United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO United States District Judge
diversity action, Plaintiffs assert negligence and negligent
entrustment claims arising out of a motor vehicle collision.
Presently before the court is Defendant Werner Enterprises,
Inc.'s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' negligent
entrustment claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. For the reasons stated herein, the
motion will be denied.
Relevant Facts and Procedural
August 15, 2016, at approximately 5 p.m, Plaintiff Lorenda
Hill (“Hill”) was operating a motor vehicle on
Interstate 76 within the Middle District of Pennsylvania,
carrying Plaintiff Sabirah Bowman (“Bowman” and,
together with Hill, “Plaintiffs”) as a passenger.
(Doc. 1, ¶¶ 7; Hill Cmplt, ¶ 4.) Defendant Jay
Graen (“Graen”) was operating a tractor trailer
owned and controlled by Defendant Werner Enterprises, Inc.
(“Werner”) when, according to the complaint,
Graen negligently caused the tractor trailer to strike
Hill's vehicle, severely and permanently injuring
Plaintiffs. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-8.)
initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania on May 10, 2017. (Doc. 1.) The
matter was transferred to the Middle District on August 21,
2017. (Doc. 11.) As noted above, Bowman initiated a similar
action in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, which
was both removed to the Middle District and consolidated into
this action. (Doc. 16.) Werner subsequently filed a motion to
dismiss Plaintiffs' claim for negligent entrustment
(Count II) for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 14.) The
motion has been briefed (Docs. 15, 19, 20) and is ripe for
seeks dismissal of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. A motion to dismiss pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint against
the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a), which requires that a
complaint set forth “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). For a complaint to survive dismissal it
“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 (2009) (citing Bell Atl v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Thus, the court must “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.” United States v.
Pennsylvania, 110 F.Supp.3d 544, 548 (M.D. Pa. 2015)
(quoting Fleisher v. Standard Ins. Co., 679 F.3d
116, 120 (3d Cir. 2012)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
argues that Plaintiffs' claim for negligent entrustment
contained in Count II of the complaint must be dismissed
because a negligent entrustment claim cannot be maintained
alongside a claim for negligence where 1) a defendant has
admitted to an agency relationship and 2) there is no claim
for punitive damages. (See Doc. 15.) Therefore,
because the court must accept Plaintiffs' allegations in
the complaint that Graen was acting as Werner's agent
when the accident occurred, the negligent entrustment claim
fails as a matter of law.
is correct that, “as a general rule, courts have
dismissed claims for negligent supervision and negligent
hiring when a supervisor defendant conceded an agency
relationship with the co-defendant.” Felkner v.
Werner Enters., Inc., Civ. No. 13-cv-2189, 2014 WL
1013474, *7 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 14, 2014) (quoting Achey v.
Crete Carrier Corp., Civ. No. 07-cv-3592, 2009 WL
9083282, *8 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 30, 2009)). Generally, however,
dismissal of negligent entrustment claims come at the summary
judgment stage, once discovery has brought about an admission
by a defendant of the agency relationship. At the motion to
dismiss stage, no such discovery or admission has had the
opportunity to take place. Because Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8(d)(3) allows for inconsistent claims at the
pleading stage, “[c]ourts have permitted plaintiffs to
pursue alternative theories of recovery.” Aetna
Life Ins. Co. v. Huntingdon Valley Surgery Ctr., Civ.
No., 2015 WL 1954287, *10 n.11 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 30, 2015)
(quoting United States v. Kensington Hosp., 760
F.Supp. 1120, 1135 (E.D. Pa. 1991). Accordingly, the court
finds that dismissal of Count II would be premature at this
stage of the litigation. If appropriate, Werner can raise the
issue in a motion for summary judgment after the completion
reasons stated herein, the court finds that it would be
premature to dismiss Plaintiffs' claim of negligent
entrustment contained in Count II of the complaint, and
Werner's motion ...