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Great Northern Ins. Co. v. Iron Mountain Water Servs. Co., Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

September 19, 2019

Great Northern Ins. Co.
v.
Iron Mountain Water Servs. Co., Inc.

          ORDER

          ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Great Northern Insurance Company, as subrogee for its insureds, Michael and Tracy Roberge, filed this lawsuit against Iron Mountain Water Services Company. Great Northern alleges that Iron Mountain negligently operated the water system that provided water service to Great Northern’s insureds’ property, resulting in damage to the insureds’ property.

         The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate judge. Doc. No. 12. Iron Mountain filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 14) the complaint, which contains a sole claim of negligence. Great Northern opposes dismissal. For the reasons that follow, the court construes the motion to dismiss as a motion for judgment on the pleadings and denies it.

         Standard of Review

         A. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Because Iron Mountain filed its answer before filing the motion to dismiss, the motion to dismiss is construed as a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). See e.g., Weeks v. Five Bros. Mortg. Servs. & Securing, Inc., 2014 WL 1379335, at *3 (D.N.H. April 9, 2014).

         When a motion for a judgment on the pleadings is used to attack the plausibility of a complaint, the motion is evaluated under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Diaz-Nieves v. United States, 858 F.3d 678, 689 (1st Cir. 2017); Grajales v. P.R. Ports Auth., 682 F.3d 40, 44 (1st Cir. 2012). Judgment on the pleadings, therefore, is appropriate if the facts from the pleadings, taken in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, fail to allege a plausible entitlement to relief. Perez-Acevedo v. Rivero-Cubano, 520 F.3d 26, 29 (1st Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-58 (2007)). As usual, the court disregards conclusory allegations. Manning v. Boston Med. Ctr. Corp., 725 F.3d 34, 43 (1st Cir. 2013). At bottom, the complaint must allege “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         B. Evidence Attached to Motion to Dismiss

         Because Iron Mountain attached evidence to its motion to dismiss, Great Northern suggests that the court would have to convert the motion into one for summary judgment before ruling on it. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).[1] Iron Mountain contends that this evidence shows that it operated the water system for the insureds’ property pursuant to contracts with a homeowners’ association for the insureds’ neighborhood. As explained below, however, the contracts are irrelevant to the negligence claim before the court. Accordingly, the court need not and does not consider them for purposes of resolving the motion. Therefore, it is not necessary to convert the motion to a summary judgment motion. See id. (requiring conversion to summary judgment only if the material is not excluded by the court).

         Background

         According to Great Northern’s complaint, Iron Mountain “operated the water system providing domestic water service” to a real estate property owned by Great Northern’s insureds. Doc. 1 ¶¶ 6, 9. On July 16, 2017, “there was a spike in the water pressure” at the insureds’ property, which “caused water to discharge” through the insureds’ property. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. As a result of the damage caused by the water discharge, the insureds made a claim to Great Northern, which paid $398, 453.99 to the insureds. Id. ¶¶ 12-14. Great Northern filed this lawsuit against Iron Mountain to recover that amount, accusing it of negligently operating the water system that it says provided service to its insureds’ property and caused the damage to it.

         Discussion

         Iron Mountain argues that it had no “relationship” with the insureds from which a duty to act with reasonable care could arise. As noted above, Iron Mountain attached contracts to its motion that, it asserts, establishes that it provided services to a homeowners’ association for the insureds’ neighborhood. Iron Mountain argues that the insureds cannot rely on the contracts to create a duty of care or relationship between it and the insureds because the insureds were not parties to the contracts.

         In response, Great Northern argues that Iron Mountain’s motion is procedurally improper, a subject which the court has addressed above in discussing the appropriate standard of review. Great Northern further contends that the motion fails on its merits because Iron Mountain had a general common law duty to act ...


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