United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
NATIONAL SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, GEMINI INSURANCE COMPANY, JWB LOGISTICS CORP., TMD LOGISTICS CORP., and T.B. CHOYA EXPRESS, INC. Plaintiffs,
TUNKHANNOCK AUTO MART, INC., Defendant.
Richard Caputo United States District Judge.
before the Court is an Amended Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11)
filed by Defendant Tunkhannock Auto Mart, Inc.
(“Tunkhannock”). In the instant action,
Plaintiffs, National Speciality Insurance Company
(“National”), Gemini Insurance Company
(“Gemini”), JWB Logistics Corp.
(“JWB”), TMD Logistics Corp. (“TMD”),
and T.B. Choya Express, Inc. (“TB Choya”), seek
contribution from Tunkhannock for a payment made to settle a
state-court lawsuit. For the reasons that follow,
Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 1) will be dismissed without
prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
facts as alleged in Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 1) are as
seek contribution from Tunkhannock for a payment made to
settle a state-court lawsuit stemming from a motor vehicle
accident that occurred on October 27, 2010. Around 11:37 p.m.
on the night of the accident, non-party Thomas W. Punko, an
employee of Plaintiff JWB,  was operating a tractor trailer
while making a delivery to Tunkhannock. Pursuant to his
delivery instructions, Mr. Punko was required to pull into
Tunkhannock's parking lot, turn around in the rear of the
building, and pull out of the parking lot in a forward facing
position after making the delivery. However, at the time of
the delivery, Mr. Punko was unable to pull into
Tunkhannock's parking lot due to parked automobiles,
orange cones, and/or concrete barriers that Tunkhannock had
placed in the lot. As such, Mr. Punko was forced to back his
tractor trailer into Tunkhannock's lot in order to make
his delivery. While he was backing the tractor trailer into
the lot, the trailer blocked the center turn lane and north
bound travel lane of State Route 29. At this time, non-party
Jesse L. Prebola was driving a 1998 Buick Century Sedan
traveling northbound on State Route 29. Mr. Prebola struck
Mr. Punko's tractor trailer blocking his lane of travel,
causing Mr. Prebola to suffer permanent physical injuries.
the accident, non-party Deborah Prebola, as Plenary Temporary
Guardian of her son, Jesse Prebola, an incapacitated adult,
filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County
(the “Prebola Action”). On October 24, 2012, Ms.
Prebola filed an amended complaint, dismissing various
defendants and adding the instant Defendant Tunkhannock as a
defendant in the Prebola Action. The defendants named in the
amended complaint were the instant Plaintiffs JWB, TMD, and
TB Choya, Defendant Tunkhannock, and non-parties Mr. Punko;
MFC Logistics, Inc.; Trucks on the Run Inc., a/k/a On the Run
Delivery; River Street Idealease, LLC; Chopper Express, a/k/a
Chopper 79; Chopper 79, LLC; Chopper 79 Logistics, LLC;
Chopper Automotive, LLC; Chopper Express, Inc.; Chopper DDS,
Inc.; and Chopper Express Transportation. (Ex. B, Doc. 7-2.)
April 16, 2013, the parties in the Prebola Action
participated in a mediation which led to the full and final
settlement of Prebola's claims. At the mediation, all of
the defendants in the Prebola Action, through their insurers
Plaintiffs National and Gemini, contributed to the settlement
amount accepted by Prebola, except for Tunkhannock and its
insurer, Zurich. On May 17, 2013, Prebola signed a Settlement
and Release Agreement under which Prebola received a
settlement payment of $6, 900, 000.00 in exchange for releasing
all claims against all parties arising out of the
accident. (See Settlement and Release
Agreement §§ 1, 2, Doc. 1-2.). On June 7, 2013,
Prebola executed an Addendum to the Settlement and Release
Agreement. The Addendum states in part: “At the time of
the Mediation it was fully contemplated by all parties and
counsel in attendance that, while the claims of Plaintiffs
were being settled, the rights of the settling Defendants as
against the non-settling Defendant Tuckhannock [sic] Auto
Mart for contribution and or indemnification were being
preserved.” (Addendum ¶ 3, Doc. 1-3.) The settling
defendants in the Prebola Action were covered under insurance
policies issued by instant Plaintiffs National and Gemini.
The settlement proceeds were paid out of these insurance
February 2, 2016, instant Plaintiffs National, Gemini, JWB,
TMD, and TB Choya filed this diversity suit, alleging
Tunkhannock's actions prohibited Mr. Punko from pulling
the tractor trailer into Tunkhannock's parking lot and
inhibited Mr. Punko's ability to turn the tractor trailer
around in the back of the lot. As such, Plaintiffs'
contend that Tunkhannock was negligent in failing to provide
clear access to the parking lot, which ultimately caused the
accident. Plaintiffs seek contribution from Tunkhannock in
accordance with its proportionate share of liability in
causing the accident. On June 3, 2016, Defendant filed an
Amended Motion to Dismiss, raising multiple grounds for
dismissal, including that Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to
state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
The Motion has been briefed and is ripe for review.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion,
the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff
is entitled to offer evidence in support of her claims.
See Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173
(3d Cir. 2000). The Court does not consider whether a
plaintiff will ultimately prevail. Id. A defendant
bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's
complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v.
United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).
pleading that states a claim for relief must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must
“‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per
curiam) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not
required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, mere
conclusory statements will not do; “a complaint must do
more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to
relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d
203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must
“show” this entitlement by alleging sufficient
facts. Id. While legal conclusions can provide the
framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual
allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664
(2009). As such, “[t]he touchstone of the pleading
standard is plausibility.” Bistrian v. Levi,
696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012).
inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage is “normally
broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the
claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory
allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded
components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the
elements identified in part one of the inquiry are
sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641
F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts
alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570, meaning enough factual allegations “‘to
raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence of'” each necessary element. Phillips
v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “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 678. ...