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Wylie v. Brookdale Senior Living, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 18, 2019

ANITA WYLIE, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff Anita Wylie's (“Wylie”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment under Rule 56 (Filing No. 12). After a longstanding dispute regarding financial obligations owed on real property that she acquired following her mothers death, Wylie filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Actual Compensatory and Punitive Damages. (Filing No. 1-1 at 5.) She asserts claims against Defendants Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. and Robin Run Retirement Village[1] (“Robin Run”) (collectively, “Brookdale”) for “Restraint of Plaintiff's Property Rights, ” intentional infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages. Soon after Brookdale answered Wylie's Complaint, Wylie filed the instant Motion seeking judgment on the pleadings or alternatively summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court denies Wylie's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required when reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court accepts as true the factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of Brookdale as the non-moving party. See Emergency Servs. Billing Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 668 F.3d 459, 464 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Robin Run is a senior living retirement community located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Wylie resides at 5408 Unity Trail, which is within the Robin Run retirement community (Filing No. 1-1 at 5; Filing No. 9 at 1-2). Wylie's residence was previously owned in fee simple by her mother. Following her mother's death in 2011, the deed to the residence was transferred from Wylie's mother to Wylie (Filing No. 1-1 at 5-6, 19-21). Transfer of the deed was subject to a First Amended and Restated Indenture of Restrictions of Robin Run Village (“Indenture of Restrictions”) and an Amendment to and Spreader of Indenture of Restrictions of Robin Run Village (“Amendment to Indenture”) (Filing No. 1-1 at 19, 23; Filing No. 9 at 13; Filing No. 9-1; Filing No. 9-2).

         Under the terms of the Indenture of Restrictions, Robin Run assessed and charged a monthly fee against the owner of 5408 Unity Trail (Filing No. 9 at 13; Filing No. 9-1). The Indenture of Restrictions allowed Robin Run to charge the monthly service fee whether or not the property was occupied or leased (Filing No. 9-1 at 15). The Indenture of Restrictions was applied to “[a]ll persons, firms, corporations, or other entities who now or shall hereafter acquire any interest in any portion of the Property.” Id. at 8. Wylie knew there was a fee associated with owning the residence in Robin Run (Filing No. 12 at 2), and she understood that Robin Run assessed a monthly fee even when a home was empty (Filing No. 1-1 at 6).

         At the time that the deed to the residence at 5408 Unity Trail was transferred to her from her mother, Wylie already owned a condominium in Indianapolis, so she attempted to sell the residence at Robin Run. Id. She contacted Robin Run to ask whether it was interested in acquiring the residence, but it was not interested. As of August 2011, the residence sat vacant and was then on the market for approximately one year. Id. at 7. Wylie could not afford to make payments on both her condominium and the Robin Run residence, so she stopped making payments to Robin Run. Wylie eventually moved into the Robin Run residence in August 2012 and tried to rent out or sell her condominium. Id. at 7-8. Robin Run continued to assess the monthly fee and send invoices to Wylie based on her ownership of the residence; however, Wylie did not pay the monthly invoices from November 2011 through January 2014 or after January 2015 (Filing No. 9 at 14).

         Because she was unable to sell the Robin Run residence and she faced a growing outstanding monthly service fee, Wylie initiated this lawsuit on October 23, 2018, in the Marion Superior Court. The Complaint asserts claims against Brookdale for “Restraint of Plaintiff's Property Rights, ” intentional infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages (Filing No. 1-1 at 5-18). Brookdale removed the case from state court to this Court on November 21, 2018, based on federal diversity jurisdiction (Filing No. 1). On January 2, 2019, Brookdale filed an Amended Answer and Counterclaim (Filing No. 9). Brookdale's Counterclaim asserts a claim against Wylie for breach of contract (the Indenture of Restrictions) based on Wylie's failure to pay the monthly service fee. Id. at 12-14. On February 25, 2019, without first filing a responsive pleading to Brookdale's Counterclaim, Wylie filed the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 12). On March 29, 2019 Wylie filed a one page untitled document which has been docketed as “Response to Counterclaim” (Filing No. 20.)


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment after the parties have filed a complaint and an answer, and the pleadings are closed. Rule 12(c) motions are analyzed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp., 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007); Frey v. Bank One, 91 F.3d 45, 46 (7th Cir. 1996). The complaint must allege facts that are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, mere “labels, ” “conclusions, ” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Id. Stated differently, the complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must allow “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).

         Like a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court will grant a Rule 12(c) motion only if “it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim for relief.” N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of S. Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Craigs, Inc. v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 12 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir. 1993)). The factual allegations in the complaint are viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party; however, the court is “not obliged to ignore any facts set forth in the complaint that undermine the plaintiff's claim or to assign any weight to unsupported conclusions of law.” Id. (quoting R.J.R. Serv., Inc. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 895 F.2d 279, 281 (7th Cir. 1989)). “As the title of the rule implies, Rule 12(c) permits a judgment based on the pleadings alone. . . . The pleadings include the complaint, the answer, and any written instruments attached as exhibits.” Id. (internal citations omitted).

Where the plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings, the motion should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the non-moving party cannot prove facts sufficient to support its position. Judgment may be granted on the pleadings only if all material allegations of fact are admitted or not controverted in the pleadings and only questions of law remain to be decided by the district court.

Maloy v. Stucky, Lauer & Young, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58084, at *4 (N.D. Ind. Apr. 5, 2018) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         Wiley is proceeding pro se. A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a prose complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. ...

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