COLUMBUS LTACH MANAGEMENT, LLC v. QUANTUM LTACH HOLDINGS, LLC et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge John Michael Vazquez on 5/19/17. (sr, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
COLUMBUS LTACH MANAGEMENT, LLC
& COLUMBUS LTACH, LLC,
Civil Action No. 16-6510
QUANTUM LTACH HOLDINGS, LLC &
QUANTUM INTERNATIONAL INCOME
John Michael Vazguez, U.S.D.J.
This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Quantum International Income Corp.’s
(“Quantum Income”) motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). D.E.
3. Plaintiffs Columbus LTACH Management, LLC (“Columbus Management”) and Columbus
LTACH, LLC (“Columbus”) filed a brief in opposition to which Defendant replied. D.E. 4, 5.
Defendant Quantum LTACH Holdings, LLC (“Quantum Holdings”) did not participate in this
motion. The Court reviewed the submissions in support and in opposition, and considered the
motion without oral argument pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b) and L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the
reasons stated below, Defendant’s motion is GRANTED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Columbus is a long-term acute care hospital in New Jersey and Columbus Management
“owns all of the issued and outstanding membership interest and financial interest in [Columbus].”
Membership Interest Purchase Agreement (“MIPA”) at 1 (D.E. 1-2, 1-3); Compl. at 1. On June 9,
2015, Columbus, Columbus Management, and Quantum Holdings executed the MIPA, through
which Columbus Management agreed to sell Columbus to Quantum Holdings. See generally
MIPA. Quantum Income is not a signatory or party to the MIPA.’ The MIPA included a dispute
resolution clause stating that “[amy controversy, dispute, or disagreement arising out of or relating
to this Agreement, or the breach thereof, shall be settled exclusively by binding arbitration.” Id.
11.9. The dispute resolution clause also set forth specific terms and guidelines for arbitration. Id.
“Afier the plaintiffs2 were unable to deliver the purchase price at closing,” Plaintiffs filed
a demand for arbitration. Compl. ¶ 8. Defendants did not respond to Plaintiffs’ demand. Id.
As a result, Plaintiffs filed a twelve-paragraph Complaint in New Jersey state court on August 31,
2016, seeking to compel Defendants to arbitrate “in accordance with the terms of the MIPA.” Id.
at 3. Plaintiffs only seek to compel arbitration; the Complaint does not ask for any other form of
relief. See id.
In the Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants collectively negotiated and entered into
the MIPA. Compl.
¶J 3, 5. Plaintiffs also included a copy of the MIPA as an exhibit to the
¶ 4, Ex. A. On October
5, 2016, Quantum Income removed this matter to the
District of New Jersey (D.E. 1) and filed this motion to dismiss on November 3, 2016 (D.E. 3). In
its motion, Quantum Income argues that it did not participate in the underlying transaction and is
not a party to the MIPA. As a result, according to Quantum Income, it cannot be compelled to
Non-party Richard Lipsky, M.D., the controlling owner of Columbus, is also a party to the MIPA
and a signatory. MIPA at 1, 49. Dr. Lipsky’s involvement in the transaction appears to be
immaterial to this motion.
The Court assumes that “plaintiffs” should have actually been “defendants.”
arbitrate this dispute and should be dismissed from the suit.
See generally Del’s Br., D.E. 3-1.
MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD
For a complaint to survive dismissal under Rule 1 2(b)(6), it must contain sufficient factual
matter to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 67$ (2009)
(quoting Bell Ati. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible
“when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Further, a plaintiff must “allege
sufficient facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will uncover proof of her claims.”
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., $09 F.3d 720, 789 (3d Cir. 2016). In evaluating the sufficiency of
a complaint, district courts must separate the factual and legal elements. Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-21 1 (3d Cir. 2009). Restatements of the elements of a claim are
legal conclusions, and therefore, not entitled to a presumption of truth. Burtch v. Mulberg Factors,
Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 224 (3d Cir. 2011). The Court, however, “must accept all of the complaint’s
well-pleaded facts as true.” Fowler, 57$ F.3d at 210. Even if plausibly pled, however, a complaint
will not withstand a motion to dismiss if the facts alleged do not state “a legally cognizable cause
of action.” Turner v. JP. Morgan Chase & Co., No. 14-7148, 2015 WL 12826480, at *2 (D.N.J.
Jan. 23, 2015).
Courts generally only consider the factual allegations contained in a complaint. A court
can also consider exhibits attached to the complaint and undisputedly authentic documents
provided by the defendant, if the claims are based on that document. See Pension Benefit Guar.
Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Because Plaintiffs
attached the MIPA as an exhibit to their Complaint (Compl.
4), the Court will consider the
document in deciding this motion.
MOTION TO DISMISS ANALYSIS
The Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”) “creates a body of federal substantive law
establishing and regulating the duty to honor an agreement to arbitrate..
F. Supp. 3d
Sing/i v. Uber Techs.
2017 WL 396545, at *3 (D.N.J. Jan. 30, 2017) (quoting Harris v. Green
Tree fin. Corp., 183 F.3d 173, 179 (3d Cir. 1999)). The FAA governs any “agreement to arbitrate
in a matter that is ‘within Congress’ power to reach under the Commerce Clause.” Barbour v.
CIGNA Healthcare of N.J. Inc., No. 02-417, 2003 WL 21026710, at *3 (D.N.J. Mar. 3, 2003)
(quoting Roadway Package Svs., Inc. v. Kayser, 257 F.3d 287, 292 (3d Cir. 2001)); see also 9
§ 2 (pursuant to the FAA, “[a] written provision in any.
contract evidencing a transaction
involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract.
shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable
In this instance, the FAA applies to this
dispute, as both parties assert, because the MIPA governed the terms of an interstate business
transaction between Plaintiffs, two New Jersey entities, (Compl. at 1), and Quantum Holdings, a
Delaware corporation (see MIPA
Under the FAA, a court may “stay federal court proceedings in any matter referable to
compel arbitration if one party has failed to comply with an agreement to
arbitrate.” Sing/i, 2017 WL 396545, at *3 (quoting 9 U.S.C. §sS 2-4). Courts apply a two-step
process to determine whether a party may be compelled to arbitrate under the FAA. A court must
consider “(1) whether there is a valid agreement to arbitrate between the parties and, if so, (2)
whether the merits-based dispute in question falls within the scope of that valid agreement.”3
Courts generally apply a strong presumption in favor of enforcing arbitration agreements. This
presumption “does not extend, however, to non-signatories to an agreement; it applies only when
ftintkote Co. v. Avñ’a PLC, 769 F.3d 215, 220 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Centttrv Inc/em. Co. v.
Certain Unden4’riters atLloyd ‘s, London, 584 F.3d 513, 527 (3d Cir. 2009)). In addition, the FAA
instructs courts “to refer to principles of applicable state law when determining the existence and
scope of an agreement to arbitrate.” Trippe Mfg. Co. v. Niles Audio Corp., 401 F.3d 529, 532 (3d
Plaintiffs contend that at the motion to dismiss stage, the Court must take the allegations
in the Complaint as tnte. Because the Complaint alleges that the parties, including Quantum
Income, collectively entered into the MIPA, Plaintiffs argue that the Court must review these facts,
and not look at the operative contract (here, the MIPA), when determining whether to dismiss
Quantum Income as a party. Plfs’ Br. at 4, 7, D.E. 4. Plaintiffs, however, included the MIPA as
an attachment to the Complaint. See Compl.
Despite the factual allegations in the Complaint,
it is clear from the MIPA that Quantum Income is not a signatory or party to that contract. See
generally MIPA. “Where there is a disparity between a written instrument annexed to a pleading
and an allegation in the pleading based thereon, the written instrument will control.” ALA, Inc. v.
CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 n.8 (3d Cir. 1994). As a result, the Court will look to the MIPA,
rather than the allegations in the Complaint, in analyzing this motion to dismiss.
As discussed, the MIPA only involves Plaintiffs and Quantum Holdings. See MIPA.
Arbitration is strictly a matter of contract. Therefore, in most cases “[ijf a party has not agreed to
arbitrate, the courts have no authority to mandate that he do so.” ftintkote Co., 769 F.3d at 220
(quoting Bel-Ray Co., Inc. v. Chemrite (Pty) Ltd., 181 F.3d 435, 444 (3d Cir. 1999)). Because
Quantum Income is not a party to the MIPA, the Court cannot compel Quantum Income to
both parties have consented to and are bound by the arbitration clause.” Griswold v. c’oventiy
First LLC, 762 F.3d 264, 271 (3d Cir. 2014).
participate in any arbitration.
Plaintiffs maintain that Quantum Income should be compelled to arbitrate based on the
theories of equitable estoppel, waiver, alter ego, and/or piercing the corporate veil. See, e.g., Plfs’
Br. at 10. A signatory to an arbitration agreement may compel a non-signatory to arbitrate “under
traditional principles of contract and agency law.” E.I. DuPont de Nernours & Co. v. Rhone
Pottlenc fiber & Resin Intermediates, S.A.$., 269 f.3d 187, 194-95 (3d Cir. 2001). Each of the
theories that Plaintiffs argue provide a basis to compel Quantum Income to arbitrate are recognized
as proper means to compel arbitration over a non-signatory. Id. at 195. But in this instance,
Plaintiffs fail to plead any facts by which the Court can conclude that Quantum Income must
arbitrate the dispute at issue. Critically, Plaintiffs’ twelve-paragraph Complaint fails to plead key
facts, for example, that Quantum Income was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Quantum Holdings,
which would be integral to any decision compelling arbitration under contract or agency law.
Plaintiffs further argue that “paragraphs referring to the ‘parties” in the Complaint, were pled to
include Quantum Income pursuant to “theories of estoppel. waiver, piercing the corporate veil,
and alter ego.” Plfs’ Br. at 9. The Complaint, however, does not even mention any of these terms
and is utterly devoid of any facts to support this argument or give Defendants notice of Plaintiffs’
In their brief, Plaintiffs contend that Quantum Income is a wholly-owned subsidiary of
Quantum Holdings that was formed to consummate the underlying transaction. Further, Plaintiffs
maintain that Quantum Income was contracting on Quantum Holdings’ behalf and that the two
entities were interchangeable during negotiations. Plfs’ Br. at 9. But Plaintiffs cannot amend their
Complaint through a brief. Commonwealth ofPa. ex rel. Zimmerman v. PepsiCo, Inc., $36 F.2d
173, 181 (3d Cir. 198$) (“It is axiomatic that the complaint may not be amended by the briefs in
opposition to a motion to dismiss.”) (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101,
1107 (7th Cir.1984)). Moreover, Plaintiffs also state that they need to “flesh out the details of the
estoppel, agency, or alter ego theories,” (Plfs’ Br. at 10), essentially conceding that they do not
have sufficient facts to support such an argument. Plaintiffs simply fail to provide the Court with
any legitimate basis upon which it could compel Quantum Income to arbitrate this dispute.
Plaintiffs also argue that in determining whether to dismiss the Complaint as to Quantum
Income, the Court must “focus exclusively on the arbitration provision, rather than on the contract
as a whole,” citing to South Jersey Sanitation Company, Inc. v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk
Assurance Company, Inc., 840 F.3d 138 (3d Cir. 2016), for support. Plfs’ Br. at 4. In South Jersey,
the Third Circuit stated that under the FAA a federal court should only consider challenges to the
arbitration provision. “If the challenge encompasses the contract as a whole, the validity of that
contract, like all other disputes arising under the contract, is a matter for the arbitrator to decide.”
840 f.3d at 143. South Jersey, however, is not applicable to this matter because there, the movant
did not dispute that it was a party to the contract at issue. Instead, South Jersey Sanitation sought
to avoid arbitration by having the entire contract declared invalid. Id. at 140-41. This is a critical
difference from the facts at hand. Here, Quantum Income is not arguing that the MIPA or even
the arbitration clause is invalid; rather, it simply maintains that it is not a party to the contract. As
noted, in determining whether the parties are compelled to arbitrate, the Court must first determine
“whether there is a valid agreement to arbitrate between the parties[.]” flintkote Co., 769 F.3d at
220 (emphasis added).
In sum, Quantum Income is not a party to the MIPA; therefore, the Court lacks any factual
Because Plaintiffs’ sole purpose in this case is
basis to compel Quantum Income to arbitration.
to compel arbitration, Quantum Income’s motion to dismiss is granted.
REQUEST TO STAY THE PROCEEDINGS
In the alternative, Plaintiffs ask that the Court stay the matter as to Quantum Income. Plfs’
Br. at 12. Pursuant to Section 3 of the FAA, a Court may stay a proceeding until arbitration is
complete. 9 U.S.C.
§ 3. The classic situation in which a stay under Section 3 is appropriate is
when the case involves a claim that is subject to arbitration and other claims that are not. In those
situations, a court may stay the entire the case while the arbitrable issue is resolved. See Mendez
v. Puerto Rican Int’l Cos., Inc., 553 F.3d 709, 712 (3d Cir. 2009). Section 3 cannot “reasonably
be read to resolve issues presented in situations involving a party who has not committed itself to
arbitrate any issue before the court
[and] was not intended to mandate curtailment of the
litigation rights of anyone who has not agreed to arbitrate.” Id. As a result, the Court will not stay
this matter as to Quantum Income while the other parties arbitrate the underlying dispute.
The Court will also not stay this matter for a more fundamental reason
a stay would serve
no purpose. This case exists solely to compel arbitration for the alleged breach of the MIPA; there
is no other relief sought. Thus, after deciding the issue concerning whether Quantum Holdings is
compelled to arbitrate, there is nothing for the Court to stay. Consequently, Plaintiffs’ request to
stay this matter is denied.
For the reasons set forth above, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss [D.E. 3] is GRANTED.
The Complaint, therefore, is dismissed as to Defendant Quantum International Income Corp. The
dismissal, however, is without prejudice to allow Plaintiffs an opportunity to file an amended
Plaintiffs have thirty (30) days to file an amended complaint, if they so choose,
consistent with this Opinion. If Plaintiffs fail to file an amended complaint, the dismissal as to
Defendant Quantum International Income Corp. will be with prejudice. An appropriate Order
accompanies this opinion.
Dated: May 19, 2017
John Michael Vazqz, .S.D.J.
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