United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.
Here we consider "Defendants' Partial Motion for [sic] Dismiss Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6)" (Doc. 22) seeking dismissal of portions of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 16) filed on October 30, 2014. Defendants filed their motion on November 11, 2014, and supporting brief (Doc. 23) on November 18, 2014. Plaintiff filed his opposition brief (Doc. 24) on November 20, 2014. Defendants filed a reply brief on November 26, 2014. (Doc. 25.) Therefore, this matter is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed below, we conclude Defendants' motion is properly denied.
This action is based on a motor vehicle accident which took place on August 11, 2012. (Doc. 16 ¶ 5.) Ronald Verrochio, III, was operating a 2002 Dodge Durango owned by, and subject to the control of, his father, Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was a rear seat passenger when the vehicle went off the road, collided with a tree, and traveled approximately another thirty feet before colliding with a utility pole. (Doc. 16 ¶¶ 6, 10.) The vehicle traveled another twenty feet before coming to a complete stop. (Doc. 16 ¶ 10.)
As a result of the accident, Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, was charged with seven violations: 1) Aggravated Assault by Vehicle While Driving Under the Influence, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3735.1; 2) Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3802(a)(1); 3) Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance, Highest Rate of Alcohol, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3802(c); 4) Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic, Driving Within Single Lane, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3309; 5) Driving Vehicle at Safe Speed, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3361; 6) Careless Driving, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3714; and 7) Reckless Driving, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3736. (Doc. 16 ¶ 8.)
On March 7, 2013, Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, pled guilty to Aggravated Assault by Vehicle While Driving Under the Influence, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3735.1, and Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance, Highest Rate of Alcohol, 75 Pa. C.S. § 3802(c). (Doc. 16 ¶ 9.) Other charges were non-prosed. ( Id. )
Plaintiff alleges injuries as a result of the accident, including a fractured humerus, and back and shoulder pain. (Doc. 16 ¶ 24.) He asserts that some of his injuries "may be permanent into the future." (Doc. 16 ¶ 23.)
Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, has a long history involving both illegal drug and/or driving offenses of which Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr., was aware. (Doc. 16 ¶ 12.) In 2003, Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, was charged with the following in Lee County, Florida: operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license; possession of drug paraphernalia; and contempt of court for failure to appear at a hearing scheduled on possession and suspended license charges. (Doc. 16 ¶ 13(1)-(3).) In 2008, Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, was arrested and charged with three drug related charges: 35 P.S. § 780-113(16), knowing or intentionally possessing a controlled substnace; 18 P.S. § 903, Criminal Conspiracy; and 35 P.S. § 780-113, the use of, or possession with intent to use, drug paraphernalia. (Doc. 16 ¶ 13(4).) He pled guilty to some or all of the offenses on January 9, 2009. ( Id. )
Following the accident at issue here, Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, was charged with a speeding violation (November 7, 2012) and Disorderly Conduct (March 17, 2013). (Doc. 16 ¶ 14.)
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains three counts: Count I against Defendant Ronald Verrochio, III, alleging "gross, reckless, careless, negligent and indifferent conduct" (Doc. 16 ¶ 30); Count II against Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr., for "Negligent (Reckless) Entrustment" ( id. at 9); and Count III against Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr., for "Negligent (Reckless) Supervision" ( id. at 10).
Defendants seek to dismiss Counts II and III, thereby removing Defendant Donald Verrochio, Jr., from the action. (Doc. 22 at 9.) In the alternative, Defendants request that paragraphs 33(e), 33(g), 36(e) and 36(g) of the Amended Complaint be dismissed on the grounds they are conclusory and fail to state a claim, and paragraphs 33(a) and 36(a) be dismissed in that they are unsupported claims for punitive damages. (Doc. 22 ¶¶ 19, 20, 25, 26.) Defendants also request that the Court strike Plaintiff's allegation that Defendant Ronald Verrochio, Jr., is vicariously liable for the actions of his son found in paragraph 18 of the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 22 at 9.)
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 ...