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Cobb v. Nye

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

December 12, 2014

BETH ANN COBB and RICHARD COBB, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHARLES NYE, WAGNER MILLWORK, L.L.C., WAGNER NINEVEH, L.L.C., WAGNER MILLWORK, L.L.C. d/b/a WAGNER LUMBER, and WAGNER HARDWOODS, L.L.C., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Defendants Charles Nye, Wagner Millwork, L.L.C., Wagner Nineveh, L.L.C., and Wagner Millwork, L.L.C. d/b/a Wagner Lumber (hereinafter, “Defendants”) filed a partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Beth Ann Cobb and Richard Cobb’s Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and a Motion for a More Definite Statement pursuant to Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss, May 22, 2014, ECF No. 3 (hereinafter “Defs.’ Mot.”). Plaintiffs’ Complaint, filed March 28, 2014 in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, alleges eight counts including various counts of negligence, loss of consortium and requests for punitive damages. Pl.’s Compl., Mar. 28, 2014, ECF No. 1 Ex. 1 (hereinafter “Pls.’ Compl.”).

Defendants seek to dismiss all requests for punitive damages in Counts Seven and Eight of Plaintiffs’ Complaint. They further request that this Court strike all allegations in Plaintiffs’ Complaint of gross, wanton, willful outrageous and/or reckless conduct on the part of Defendants. Additionally, Defendants seek a more definite statement regarding three subparagraphs in Plaintiffs’ Complaint demonstrating the alleged negligence, carelessness, gross, wanton or reckless conduct of Defendant Charles Nye. This Court retains diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Consequently, Pennsylvania substantive law applies. See, e.g., Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 91-92 (1938). For the reasons discussed, Defendants’ partial Motion to Dismiss and Motion for a More Definite Statement is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On March 28, 2014, Plaintiffs initiated the above-captioned civil action by filing a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, to recover for injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. In their Complaint, they allege eight causes of action, including various counts of negligence, loss of consortium, and punitive damages. On May 5, 2014, Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a), 1441(a), and 1446. On May 22, 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss Counts Seven and Eight of Plaintiffs’ Complaint requesting punitive damages and further to strike all allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint of gross, wanton, willful outrageous and/or reckless conduct on the part of Defendants. Additionally, Defendants seek a more definite statement regarding three subparagraphs in Plaintiffs’ Complaint demonstrating the alleged negligence, carelessness, gross, wanton or reckless conduct of Defendant Charles Nye.

The following allegations are taken from Plaintiffs’ Complaint and are accepted as true for the purposes of the instant motion.

This case arises from a vehicular accident between Plaintiffs and truck-driver Charles Nye on or about June 10, 2013 at approximately 9:00 a.m. Pls.’ Compl. ¶ 12-13. At that time, Plaintiff Richard Cobb was driving his 2012 Toyota Highlander southbound on Route 405 in Wolf Township, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff Beth Ann Cobb was the front passenger in Mr. Cobb’s vehicle. Id. ¶ 10. Defendant Charles Nye was the operator of a truck owned by the remaining Defendants. Id. ¶ 11. As Mr. Cobb was slowing down to enter the center lane of traffic to make a left turn, Defendant Charles Nye, who was following behind Plaintiffs, failed to similarly slow down to accommodate Plaintiffs and violently struck Plaintiffs’ vehicle with the left front of his truck. Id. ¶ 13. This caused Plaintiffs to be pushed across the northbound lane of traffic, up onto a curb, into a pole with a handicap sign, and into a parked vehicle in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant. Id.

As a result of this accident, both Mr. and Mrs. Cobb have suffered and will continue to suffer extensive injuries, both physical and mental. Additionally, they have been and may be forced to undergo medical treatment costing substantial sums of money. Moreover, they are currently unable to go about their usual and daily occupations and routines, and they may be unable to do so for an indefinite period of time in the future.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the [factual] allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). In ruling on such a motion, the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000).

A complaint should only be dismissed if, accepting as true all of the allegations in the amended complaint, plaintiff has not pled enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (2007). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663-664.

“In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we must be mindful that federal courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading.” Hellmann v. Kercher, No. 07-1373, 2008 WL 1969311 at * 3 (W.D. Pa. May 5, 2008) (Lancaster, J.). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 "requires only a ‘short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the…claim is and the grounds on which it rests, '" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, even under this lower notice pleading standard, a plaintiff must do more than recite the elements of a cause of action, and then make a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief. See Hellmann, 2008 WL 1969311 at *3. Instead, a plaintiff must make a factual showing of his entitlement to relief by alleging sufficient facts that, when taken as true, suggest the required elements of a particular legal theory. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561. “[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 “shown” - - “that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)).

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) “streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a “dispositive issue of law.” Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed “without ...


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