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Sewatsky v. Custom Polymers, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 5, 2014

ALEC SEWATSKY, RYAN BARRETT and CAROLINE MULALLY, husband and wife, LINDSAY BARRETT and GRACE SATO, Plaintiffs,
v.
CUSTOM POLYMERS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Here we consider Defendant Custom Polymers, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Doc. 19). Defendant seeks dismissal of the Amended Complaint, primarily arguing that Plaintiffs have not pleaded the requisite relationship between it and the owner of the tractor trailer that was responsible for the underlying accident at the time it was shipping Defendant's goods. (Doc. 20.) For the reasons discussed below, we conclude Defendant's motion is properly denied.

I. Background

The underlying accident occurred on October 10, 2011, on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania. (Doc. 24 at 1.) A tractor trailer owned and operated by Advanced Cargo Transportation, Inc. ("Advanced Cargo") is alleged to have caused the accident which involved Plaintiffs Alec Sewatsky, Ryan Barrett and Caroline Mulally, husband and wife, Lindsay Barrett and Grace Sato ("Plaintiffs"). ( Id. ) Advanced Cargo is not a party in this action. ( Id. )

Defendant Custom Polymers, Inc. ("Defendant") had entered into a shipping contract with Advanced Cargo to haul goods from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Rochester, New York. (Doc. 24 at 2.) Plaintiffs allege that, at the time of the underlying accident, Advanced Cargo, an independent contractor and separate and distinct entity from Defendant, was hauling Defendant's goods. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs also allege that Defendant entered into a shipping contract with Advanced Cargo without checking their public safety records. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint avers that records were maintained by Motor Carrier Management Information Systems ("MCMIS"), were readily available, and showed that Advanced Cargo "consistently failed to comply with safety ratings for both vehicle maintenance and hours of service compliance." (Doc. 18 ΒΆ 27.)

Plaintiffs filed this action on September 25, 2013. (Doc. 1.) Defendant filed Defendant Custom Polymers, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on November 20, 2013. (Doc. 8.) On December 19, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint. (Doc. 18.) Defendant filed Defendant Custom Polymers, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on January 8, 2014. (Doc. 19.) Defendant filed its supporting brief on January 15, 2015. (Doc. 20.) Plaintiffs filed their opposition brief on January 28, 2014. (Doc. 24.) Defendant did not file a reply brief and the time for doing so has passed. Therefore, this matter is ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

In a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. United States , 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc. , 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)). Courts are directed to "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008).

When reviewing a complaint pursuant to a defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court does so in the context of the requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) which requires only "a short and plain statement of the claims showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The "short and plain statement" must be sufficient to "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957), abrogated on other grounds by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 433 (2007). Twombly confirmed that more is required than "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (on a motion to dismiss, courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation")). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

In McTernan v. City of York , 577 F.3d 521, 530 (3d Cir. 2009), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals set out the standard applicable to a motion to dismiss in light of the United States Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly , 550 U.S. 433 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009).

"[T]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true to state a claim that relief is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). The Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 1950.

McTernan, 577 F.3d at 530. Iqbal explained that "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678.

McTernan discussed the effects of Twombly and Iqbal in detail and provided a road map for district courts presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in a case filed just a week before McTernan , Fowler ...


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