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Cecil v. Smith

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

April 9, 2014

JAMES R. CECIL, Plaintiff,
v.
CULLEN T. SMITH and DLT TRUCKING, LLC, Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Defendants Cullen T. Smith and DLT Trucking have filed a Motion to Dismiss [5], or in the Alternative, for a More Definitive Statement. Because Plaintiff has failed to set forth a sufficient factual basis to support his claims, the motion is hereby GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Plaintiff shall have fourteen (14) days to amend his Complaint to conform with standards set forth below.

Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed this federal lawsuit against the Defendants based on injuries allegedly sustained as a result of driver Cullen Smith rear-ending James R. Cecil in Tennessee. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff alleges that Smith was a DLT Trucking employee acting within the scope of his employment. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant DLT Trucking is liable for negligence, particularly noting that pursuant to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, that corporation owed a duty to use reasonable care in the operation of their tractor-trailer, and "in the hiring, training, retention, and/or supervision of the drivers chosen to operate it." Plaintiff additionally alleged that DLT Trucking committed a series of reckless and/or negligent acts pursuant to parts 390, 391, 392, 393, 395, and 396 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Plaintiff also brings a claim against DLT Trucking under a respondeat superior theory citing that Smith was operating the tractor-trailer at an unreasonable speed, in an unreasonable manner, without exercising due care. There is also a claim against Smith for negligence.

The Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), with the alternative request of requiring a more definitive statement. Defendants contend that Plaintiff's reference to the alleged violations of Parts 390, 391, 392, 393, 395, and 396 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations is too vague as those provisions contain one hundred sixty-one separate regulations. Defendants further complain that Plaintiff fails to establish any factual basis for his claims of negligent hiring, training, retention and/or supervision. Defendants finally argue that jurisdiction is not established in this Court as Plaintiff's conclusory statement about the damage limit being met in this case is not enough.

Applicable Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) allows a party to request a more definite statement with respect to a "pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(e). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

The purpose of a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) is "to test the formal sufficiency of the statement of the claim for relief; the motion is not a procedure for resolving a contest between the parties about the facts or the substantive merits of the plaintiff's case." 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure ยง 1356 (3d ed. 2008). Rule 12(b)(6) "must be read in conjunction with Rule 8(a), which sets forth the requirements for pleading a claim for relief in federal court and calls for a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id . "[T]he statement need only 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, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007).

In 2007 and 2009, the United States Supreme Court addressed the standard for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6):

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. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. 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. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555-58, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007))(internal quotations and citations omitted).

"The Supreme Court's decisions in Iqbal and Twombly... did not alter the longstanding requirement that when evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and view those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Harold H. Huggins Realty, ...


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