the parties “hold harmless and indemnify [Arch] for all losses incurred and to be incurred by
[Arch] as a result of having issued those Bonds,” and demanded that the parties “post cash collateral with [Arch] . . .
to secure [Arch’s] pending exposures and potential liability on Bonds under which claims have been asserted.” (CT
Compl. ¶¶ 37-39.) When the parties to the Centerplan Bonds failed to comply with Arch’s demands, Arch filed a
six-count complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut against the parties to the
Centerplan GIAs, seeking contractual and common law indemnification, contractual security, common law
exoneration, quia timet, and disclosure of financial information. (CT Compl. ¶¶ 42-64.)
expenses and costs in regard to those” claims. (CT Compl. ¶ 32.) Arch contends that its potential
liability for the claims asserted under the Centerplan Bonds will exceed $18 million. (CT Compl.
On August 5, 2016, Arch’s counsel wrote to Plaintiffs alleging they had obligations via the
Greenskies GIA for claims made against the Centerplan Bonds and demanding that Indemnitors
“immediately procure the Surety’s discharge from the [Centerplan Bonds] and all liability under
these Bonds” and “hold harmless and indemnify the Surety for all losses incurred and to be
incurred by the Surety as a result of having issued the [Centerplan Bonds].” (Dkt. No. 35-1 Ex.
3.) Plaintiffs did not respond, and on August 19, 2016, Arch’s counsel again wrote to Plaintiffs to
demand “that the Principal and Indemnitors post cash collateral with the Surety in the amount of
$18,807,737.47 to secure the Surety’s pending exposures on the [Centerplan Bonds]” no later than
August 29, 2016. (Dkt. No. 35-1 Ex. 4.)
On August 29, 2016, the Plaintiffs filed suit in this Court. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiffs’
Amended Complaint, filed three days later, seeks declaratory judgment that the Plaintiffs “have
no obligation or duty to Arch under the Greenskies GIA for any losses Arch incurred or will incur
under the Centerplan Bonds and/or any other bonds not issued to Greenskies,” and alleges violation
of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, and
the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, and fraudulent inducement. (Dkt. No. 5.) On April
21, 2017, Arch filed the instant motion. (Dkt. No. 35-2.) Plaintiffs filed their timely opposition
on May 1, 2017 and Defendant filed its reply on May 8, 2017. (Dkt. Nos. 36, 37.)
An adequate complaint must be “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). This Rule “requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]” Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted); see also Phillips v. Cty.
of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that Rule 8 “requires a ‘showing,’ rather
than a blanket assertion, of an entitlement to relief”).
In considering a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 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.”
Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231 (external citation omitted). However, “the tenet that a court must accept
as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.
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); see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside,
578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009) (discussing the Iqbal standard). Determining whether the allegations
in a complaint are “plausible” is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw
on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. If the “well-pleaded facts
do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,” the complaint
should be dismissed for failing to “show that the pleader is entitled to relief” as required by Rule
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) requires that “[i]n alleging fraud or mistake, a party
must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake. Malice, intent,
knowledge, and other conditions of a person's mind may be alleged generally.” FED. R. CIV. P.
9(b). Plaintiffs “alleging fraud must state the circumstances of the alleged fraud[ulent act] with
sufficient particularity to place the defendant on notice of the ‘precise misconduct with which [it
is] charged.’” Park v. M & T Bank Corp., No. 09–cv–02921, 2010 WL 1032649, at *5 (D.N.J.
Mar. 16, 2010) (quoting Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 200 (3d Cir. 2007)).
“Plaintiffs may satisfy this requirement by pleading the ‘date, place or time’ of the fraud, or
through ‘alternative means of injecting precision and some measure of substantiation into their
allegations of fraud.’” Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217, 224 (3d Cir.2004) (quoting Seville
Indus. Mach. Corp. v. Southmost Mach. Corp., 742 F.2d 786, 791 (3d Cir.1984)). “Plaintiffs also
must allege who made a misrepresentation to whom and the general content of the
misrepresentation.” Id.; see also Frederico, 507 F.3d at 200; Riachi v. Prometheus Grp., No. 16CV-2749-SDW-LDW, 2016 WL 6246766, at *3–4 (D.N.J. Oct. 25, 2016); Prudential Ins. Co. of
Am. v. Goldman, Sachs & Co., No. 12-CV-6590-SDW, 2013 WL 1431680, at *7 (D.N.J. Apr. 9,
Count I – Declaratory Judgment
In Count One, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that they “have no obligation or
duty to Arch under the Greenskies GIA for any losses Arch incurred or will incur under the
Centerplan Bonds and/or any other bonds not issued to Greenskies.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 40.)
Plaintiffs contend that their liability is limited to bonds issued on behalf of Greenskies as
Principal under the Greenskies GIA. (Id.) Arch contends, however, that the contractual
language must be read more broadly and that it clearly and unambiguously obligates Plaintiffs to
indemnify Arch for losses “incurred by Arch by reason of having executed any ‘Bonds’ on
The parties analyze their claims under both Connecticut and New Jersey law because of the extensive connections
the parties have with those states. (Am. Compl. ¶12; Mot. Dismiss at 12; Pls.’ Opp’n Br. at 15 n. 7). This Court
will do the same where appropriate.
behalf of any ‘Principal’” including Centerplan as Principal of the Centerplan GIAs. (Mot.
Dismiss at 3-4 (emphasis added).)
The Declaratory Judgment Act (“DJA”) provides: “In a case of actual controversy within
its jurisdiction ... any court of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, may
declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration,
whether or not further relief is or could be sought. Any such declaration shall have the force and
effect of a final judgment or decree and shall be reviewable as such.” 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a).
To determine whether a justiciable controversy exists under the DJA, a court must consider
whether: (1) the parties “have adverse legal interests;” (2) the facts are “sufficiently concrete to
allow for a conclusive legal judgment;” and (3) the judgment would be “useful to the parties.”
Surrick v. Killion, 449 F.3d 520, 527 (3d Cir. 2006); see also Maryland Cas. Co. v. Pac. Coal &
Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273 (1941) (noting that a court must consider “whether the facts alleged,
under all the circumstances, show that there is a substantial controversy, between parties having
adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a
declaratory judgment”); Fed. Kemper Ins. Co. v. Rauscher, 807 F.2d 345, 350 (3d Cir. 1986);
Montagano on behalf of Giano v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., No. CV 16-9375 (MLC), 2017 WL
2918913, at *6–7 (D.N.J. July 7, 2017). Adversity of interest requires a court to find “a
substantial threat of real harm . . . [that] remains real and immediate throughout the course of the
litigation.” Presbytery of N.J. of Orthodox Presbyterian Church v. Florio, 40 F.3d 1454, 1463
(3d Cir. 1994); see also Surrick, 449 F.3d at 527 (noting that the party seeking a declaratory
judgment need not have “suffered a completed harm”). Conclusiveness requires a court to
determine whether “judicial action at the present time would amount to more than an advisory
opinion based on a hypothetical set of facts.” Presbytery, 40 F.3d at 1468; see also Step-Saver
Data Sys., Inc. v. Wyse Tech., 912 F.2d 643, 649 n.9 (3d Cir. 1990) (noting that conclusiveness
looks to “whether the parties’ rights will be definitively decided by a declaratory judgment”).
The “conflict between the parties ... cannot be ‘nebulous or contingent,’” it “‘must have taken on
fixed and final shape so that a court can see what legal issues it is deciding. . . .’” Wyatt, V.I., Inc.
v. Virgin Islands, 385 F.3d 801, 806 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Pub. Serv. Comm’n of Utah v.
Wycoff Co., 344 U.S. 237, 244 (1952)). Usefulness requires a court to look to “whether the
parties’ plans of actions are likely to be affected by a declaratory judgment.” Presbytery, 40
F.3d at 1469 (quoting Step-Saver Data Sys., 912 F.2d at 649 n.9). Because the DJA was enacted
to “clarify legal relationships so that [parties] could make responsible decisions about the
future,” Travelers Ins. Co. v. Obusek, 72 F.3d 1148, 1155 (3d Cir. 1995), courts must determine
“whether a declaratory judgment will affect the parties’ plans of actions by alleviating legal
uncertainty.” Surrick, 449 F.3d at 529.
Here, the parties have clearly adverse legal interests regarding who is responsible for
claims made pursuant to the Centerplan Bonds. Plaintiffs face a substantial monetary harm if
they are obligated to indemnify Arch. As this matter is one of contractual interpretation, this
Court is capable of rendering a conclusive legal judgment as to Plaintiffs’ liability. There is also
no doubt that such a judgment would be useful to the parties, allowing them to clarify the scope
of Plaintiffs’ obligations under the Greenskies GIA and its relationship, if any, to the Centerplan
Bonds. This Court is not persuaded by Defendant’s position that the contract is clear and
unambiguous – there is at least a question as to which parties may be deemed Principals under
the Greenskies GIA and how far their responsibilities under the contract extend. Therefore, the
dispute is ripe for resolution and a declaratory judgment would be appropriate in this matter.
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Count I will be denied.
Count II -- Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
Every contract in New Jersey contains an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
Fields v. Thompson Printing Co., 363 F.3d 259, 270 (3d Cir. 2004). This requires both parties to
refrain from taking actions that “will have the effect of destroying or injuring the right of the
other party to receive the fruits of the contract.” Id. Thus, “[a] party can be held liable for a
breach of the implied covenant even if it has not violated an express term of the contract because
the covenant may fill in the gaps where necessary to give efficacy to the contract as written.”
Jurista v. Amerinox Processing, Inc., 492 B.R. 707, 756 (D.N.J. 2013) (quoting Fields, 363 F.3d
at 271–2) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Freshpair.com, Inc. v. Butlein, No. 17CV-905(SDW)(LDW), 2017 WL 2968395, at *2-3 (D.N.J. July 11, 2017) (discussing the
covenant and its application). Connecticut contracts also include an implied covenant of good
faith and fair dealing with a similar scope and purpose. See, e.g., Renaissance Mgmt. Co. v.
Connecticut Hous. Fin. Auth., 915 A.2d 290, 297-98 (Conn. 2007) (noting that a successful
claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing requires a showing that
the defendant acted in bad faith to “impede the plaintiff’s right to receive benefits that he or she
reasonably expected to receive under the contract”); De La Concha of Hartford, Inc. v. Aetna
Life Ins. Co., 849 A.2d 382, 387-88 (Conn. 2004).
Count Two alleges that “[b]y its strained interpretation of the Greenskies GIA and by
reason of issuing the Demand to Plaintiffs seeking to hold them liable for losses Arch incurs in
connection with the Centerplan Bonds, which liability far exceeds the scope and intent of the
Greenskies GIA, Arch has breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in
connection with the Greenskies GIA,” resulting in Plaintiffs’ harm. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 41-43.)
Plaintiffs’ allegations, however, do little more than indicate a disagreement over contractual
interpretation, and fail to provide with any specificity how Defendant acted in bad faith. Such
conclusory allegations and vague pleading fail to satisfy the requirements of Rule 8(a)(2).
Therefore, this Court will grant Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Count Two of the Amended
Count III – Fraudulent Inducement
Under New Jersey law, the elements required to establish a claim of common law fraud,
fraudulent misrepresentation, and fraudulent inducement are identical: “(1) a material
misrepresentation of a presently existing or past fact; (2) knowledge or belief by the defendant of
its falsity; (3) an intention that the other person rely on it; (4) reasonable reliance thereon by the
other person; and (5) resulting damages.” Banco Popular N. Am. v. Gandi, 876 A.2d 253, 260
(N.J. 2005) (quoting Gennari v. Weichert Co. Realtors, 691 A.2d 350, 367 (N.J. 1997)); see also
Jewish Ctr. of Sussex Cty. v. Whale, 432 A.2d 521, 524 (N.J. 1981). Connecticut law is similar
in scope and purpose. See, e.g., Sturm v. Harb Dev., LLC, 2 A.3d 859, 872 (Conn. 2010); 456
Corp. v. United Natural Foods, Inc., No 09-1983, 2011 WL 87292, at *3 (D. Conn. Jan. 11,
2011). Plaintiffs’ fraud claims must also meet the heightened pleading requirements of Rule
9(b). As currently alleged in the Complaint, however, Plaintiffs have neither articulated a
material misrepresentation of fact made to induce them into signing the Greenskies GIA, nor
identified who made those allegedly false statements or when they made those statements.
Rather, Plaintiffs dispute Defendant’s reading of the Greenskies GIA, specifically the definition
of the term “Principal,” and suggest that because the parties have different understandings of the
contract, Defendant must have intended to defraud them. This is insufficient to plead fraud.
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Count Three of the Amended Complaint will be granted.
Count IV – Violation of New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act
In Count IV of the Complaint, Plaintiffs contend Defendant violated the New Jersey
Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”), N.J.S.A. § 56:8-1, et seq., through its representations and
omissions. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 33-34, 52-57.) In order to sufficiently state a claim for violation of
the CFA, a plaintiff must allege: “1) unlawful conduct by [the] defendant; 2) an ascertainable
loss by [the] plaintiff; and 3) a causal relationship between the unlawful conduct and the
ascertainable loss.” Bosland v. Warnock Dodge, Inc., 964 A.2d 741, 749 (N.J. 2009). With
regard to the first element, that Defendant acted unlawfully, Defendant must have engaged in an
“unlawful practice,” which the CFA defines as:
The act, use or employment by any person of any unconscionable commercial practice,
deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the knowing,
concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact with intent that others rely
upon such concealment, suppression or omission, in connection with the sale or
advertisement of any merchandise ....
N.J.S.A. § 56:8-2. In addition, as a claim sounding in fraud, Plaintiff's CFA claim must satisfy
the heightened pleading standard of Rule 9(b). See F.D.I.C. v. Bathgate II, 27 F.3d 850, 876 (3d
Cir. 1994). Once again, Plaintiffs dispute Defendant’s interpretation of the Greenskies GIA, but
their pleading does not allege sufficiently that Defendant used “unconscionable practices” or
engaged in fraud. Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Count Four of the Amended Complaint will
be granted. 4
In the alternative, Plaintiffs allege a claim for violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”),
which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §
42–110b(a). A plaintiff seeking to state a CUTPA claim must plead “that she (1) suffered an ascertainable loss of
money or property, (2) that was caused by, (3) an unfair method of competition or an unfair or deceptive act in the
conduct of any trade or commerce.” Smith v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 158 F. Supp. 3d 91, 100 (D. Conn.), aff'd,
666 F. App’x 84 (2d Cir. 2016); see also Edwards v. N. Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 120 F. Supp. 3d 132, 140-41 (D.
Conn. Aug. 4, 2015). To determine whether an act or practice is unfair, courts must examine: “(1) [W]hether the
practice, without necessarily having been previously considered unlawful, offends public policy as it has been
established by statutes, the common law, or otherwise—in other words, it is within at least the penumbra of some
common law, statutory, or other established concept of unfairness; (2) whether it is immoral, unethical, oppressive,
or unscrupulous; (3) whether it causes substantial injury to consumers ....” Harris v. Bradley Mem’l Hosp. & Health
Ctr., Inc., 994 A.2d 153, 173 (Conn. 2010); see also Smith, 158 F. Supp. 3d at 100. “A practice may be considered
For the reasons set forth above, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part. Plaintiffs shall be permitted thirty (30) days to file an Amended Complaint.
An appropriate order follows.
___/s/ Susan D. Wigenton_____
SUSAN D. WIGENTON, U.S.D.J.
Leda D. Wettre, U.S.M.J.
unfair if it meets one of the criteria to a great degree or meets multiple criteria to a lesser extent.” Smith, 158 F.
Supp. 3d at 100. Plaintiffs’ CUTPA claim fails to plead unfair competition or deceptive act. Plaintiffs disagree with
Defendant’s reading of the contract they entered into, but that does not on the facts as alleged, rise to the level of an
unfair trade practice. Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Count Five will be granted.
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