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Kazlauskas v. Verrochio

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 27, 2014



RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Here we consider Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) (Doc. 8). Defendants filed their motion and supporting brief (Doc. 9) on September 18, 2014. With this motion Defendants request that the Court dismiss certain averments contained in Count I, and dismiss Counts II and III of Plaintiff's Complaint in their entirety. (Doc. 8 at 2-4.) Plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Answer to Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(B)(6) on October 8, 2014.[1] (Doc. 11.) Defendants filed a reply brief on October 14, 2014. (Doc. 13.) Therefore, this matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed below, we conclude Defendants' motion is properly granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background[2]

This action is based on a motor vehicle accident which took place on August 11, 2012. (Doc. 9 at 1.) Plaintiff was a rear seat passenger in a vehicle operated by Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, the son of Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr., the owner of the vehicle. ( Id. at 1-2.) Ronald Verrochio, III, an adult at the time of the accident, was operating his father's vehicle on a weekend camping trip with his girlfriend. (Id. at 2.) They met up with Plaintiff and another man. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was driving these two men to a campsite when he lost control of the vehicle, colliding with a tree and utility pole according to the Complaint. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges injuries as a result, including a fractured humerus and back and shoulder pain. (Doc. 1 ¶ 17.)

The Complaint contains three counts: Count I against Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, alleging "gross, reckless, careless, negligent and indifferent conduct" (Doc. 1 ¶ 23); Count II against Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr., for "Negligent (Reckless) Entrustment" ( id. at 7); and Count III against Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr., for "Negligent (Reckless) Supervision" ( id. at 8). Defendants aver that Counts II and III are alleged because intoxication is part of this case. (Doc. 9 at 2.)

Defendants seek to dismiss all counts against Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr., and, in the alternative, claims for punitive damages against him. (Doc. 9 at 2.) Defendants also request dismissal of two vague paragraphs in the allegations against Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III. ( Id. ) Defendants seek dismissal of these claims with prejudice. (Doc. 8 at 4-5.)

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 whether, 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." 556 U.S. at 678; 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

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 v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009).

[D]istrict 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, 129 S.Ct.] at 1949. 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." Id. at 1950. In other words, a complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts. See Philips [ v. Co. of Alleghany ], 515 F.3d [224, ] 234-35 [(3d Cir.2008)]. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, "[w]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]'-that ...

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