United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on “Defendant Select
Portfolio Servicing, Inc.'s Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings and Incorporated Memorandum of Law.” (Doc.
10). Plaintiff Valerie Williams sued Defendant SPS, the
company that services her mortgage,  and Defendant Robert Dawson,
a contractor, following a fire that destroyed much of her
house. (Doc. 1-1). Ms. Williams asserts four claims: (1)
breach of contract against SPS for withholding her insurance
funds to rebuild her house; (2) conversion of the insurance
funds against SPS; (3) conversion of the insurance funds
against Mr. Dawson; and (4) breach of duty by various unknown
motion, SPS raises two grounds for judgment on the pleadings:
(1) Ms. Williams does not plausibly state a claim for breach
of contract, and (2) Ms. Williams's conversion claim
fails as a matter of law. (Doc. 10). On March 7, 2019, Ms.
Williams filed her response in opposition to the motion for
judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. 13). On March 14, 2019, SPS
filed its reply brief. (Doc. 14). The motion is now ripe for
reasons stated below, the court will GRANT SPS's motion
for judgment on the pleadings against Ms. Williams in its
Williams owned a house on Westchester Avenue in Bessemer,
Alabama. Ms. Williams had home insurance and a mortgage. At
some point more than a year ago, the house was heavily
damaged by fire.
the fire, Ms. Williams called her home insurance provider to
file a claim. The insurer determined that the cost to be paid
was $154, 000.00. The insurer paid that amount to SPS, which
was the company servicing Ms. Williams's mortgage.
According to the complaint, SPS retained these funds, but
agreed to release funds to Ms. Williams to pay for the
necessary repairs to her house.
Williams hired Mr. Dawson to complete the repairs on her
home. Mr. Dawson made certain draws against the funds,
totaling a payment of $64, 000.00. Ms. Williams alleges that
Mr. Dawson “failed or refused to do the work in a good
and workmanlike manner and according to the instructions and
desires of the Plaintiff to rebuild a home similar and of
[the] same quality [as] the one that was damaged by the
fire.” (Doc. 1-1 at 8). After six months of work, Mr.
Dawson allegedly had completed only 10% of the work. Ms.
Williams confronted Mr. Dawson about his lack of performance
and quality, at which point he announced he was leaving.
Ms. Williams has attempted to hire additional contractors to
complete the work, and after obtaining additional
contractors, has requested that SPS release her funds. But,
“for more than five straight months, [SPS] has failed
or refused to release the funds for reasons that are now
unknown and unexplained.” (Doc. 1-1 at 9). SPS asserts
that Ms. Williams sought to receive the full balance of the
insurance funds, instead of as progress payments as the work
is completed. SPS contends that it has not released the funds
to Ms. Williams because (1) she failed to provide a contract
cancellation notice signed by Mr. Dawson, and (2) Mr. Dawson
informed SPS that he was owed additional payment for the work
he performed. (Doc. 10 at 3).
result of her inability to restore her house, Ms. Williams
has been without her home for a year, and her insurance will
not continue to cover her temporary room and board expenses.
Williams filed this suit on July 31, 2018 in the Circuit
Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. She alleges four counts
against Defendants. Count One alleges breach of contract
against SPS for “holding funds wrongfully and contrary
to their obligation under the contractual language between
the parties and under their contractual obligation to
exercise the contract and interpret the same in good
faith.” (Doc. 1-1 at 9). Count Two alleges conversion
by SPS of the funds allegedly owed to Ms. Williams from the
insurance company. Count Three alleges conversion against Mr.
Dawson regarding the $64, 000 he collected from SPS. Count
Four alleges that “certain unknown Defendants”
have “participated in the above breaches of duty to the
Plaintiff and/or have conspired with one or more of the
Defendants to cause the harm occasioned thereby.”
removed this action to federal court on September 18, 2018.
(Doc. 1). SPS filed this motion for judgment on the pleadings
as to the two counts asserted against it on February 21,
2019. (Doc. 10). Ms. Williams has not yet successfully served
process on Mr. Dawson.
Standard of Review
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party
to move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are
closed, but early enough to not delay trial. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). A judgment on the pleadings is
appropriate “when there are no material facts in
dispute, and judgment may be rendered by considering the
substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed
facts.” Horsley v. Rivera, 292 F.3d 695, 700
(11th Cir. 2002). To determine whether the movant is entitled
to a judgment on the pleadings, the court should
“accept as true all material facts alleged in the