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Tuck v. Calhoun

October 6, 2009

MOIRA TUCK, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF ANDREW G. TUCK, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF
v.
JARRED ALLEN CALHOUN AND KNIGHT TRANSPORTATION, INC., DEFENDANTS/ THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS
v.
NATIONAL FREIGHT, INC.; MARK CUNNINGHAM; LUZERNE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA; AND THE PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is Third-Party Defendant Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's (hereinafter "PennDOT") motion to dismiss the Third-Party Complaint against it pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 28). Having been briefed, this matter is ripe for disposition.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Moira Tuck brings this action for negligence and wrongful death pursuant to 42 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. §§ 8301 and 8302 as the administratrix of the decedent's estate. (Complaint (Doc. 1) at ¶¶ 2, 15-18, 22-25) (hereinafter "Complt."). Plaintiff alleges alleged that on June 12, 2008, Defendant Jarred Allen Calhoun reversed the Peterbilt tractor-trailer he was driving, striking and rolling over the decedent who was stopped behind the trailer on his Buell motorcycle. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 11, 14). Defendant Calhoun apparently was attempting to make a right turn at the intersection of Route 309 and Crestwood Drive in Wright Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania when the accident occurred. (Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Calhoun and his employer Defendant Knight Transportation, Inc. ("Knight Transport") are jointly and severally liable. (Id. at p. 4).

Defendants/Third Party Plaintiffs Calhoun and Knight Transport (hereinafter "Third Party Plaintiffs") filed a third-party complaint against National Freight, Inc., Mark Cunningham, Luzerne County, and PennDOT on February 16, 2009. (Doc. 13). Defendants allege that Route 309 was a road under the jurisdiction, maintenance, and control of PennDOT, and that through a variety of careless and negligent acts, PennDOT caused or contributed to the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. (Third Party Complaint at ¶¶ 14, 36).

On April 3, 2009, PennDOT filed the instant motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). PennDOT argues that the complaint should be dismissed against it because of the sovereign immunity it enjoys as an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 29) at 3).

JURISDICTION

The plaintiff is a citizen of Pennsylvania. (Complt. at ¶ 2). Defendant Calhoun is a citizen of Georgia. (Id. at ¶ 3). Defendant Knight Transport is an Arizona corporation with its principal business address in Phoenix. (Id. at ¶ 4). As such, this court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Regarding the Third-Party Defendant in the instant motion, PennDOT is an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Third Party Complaint at ¶ 9). The substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000), citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of allegations in the complaint is tested. Granting the motion is appropriate if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, the plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," or put another way, "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Third Circuit interprets Twombly to require the plaintiff to describe "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that "justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation." Id. at 234-35 (citation omitted).

The issue is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can fairly be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.1997). However, the court does not have to accept conclusions of law or unwarranted factual inferences. See Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse, 132 F.3d at 906).

When considering a motion to dismiss, a court generally should look only to the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim. See In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents where the ...


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