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Court Reaffirms that Motions to Dismiss Must Be Based on Information Expressly Included in the Complaint

February 14, 2013
 Western Michigan Federal Courts

In Mahindra Forgings Ltd. v. Bentler Automotive Corp., 1:12-cv-991 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 1, 2013)(Bell, J.), Bentler moved to dismiss an amended complaint based on expiration of the statute of limitations. Bentler's argument was that because the complaint generally referenced e-mails exchanged between the parties, the substance of those e-mails became part of the complaint for purposes of deciding a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Bentler asserted that those e-mails demonstrated that Mahindra's complaint was time-barred.

Judge Bell rejected Bentler's argument, holding that a document referred to in the complaint only becomes incorporated with the complaint for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion if that document is "central to the plaintiff's claim." Op. at 4 (quotation omitted). The court noted that "it is the document itself that must be referred to in the complaint and which must be central to the complaint." Id. The court found that Mahindra's complaint only made tangential references to the e-mails on which Bentler sought to rely. The court concluded that accepting Bentler's argument would open the door to consideration of all manners of outside evidence, which is improper on a motion to dismiss. The court did note that Bentler was free to raise the issue again at the summary judgment stage.

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