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Clarke v. Sabre Manufacturing, LLC

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 12, 2013

GEORGE CLARKE and TINA M. CLARKE, Plaintiffs,
v.
SABRE MANUFACTURING, LLC, JOMAR INVESTMENTS, INC. t/a NEW LIFE TRANSPORT PARTS CENTER, INC., and ADLER TANK RENTALS, LLC, Defendants,
v.
TEAM SERVICES, LLC, KIMBER TYSON, and ABILITIES EDUCATION TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Third-party Defendants,
v.
BERT KLAPEC, INC., Third-party Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss of defendant Team Services, LLC (ECF No. 47) is granted in part and denied in part; the motion to dismiss of Abilities Education Technologies, Inc. (ECF No. 60) is granted in part and denied in part; and the motion to dismiss of Bert Klapec, Inc. (ECF No. 73) is denied as moot.

I. General Background

On July 10, 2012, plaintiffs George and Tina Clarke filed a second amended complaint against defendants Sabre Manufacturing, LLC (hereinafter, "Sabre"), Adler Tank Rentals, LLC (hereinafter "Adler"), and Jomar Investments, Inc. t/a New Life Transport Parts Center, Inc. (hereinafter, "Jomar"). In short, the complaint alleges that George Clarke was grievously injured on July 9, 2011 when the hydraulic fracturing trailer that he was preparing for transport "suddenly and without warning began to move backwards towards [him] and pinned [him] between the trailer and a concrete wall." (2d Am. Compl., ECF No. 38 ¶ 19 (hereinafter, "2d Am. Compl.")). Sabre allegedly "designed, manufactured, marketed and/or sold" the trailer; Adler allegedly "sold and/or leased" it; and Jomar allegedly "designed, manufactured, marketed and/or sold" the trailer's braking system and axle and wheel assembly. (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16).

George Clarke asserted three claims each against Sabre, Adler, and Jomar (negligence, strict products liability, and breach of warranty), all premised on the notion that these defendants were responsible for the unreasonably dangerous, substandard, and defective design and manufacture of the trailer. Tina Clarke asserted one claim each against Sabre, Adler, and Jomar for loss of consortium.

On September 20, 2012, Sabre filed a third-party complaint against Team Services, LLC (hereinafter, "Team Services"), Kimber Tyson (hereinafter, "Tyson"), and Abilities Education Technologies, Inc. (hereinafter, "AET") (collectively, the "third-party defendants"). In short, the third-party complaint alleges that Team Services - the entity that "maintained management supervision and control" over the hydraulic fracturing site upon which George Clarke was injured, as well as the entity responsible for transporting the tank - was negligent in failing to establish conditions that would have ensured safe-handling of the tank that injured George Clarke. (Sabre Compl., ECF No. 44 ¶¶ 14-15, 25 (hereinafter, "Sabre Compl.")). Sabre further alleges that Kimber Tyson - an "independent contractor or owner/operator for [Clarke's employer] Tom Bowman Trucking" who "was in the process of attaching the [tank that injured Clarke] to his over-the-road tractor at the time of the incident" - was negligent in that he "[c]aus[ed] or contribut[ed] to the backward movement" of the tank that injured Clarke and otherwise failed to conduct himself in a manner that would have ensured Clarke's safety. (Sabre Compl. ¶¶ 16-17, 36). Sabre further alleges that AET - a "professional safety consultant for [Clarke's employer] Tom Bowman Trucking" who was "responsible for providing... Clarke with guidance and training on... appropriate safety precautions" - was negligent in failing to establish appropriate safety protocols and training programs, and to otherwise put in place measures that would have ensured safe-handling of the tank that injured George Clarke. (Sabre Compl. ¶¶ 18-19, 47).

Sabre asserts that the negligence of Team Services, Tyson, and AET "combined with" Sabre's conduct, and "caused and/or contributed to" Clarke's injury, putting the third-party defendants in a "joint tortfeasor relationship" with Sabre. (Sabre Compl. ¶¶ 25, 29, 30, 36, 40, 41, 47, 52). Sabre further asserts that - to the extent that it is liable to the Clarkes - Team Services, Tyson, and AET are jointly liable, the upshot being that Sabre is entitled to indemnity and contribution from each of Team Services, Tyson, and AET.

On April 22, 2013, Team Services filed its own third party complaint against Bert Klapec, Inc. (hereinafter, "Klapec"), alleging that Klapec is liable to Team Services for indemnity and contribution (to the extent Team Services is liable to Sabre) because Klapec's employee was, pursuant to an agreement with Team Services, "in charge of the [hydraulic fracturing] trailer activities on the date of [Clarke's] accident." (Team Services Compl., ECF No. 72 ¶¶ 21, 27 (hereinafter, "Team Services Compl.")).

On October 5, 2012, Team Services filed a motion to dismiss Sabre's third-party claims against it (ECF No. 47); likewise, AET filed a motion to dismiss Sabre's third-party claims against AET on November 27, 2012 (ECF No. 60). On May 22, 2013, Klapec filed a motion to dismiss count I (indemnity) of Team Services's third-party complaint against it.

II. Motion to Dismiss Standard (Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6))

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 662. The goal behind the standard is to weed out those claims that do not present "enough" factual matter, assumed to be true, "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" in support of the claims. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556. Where a "plaintiff[] [fails to] nudge[] [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [his] complaint must be dismissed." Id. at 570.

As a matter of procedure, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has instructed that,

after Iqbal, when presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts should conduct a two-part analysis. 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. [ Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678-79]. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged ...

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