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Suchittra Daly v. New Century Trans

September 14, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Magistrate Judge Carlson)



Pending before the Court is Defendant Harmail Singh's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint in this case. The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition, and will be granted in part and denied in part.


On or about November 1, 2011, Suchittra Daly and her son, Peter Sripramot, filed suit against New Century Transportation, Inc. ("New Century"), A&J Express, Inc. ("A&J"), Avon Truck Lines, LLC ("Avon"), and an individual named Harmail Singh ("Singh"), alleging that Defendants were liable for injuries Sripramot and Daly claim to have suffered during an early morning motor vehicle accident on June 29, 2011, on State Route 422. On December 9, 2011, Singh moved to sever the claims brought by Sripramot and Daly, and the Court granted the motion. On April 24, 2012, Daly filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 28.)

In the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on the day of the accident, Harmail Singh was operating a commercial semi-trailer truck that was owned by one or more of New Century, A&J, and Avon.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff claims that Singh was operating the tractor trailer in a negligent or reckless fashion, and that Singh collided with a vehicle which Plaintiff was driving after Singh carelessly or recklessly veered from the eastbound shoulder of State Route 422 into the westbound traffic while traveling at approximately five miles per hour, striking the front right side of the vehicle Plaintiff was driving. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 12.) Plaintiff claims to have suffered severe injuries as a result of the accident. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff also claims that after the accident, Singh was issued a criminal citation for violating the minimum speed limit, and that Singh admitted he had fallen asleep at the wheel. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.)

Plaintiff has brought claims against all Defendantsfor "negligence, gross negligence, and/or recklessness" (Id., Count I), negligence per se (Id., Count II), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Id., Count III), and negligent infliction of emotional distress (Id., Count IV). Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered physical and mental injuries as a result of Defendants' intentional or negligent conduct, and he seeks compensatory and punitive damages, expenses, fees, and costs in this litigation.

Defendant Harmail Singh has moved to dismiss the amended complaint.*fn2 (Doc. 28.) In the motion, Singh asserts that Plaintiff's claim for "gross negligence" should be dismissed because Pennsylvania law does not recognize such a cause of action. Singh also moves to dismiss what he construes as a separate claim for respondeat superior liability against A&J and Avon. Next Singh claims that Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim for either intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress as a matter of law. Lastly, Singh moves to dismiss what he describes as a "separate and independent claim for punitive damages." (Doc. 29, at 17.) Singh has identified Plaintiff's demand for punitive damages as a standalone claim set forth as "Count V" of the amended complaint, but review of that pleading shows that no such independent claim has been pled, and that Plaintiff has included only four counts in her amended complaint.*fn3

Plaintiff has filed a brief in opposition to the motion (Doc. 30.), and Singh declined to file a reply brief in further support of the motion. While the motion was pending, the parties consented to proceed before the undersigned judicial officer. (Doc. 32.) The motion is, therefore, fully briefed and is ripe for disposition by this Court. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a complaint should be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (12007) continuing with our opinion in Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008) and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal --U.S.--, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009).

In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the complaint are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally a court need not "assume that a ... plaintiff can prove facts that the ... plaintiff has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), in order to state a valid cause of action a plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. In keeping with the principles of Twombly, the Supreme Court recently underscored that a trial court must assess whether a complaint states facts upon which relief can be granted when ruling on a motion to dismiss. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court should "begin by identifying ...

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