United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JEWEL JENSON, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of JOSHUA CORREA, deceased, and CYNTHIA BATES, Plaintiffs
BRETT ST. LOUIS and POWER PALLET, INC., Defendants
M. MUNLEY JUDGE.
the court for disposition is a motion to dismiss portions of
plaintiffs' complaint filed by Defendants Brett St. Louis
and Power Pallet, Inc. The parties have briefed their
respective positions and the matter is ripe for disposition.
instituted the instant action regarding an automobile
accident on September 12, 2018 which caused the death of
plaintiffs' decedent Joshua Correa. (Doc. 1, Compl.). On
that day, Defendant Brett St. Louis operated a tractor
trailer owned by his employer, Defendant Power Pallet, Inc.
(Id. ¶ 16). He had pulled the tractor trailer
to the side of I-476 South in Carbon County, Pennsylvania.
(Id. ¶¶ 21-22). The tractor trailer did
not have proper lamps, reflective devices or other items
required to make it easily seen. (Id. ¶ 23).
decedent was driving down the same road, when defendant
pulled the tractor trailer out from the shoulder and into the
lane of travel. (Id. ¶ 24). Because the tractor
trailer was improperly illuminated, oncoming traffic such as
Correa could not see him. (Id. ¶ 26).
Correa's automobile collided with the tractor trailer and
Correa was killed. (Id. ¶ 25).
complaint asserts t Defendant St. Louis's decision to
enter Correa's lane of travel without clearance and with
deficient illumination caused the accident. (Id.)
Defendant St. Louis drove recklessly, carelessly and
negligently according to the plaintiff. (Id. ¶
upon these allegations, the plaintiffs instituted the instant
action by filing a seven-count complaint. The complaint
raises the following causes of action: Count I-
Negligence/Recklessness against Defendant St. Louis; Count
II-Negligence/Recklessness against Power Pallet under
vicariously liability; Count III- Negligent and/or Reckless
Hiring/Supervision/Retention against Defendant Power Pallett,
Inc.; Count IV- Negligent Entrustment against Defendant Power
Pallet, Inc.; Count V- Negligent Infliction of Emotion
Distress against all defendants; Count VI-Wrongful Death
against all defendants and Count VII-Survival
Action. Defendants now move to dismiss, in part,
Counts I, II, and III and dismissing Counts IV and V
completely. Defendants also move to dismiss plaintiffs'
claim for punitive damages. The parties have briefed their
respective positions, bringing the case to its present
court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity statute, 28
U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiffs are citizens of Pennsylvania.
(Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 1-3). Defendants are citizens of
New York. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6). Additionally, the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Because complete
diversity of citizenship exists among the parties and the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, the court has
jurisdiction over this case. See 28 U.S.C. §
1332 (''district courts shall have original
jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in
controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive
of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of
different states[.]''). As a federal court sitting in
diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to
the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d
154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v.
Tomkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).
filed their motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court tests the
sufficiency of the complaint's allegations when
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. All well-pleaded
allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in
the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine
whether, “‘under any reasonable reading of the
pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to
relief.'” Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838
F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey
by Oare v. Cnty. of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir.
1985)). The plaintiff must describe “‘enough
facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element” of
the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556
(2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that
“justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the
next stage of litigation.” Id. at 234-35. In
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint the court may also
consider “matters of public record, orders, exhibits
attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record
of the case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran
& Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal
conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See
Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del.,
Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse
v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
noted above, the defendants' motion to dismiss is aimed
at various counts. Defendants' arguments fall into three
categories. First, they argue that Count V, negligent
infliction of emotional distress fails as a matter of law.
Second, defendants argue that Counts I through IV violate the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in that they do not provide
a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief. Third, defendants seek
dismissal of the plaintiffs' punitive damages claim. We
shall discuss each separately beginning with Count V.
asserts a cause of action for negligent infliction of
emotional distress against all defendants on behalf of
Plaintiff Cynthia Bates, decedent's fiancée. (Doc.
1, Compl. ¶¶ 64-74).
infliction of emotion distress addresses “mental or
emotional harm (such as fright or anxiety) that is caused by
the negligence of another[.]” Consolidated Rail
Corp. v. Gottshall, 512 U.S. 532, 544 (1994). Courts
have recognized that “a cause of action for negligent
infliction of emotional distress holds out the very real
possibility of nearly infinite and unpredictable liability
for defendants. Courts therefore have placed substantial
limitations on the class of plaintiffs that may recover for
emotional injuries and on the injuries that may be
example, only certain categories of plaintiffs may recover
for negligent infliction of emotion distress under
Pennsylvania law. Specifically,
In order to recover, the [p]laintiff must prove one of four
elements: (1) that the [d]efendant had a contractual or
fiduciary duty toward him; (2) that [p]laintiff suffered a
physical impact; (3) that [p]laintiff was in a “zone of
danger” and at risk of an immediate physical injury; or
(4) that [p]laintiff had a contemporaneous perception of
tortious injury to a close relative. In all cases, a