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Seamans v. Tramontana

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 22, 2013

Sandra and Fred Seamans, Plaintiffs.
v.
Andrew B. Tramontana, et al. Defendant.

MEMORANDUM [1]

MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.

Presently before this court are the defendants' motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(b)(6), motion for a more definite statement pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(e), and motion to strike pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(f). (Doc. No. 7; Doc. No. 14).

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of a car accident where the plaintiffs, Sandra and Fred Seamans, were rear-ended by a car driven by Defendant Andrew Tramontana. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 18). Tramontana was working for Defendant Universal Technical Institute of Arizona, Inc. (Universal) at the time of the incident, while the car was owned by Defendant EAN Holdings, Inc. (EAN). (Id., ¶12-13).

On July 7, 2011 Defendant Tramontana, while working for Universal, was driving EAN's 2010 Ford Explorer south on Interstate 81 in New Milford, Pennsylvania. (Id., ¶16). The plaintiffs were driving their 2004 Mazda Tribute in front of Tramontana on the same road. (Id., ¶ 17). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant was speeding and following too closely. (Id., 1[30). Tramontana collided with the rear of the plaintiffs' car, causing it to spin out, finally coming to rest off the road to the right of the highway. (Id., 1118). Both plaintiffs suffered various injuries from the accident that require ongoing treatment. (Doc. No. 1).

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case was commenced on March 15, 2013, when the plaintiffs filed a complaint against the defendants. (Doc. No. 1). The complaint alleges nine claims, with three causes of action against each defendant for negligence, loss of consortium, and punitive damages. (Id.). Defendants EAN and Universal jointly filed a motion to strike, a motion for a more definite statement, and a motion to dismiss on April 11, 2013. (Doc. No. 7).[2] They subsequently filed a brief in support of those motions on April 24, 2013. (Doc. No. 9). Defendant Tramontana filed a motion to strike, a motion for a more definite statement, and a motion to dismiss, (Doc. No. 14), [3] along with a brief in support of those motions, on May 28, 2013. (Doc. No. 15). The plaintiffs filed their briefs in opposition to the respective motions on May 8, 2013, (Doc. No. 11), and June 11, 2013. (Doc. No. 17).

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The defendants' motion to dismiss is brought pursuant to the provisions of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). This rule provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. This requirement "calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [necessary elements]" of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. Furthermore, in order to satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, " which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (brackets and quotations marks omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] documents." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002). However, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in determining a motion to dismiss. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).

The defendants cite several cases out of the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas that deal with preliminary objections to claims for punitive damages raised under Pa. R. C. P. 1019(a) and during motions for summary judgment.[4] Pennsylvania "is a fact pleading rather than a notice pleading jurisdiction." Griffin v. Rent-A-Center, 848 A.2d 393, 395 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2004). Unlike Pennsylvania State Courts, federal courts do "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 570. "[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. at 556 (internal quotations omitted).

Rule 12(e) allows the court to order a more definite statement when the pleading is "so vague or ambiguous that the opposing party cannot respond, even with a simple denial, without prejudice to itself." Pozarlink v. Comelback Assoicates, Inc., 2012 WL 760582, *2 (M.D.Pa. March 8, 2012)(citations omitted).

Rule 12(f) allows the court to "strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). This rule gives courts "considerable discretion in disposing of a motion to strike, ... striking information from the pleadings is a drastic remedy to be resorted to only when required for the purposes of justice' and should be used sparingly.' "Scottie v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co., No. 3:10 CV 1538, 2011 WL 616008, at *2 (M.D.Pa. Feb. 11, 2011) (quoting DeLa Cruz v. Piccari Press, 521 F.Supp.2d 424, 428 (E.D.Pa. 2007)). Allegations are scandalous if they "improperly cast[] a derogatory light on someone, most typically on a party to the action. " Zaloga v. Provident Life & Acc. Ins. Co. of America, 671 ...


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