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Finley v. Dyer

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

October 24, 2018

ELIZABETH FINLEY, Individually and on behalf of the Estate and Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of Thomas Finley, Jr., Deceased PLAINTIFF
v.
DAVID DYER, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This personal injury action is before the Court on Cornerstone Systems, Inc.'s motion for judgment on the pleadings. Doc. #22.

         I

         Procedural History

         On January 2, 2018, Elizabeth Finley, acting individually and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries of Thomas Finley, Jr., filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, Mississippi, naming as defendants David Dyer, Jamac Logistics, LLC, Cornerstone Systems, Inc., RG Logistics, LLC, COFC Logistics, LLC, Interpool, Inc. d/b/a Trac Intermodal, and “John Does 1-10.” Doc. #2 at 1, 10. The complaint alleged that Thomas[1] died when the car he was driving was struck by a freightliner “owned by Intermodal with the freight being brokered and/or shipped through RG, Cornerstone and/or COFC through a joint venture with Jamac.” Id. at 1, 3. Of relevance here, the complaint asserted two claims against Cornerstone: a claim for negligent hiring, and a claim for negligent entrustment. Id. at 7-8. Additionally, while not asserted as a separate count, the complaint alleged:

Dyer was, at all times pertinent to this action, an agent, employee, and/or servant of Jamac and/or Cornerstone, RG, COFC, Interpool and John Doe Defendants 1 through 10. Therefore, Jamac and/or Cornerstone, RG, COFC, Interpool and John Doe Defendants 1 through 10, are liable for Dyer's acts under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Id. at 4.

         Elizabeth's state court action was removed to this Court on April 2, 2018, [2] and the defendants subsequently filed separate answers. Docs. #7, #12, #14, #15, #16. On June 19, 2018, Cornerstone filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Doc. #22. With leave of the Court, on July 19, 2018, Elizabeth filed an amended complaint which contains the same substantive allegations but substitutes “RGL, Inc.” as a defendant in place of RG Logistics.[3] See Doc. #41 at 1. After filing the amended complaint, Elizabeth responded to the motion for judgment on the pleadings on July 27, 2018.[4] Doc. #51. Cornerstone replied on August 3, 2018. Doc. #57.

         II

         Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) authorizes a party to move for judgment on the pleadings “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial.” A motion for judgment on the pleadings “may dispose of a case when there are no disputed material facts and the court can render a judgment on the merits based on the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts.” Linicomm v. Hill, 902 F.3d 529, 533 (5th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). “To avoid dismissal, a plaintiff must plead sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). In making this determination, a court “must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Id.

         III

         Relevant Facts

         At an unknown time, Cornerstone, acting as a broker, contracted with Jamac, its independent contractor, to serve as a motor carrier and transport certain freight hauled by Jamac pursuant to a Broker-Drayage Intermodal Agreement. Doc. #61 at ¶ 36; Doc. #41 at ¶ 36. Jamac, in turn, retained Dyer to drive the goods. Doc. #41 at ¶¶ 28-34. While transporting the freight, Elizabeth alleges that Dyer negligently crossed the median and struck Thomas' car, killing him. Id. at ¶¶ 13-17.

         IV

         Analysis

         In its motion, Cornerstone argues that it is entitled to dismissal of the negligent entrustment and negligent hiring claims because such claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”).

         A. Federal Preemption

         “Under the federal Constitution, both the National and State Governments have elements of sovereignty the other is bound to respect.” City of El Cenizo v. Texas, 890 F.3d 164, 176 (5th Cir. 2018) (quotation marks omitted). However, the Supremacy Clause of the federal Constitution makes clear that federal laws “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2. Consistent with this dictate, “Congress may preempt state legislation by enacting a statute containing an express preemption provision.” City of El Cenizo, 890 F.3d at 176. Absent express preemptive language, the United States Supreme Court has “recognized at least two types of implied pre-emption: field pre-emption, where the scheme of federal regulation is so pervasive as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it, ” and “conflict pre-emption, where compliance with both federal and state regulations is a ...


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