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Bongiovanni v. State Farm Financial Services

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 16, 2017

Gina Bongiovanni,
State Farm Financial Services, F.S.B.,

          Present: The Honorable MICHAEL W. FITZGERALD, U.S. District Judge



         Before the Court are two motions. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss on April 3, 2017. (Docket No. 13). Plaintiff filed an Opposition and Defendant filed a Reply. (Docket Nos. 15, 20).

         Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand on April 14, 2017. (Docket No. 18). Defendants filed an Opposition and Plaintiffs filed a Reply. (Docket Nos. 22, 25).

         The Court held a hearing on May 15, 2017. For the reasons stated below the Motion to Remand is DENIED and the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED without leave to amend. Plaintiffs' claims against Chris Ward are all time-barred, and his citizenship will not be considered for diversity purposes. Thus, the Court has proper jurisdiction over the claims. In addition, Plaintiffs' claims against all Defendants are time-barred and precluded by collateral estoppel. Accordingly, the Court grants the Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges various claims against Defendants, including fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conspiracy, breach of contract, defamation, and libel, among others, in connection with Defendants' suspension of Plaintiff Gina Bongiovanni's “Letter of Understanding” with Defendants. (Complaint, Docket No. 1-1, ¶ 20). Defendants are various branches of State Farm, including State Farm Financial Services, State Farm Automobile Insurance Company, and others. In addition, Plaintiffs have named Chris Ward, an individual, as a Defendant.

         This is not Plaintiffs' first time asserting these types of claims against these Defendants. In August 2014, Plaintiffs filed suit in Superior Court against Ward and other State Farm defendants alleging the same thirteen causes of action as in this action. (Request for Judicial Notice (Docket No. 14) Ex. 1). The parties refer to that prior case as Bongiovanni I. In November 2014, the Superior Court compelled the entire action to arbitration under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) in accordance with Bongiovanni's and Ward's arbitration agreements. (Id., Exs. 2-4). In January 2015, Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the claims in Bongiovanni I and chose not to arbitrate. (Id., Ex. 5).

         In December 2014, Plaintiffs filed another suit in Superior Court against State Farm Bank and various State Farm employees alleging the same thirteen causes of action. (Id., Exs. 6-7). The parties refer to that prior case as Bongiovanni II. After Bongiovanni II was removed to the Central District, this Court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on August 1, 2016. (Id., Ex. 13). Ward was not a defendant in that case.

         On January 17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed this current action in Superior Court. (Complaint, Docket No. 1-1). The Court agrees with Defendants that the precise nature of Plaintiffs' claims is difficult to understand from the Complaint. Ward is alleged to have told Bongiovanni that State Farm had suspended the Letter of Understanding. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 38). In addition, Ward is alleged to have stated to Bongiovanni that she had a “Department of Insurance Complaint, ” which Bongiovanni alleges was false. (Id. ¶ 42). Plaintiffs seem to allege that the Letter of Understanding was suspended based on Ward's recommendation. (Id. ¶ 78). Ward allegedly concealed or misrepresented the nature of his recommendation, which misled Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶¶ 50, 79).

         Plaintiffs assert that until a recent deposition of Stephanie Hahn, another employee of State Farm, they did not know the involvement of Ward in the decision made against Bongiovanni. (Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand at 1 (“The discrepancy that gave rise to this present lawsuit is stated by Chris Ward (“Ward”) to the Plaintiff in his 4/27/16 Deposition verse the 6/23/16 Deposition of former employee Stephanie Hahn.”)).


         Defendants filed a Request for Judicial Notice. (Docket No. 14).

         As a general rule, a district court may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Skilstaf, Inc. v. CVS Caremark Corp., 669 F.3d 1005, 1016 n.9 (9th Cir. 2012). The Court may, however, take judicial notice of matters of public record outside the pleadings that are not subject to reasonable dispute. Fed.R.Evid. 201(b); W. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Heflin Corp., 797 F.Supp. 790, 792 (N.D. Cal. 1992) (taking judicial notice of documents in a county public record, including deeds of trust). The Ninth Circuit also permits district courts, on a motion to dismiss, “to take into account documents ‘whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the [plaintiff's] pleading.'” Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting In re Silicon Graphics Inc. Sec. Litig., 183 F.3d 970, 986 (9th Cir. 1999)).

         The Court may take judicial notice of court filings and other matters of public record. Reyn's Pasta Bella, LLC v. Visa USA, Inc., 442 F.3d 741, 746 n. 6 (9th Cir. 2006). In addition, the Court may take judicial notice of documents the complaint necessarily relies on. United States v. Corinthian Colleges, 655 F.3d 984, 999 (9th Cir. 2011). A complaint necessarily relies on documents when ““(1) the complaint refers to the document; (2) ...

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