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Jill Sikkelee, Individually and As Personal Representative of the Estate of David Sikkelee, Deceased v. Precision Airmotive Corporation

April 8, 2011

JILL SIKKELEE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF DAVID SIKKELEE, DECEASED,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRECISION AIRMOTIVE CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court in this wrongful death/survival action are three Motions to Dismiss: Defendant Avco Corporation's, on behalf of its Lycoming Engines Divison, Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and Motion to Strike Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) (Doc. 165); Defendants Precision Airmotive Corporation, Precision Airmotive LLC, Burns International Services Corporation, Former Fuel Systems, Inc., Mark IV Industries, Inc., Precision Aerospace Corporation, Precision Aerospace Services LLC, Precision Aviation Products Corporation, Precision Products LLC, and Zenith Fuel Systems LLC's*fn1 Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and Motion to Strike Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) (Doc. 167) (the remaining moving Defendants will be collectively referred to as "Precision Defendants"); and Defendants Kelly Aerospace, Inc., Kelly Aerospace Power Systems, Inc., and Consolidated Fuel Systems, Inc.'s*fn2 Motion to Dismiss (collectively, the "Kelly Defendants") (Doc. 175). For the purposes of convenience, we will address each Motion in this Memorandum and Order.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff initiated this action on May 16, 2007 with the filing of a Complaint and asserted claims related to an aircraft accident that resulted in the death of her husband, David Sikkelee ("the decedent"). (Doc. 1). Individually and as personal representative of David Sikkelee's estate, Plaintiff named the above-named Defendants. In the 103-page Complaint, Plaintiff asserted five causes of action against the moving Defendants - strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, misrepresentation, and concert of action - related to the manufacture of a carburetor that Plaintiff alleges malfunctioned. On July 25, 2007, Defendants answered Plaintiff's Complaint. On March 13, 2008, all Defendants jointly moved to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, and we denied that motion. (Doc. 85.)

Several Defendants filed, or eventually joined, a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on March 17, 2009*fn3 (Doc. 107). The Court granted in part and denied in part the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Construing Third Circuit precedent and this Court's previous opinions, we found that the field of aviation safety is preempted by federal law and regulation. Therefore, we dismissed Plaintiff's claims that were based upon alleged violations of state common-law standards of care, but noted that state common-law remedies are still available if the Plaintiff could properly assert alleged violations of federal standards of care necessary to support those claims. To that end, we granted Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint and properly plead said standards.

Plaintiff filed the 155-page Amended Complaint on August 31, 2010. (Doc. 160.) Avco, the Precision Defendants, Textron, and the Kelly Defendants subsequently filed the above-mentioned Motions to Dismiss. Pursuant to a Stipulation of Dismissal, Textron was terminated from the action on November 2, 2010 (Doc. 184) and their pending Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 166) was accordingly terminated. All pending Motions (Docs. 165, 167, 175) have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Motion to Dismiss*fn4

In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). In resolving a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally should consider only the allegations in the complaint, as well as "documents that are attached to or submitted with the complaint, . . . and any matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, "in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, ---, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 235 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Accordingly, to satisfy the plausibility standard, the complaint must indicate that defendant's liability is more than "a sheer possibility." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. At 1949. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Under the two-pronged approach articulated in Twombly and later formalized in Iqbal, a district court must first identify all factual allegations that constitute nothing more than "legal conclusions" or "naked assertions." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Such allegations are "not entitled to the assumption of truth" and must be disregarded for purposes of resolving a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. Next, the district court must identify "the 'nub' of the . . . complaint -- the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]." Id. Taking these allegations as true, the district judge must then determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. See id.

However, "a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231 (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1964-65, 1969 n.8). Rule 8 "does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Id. at 234.

B. Motion to Strike

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), a "court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(f). "The purpose of a motion to strike is to clean up the pleadings, streamline litigation, and avoid unnecessary forays into immaterial matters." Natale v. Winthrop Resources Corp., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54358, 2008 WL 2758238 (E.D. Pa. July 9, 2008). Relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) is generally disfavored, and will be denied unless the allegations "have ...


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