Does a “Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings” apply to all defendants?

Does a “Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings” apply to all defendants?

QUESTION:


Does a “Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings” (MJP) automatically apply to all defendants, or must each file individual MJP’s?

ANSWER:


When a Motion for judgment on the Pleadings is proper in Massachusetts:
A motion for judgment on the pleadings may only be filed AFTER the pleadings are closed i.e. generally after a complaint and answer have been filed. For purposes of my response I will assume that you (defendant) have filed an answer. Note that a motion for judgment on the pleadings is “designed to cover the rare case where the answer admits all the material allegations of the complaint (or the reply admits all the allegations of the counterclaim) so that no material issue of fact remains for adjudication.”

Massachusetts case law indicates that a motion for judgment on the pleadings will be treated as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim BUT only where a party has failed to timely assert the failure to state a claim defense. A motion for judgment on the pleadings is a fail-safe for parties who fail to plead failure to state a claim as an affirmative defense. Moreover, if “on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment.” Thus, the plain text of the relevant procedural rule (12(c)) allows for a party to easily and possibly inadvertently, trigger a summery judgment standard of review (i.e. that no material facts are in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law).

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is usually the better procedural mechanism to dispose of a case that fails to allege facts that could give rise to a claim for relief. Answer to question: Each defendant must file their own motion. A motion is only applied to and allowed for the moving party (i.e. the party who filed the motion). Note that the court can act sua sponte (i.e. act on its own motion) in certain limited situations. Example: Defendant B files a motion to dismiss. Defendant C does not file a motion to dismiss. The court allows the motion. Defendant B is dismissed from the case. Defendant C remains a defendant in the case.

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