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Josephine Smith v. Marshalls

September 21, 2011

JOSEPHINE SMITH
v.
MARSHALLS, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bartle, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Josephine Smith ("Smith") brings this action against defendants Marshalls and The TJX Companies, Inc. ("TJX") in which she seeks compensatory and punitive damages for personal injuries allegedly suffered while a customer at one of defendants' stores. Before the court is the motion of the defendants to dismiss Counts II and IV of this complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In these counts, Smith alleges recklessness on the part of one of defendants' employees and requests punitive damages against Marshalls and TJX, respectively. The defendants maintain that Smith has not sufficiently pleaded her claims under Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008); Umland v. Planco Fin. Servs., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

In Twombly, the Supreme Court held that Rule 8 encompassed a "facial plausibility" pleading standard. 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Under this standard, a complaint "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. The Twombly Court explained that "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" in order for a case to move past the motion to dismiss stage. Id.

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Court found that Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Instead, a court must conduct a contextual, common-sense analysis to determine whether a complaint states a factually plausible claim. Id. at 1950. There must be more than a "mere possibility" of misconduct. Id.

In light of Twombly and Iqbal, our Court of Appeals has instructed district courts to use a two-part analysis when dealing with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief."

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). If, after conducting this analysis, the district court concludes that the complaint shows "more than the mere possibility of misconduct," the plaintiff will be entitled to proceed with his or her claims. Id. at 211 (citing Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949).

Smith's complaint alleges the following facts about the incident leading to her injuries:

5. Ms. Smith was in the men's department when an employee (Hereafter the "Defendants' Employee") pushing a cart, pushed it into another cart which struck Ms. Smith in her left calf.

6. Ms. Smith hollered and Defendants' Employee pulled the cart back.

7. Defendants' Employee then hit Ms. Smith on her left heel with the cart he was pushing.

8. Ms. Smith tried to brace herself from falling and twisted her ...


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