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National Specialty Insurance Co. v. Tunkhannock Auto Mart, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 15, 2017

NATIONAL SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, GEMINI INSURANCE COMPANY, JWB LOGISTICS CORP., TMD LOGISTICS CORP., and T.B. CHOYA EXPRESS, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
TUNKHANNOCK AUTO MART, INC., Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
JESSE L. PREBOLA, THOMAS W. PUNKO, et al., Third-Party Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss Defendant Tunkhannock Auto Mart, Inc.'s (“TAM”) Third-Party Complaint (Doc. 41) filed by Third-Party Defendant Thomas W. Punko (“Punko”). Because TAM is not owed contribution or indemnification at this time, Punko's Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

         I. Background

         TAM seeks contribution or indemnification for any claim raised by Plaintiffs National Specialty Insurance Company, Gemini Insurance Company, JWB Logistics Corporation, TMD Logistics Corporation, and T.B. Choya Express, Inc. (collectively “Plaintiffs”) related to a car accident that occurred on October 27, 2010.

         On October 27, 2010, Punko was driving a tractor trailer and was making a delivery to TAM. Pursuant to his delivery instructions, Punko was required to pull into TAM's parking lot, turn around in the rear of the building, and pull out of the parking lot in a forward facing position. But, at the time of delivery, Punko was unable to pull into TAM's lot because there was no room for his trailer. The lot was filled with cars, orange cones, and concrete barriers that Punko could not avoid. As such, Punko was forced to back his tractor trailer into the lot in order to make the delivery. While backing the trailer into the lot, Punko blocked the center lane of State Route 29. Unfortunately, a car traveling northbound on Route 29 struck the trailer and was seriously injured.

         Ultimately, the driver of the car that struck Punko's trailer filed a tort action against various defendants, including Punko and TAM. The action settled on April 16, 2013 for $6, 900, 000 and was paid for in its entirety by Plaintiffs. On February 2, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against TAM seeking contribution for TAM's share of the $6, 900, 000 settlement.

         Following TAM's failure to have Plaintiff's contribution action dismissed (Doc. 23), TAM filed a Third-Party Complaint (Doc. 37) against all parties in the original tort action that had not contributed to the settlement. TAM claims that the Third-Party Defendants must be joined in Plaintiffs' suit because they are joint tortfeasors and thus must contribute to the settlement. On June 12, 2017, Third-Party Defendant Punko filed a motion to dismiss the Third-Party Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). This Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Federal 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). “Under the ‘notice pleading' standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, 748 F.3d 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         When resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a court must consider no more than whether the complaint establishes ‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements' of the cause of action.” Trzaska v. L'Oreal USA, Inc., 865 F.3d 155, 162 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 789 (3d Cir. 2016)). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court must take three steps: (1) identify the elements of the claim; (2) identify conclusions that are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) assume the veracity of the well-pleaded factual allegations and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. See Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (citations omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (q uoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Failure ...


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