United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
DAVID W. MYERS PLAINTIFF
LEGACY EQUIPMENT, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
reasons provided below, the Court grants
Defendants Legacy Equipment, Inc. and G. A. West & Co.,
Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss  and denies
their Motion to Strike .
was a railroad engineer, employed by Defendant Illinois
Central Railroad Company (“ICRC”). In July 2016,
he was operating a train traveling through a railroad
crossing intersecting Highway 98 in Augusta, Mississippi. He
alleges that Defendant James C. Passeau was operating a
tractor-trailer on Highway 98 in the course and scope of his
employment by Defendants Legacy Equipment, Inc. and/or G. A.
West & Co., Inc. Plaintiff further alleges that Passeau
negligently drove the truck into the path of the oncoming
train, causing a collision. Plaintiff alleges that he
suffered severe injuries in the wreck, and that he has
incurred various forms of damages because of it. Plaintiff
asserted negligence claims against Legacy, G. A. West, and
Passeau, and a claim under the Federal Employers Liability
against ICRC. ICRC asserted cross-claims against Legacy, G.
A. West, and Passeau. The Court now considers Legacy and G.
A. West's Motion to Dismiss  and Motion to Strike
Motion to Dismiss 
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC v. La.
State, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010). “To be
plausible, the complaint's factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Id. (punctuation omitted). The Court
must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Id. But the Court will not accept
as true “conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual
inferences, or legal conclusions.” Id.
Likewise, “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” PSKS, Inc. v. Leegin
Creative Leather Prods., Inc., 615 F.3d 412, 417 (5th
Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). “While legal
conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they
must be supported by factual allegations.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950, 173
L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).
and G. A. West argue that the Court should dismiss
Plaintiff's punitive damages claims because
Plaintiff's negligence claims against them are based
solely on their vicarious liability for Passeau's alleged
negligence. Defendants contend that the federal courts in
this state have consistently held that punitive damages are
not available based solely on a theory of vicarious
liability. Defendants are correct. Mississippi courts have
uniformly and consistently held that a plaintiff may not
recover punitive damages based on a theory of vicarious
liability. See, e.g. Rasdon v. E 3 Trucking, Inc.,
2019 WL 4346576, at *3 (N.D. Miss. Sept. 12, 2019); Bell
v. Coleman, 2018 WL 3118614, at *4 (N.D. Miss. 2018);
Roberts v. Ecuanic Express, Inc., 2012 WL 3052838,
at *2 (S.D.Miss. July 25, 2012); Lee v. Harold David
Story, Inc., 2011 WL 3047500, at *2 (S.D.Miss. July 25,
2011); Duggins v. Guardianship of Washington through
Huntley, 632 So.2d 420, 433 (Miss. 1993) (punitive
damages statute “absolutely forecloses vicarious
liability for punitive damages”) (Lee, P.J.,
dissenting). Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff's claims
for punitive damages against Legacy and G. A. West are based
on a theory of vicarious liability for Passeau's
negligence, those claims must be dismissed.
argues that he asserted independent claims against Legacy and
G. A. West for which punitive damages are recoverable.
Specifically, he alleged that Defendants failed to properly
train, hire, and supervise Passeau. In reply, Defendants
argue that Plaintiff can not recover punitive damages for
these independent claims because Mississippi courts have
routinely dismissed such claims against an employer who
admits that an employee was acting within the course and
scope of his employment. Once again, Defendants are correct.
“Mississippi courts have consistently dismissed
independent” claims of negligent hiring, entrustment,
or supervision because they are “superfluous and
possibly unfairly prejudicial after an employer has admitted
vicarious liability.” Evans v. Roger's
Trucking, Inc., 2019 WL 5295198, at *2 (S.D.Miss. Oct.
18, 2019); see also Welch v. Loftus, 776 F.Supp.2d
222, 225 (S.D.Miss. 2011); Roberts, 2012 WL 3052838
at *2; Cole v. W. Express, Inc., 2010 WL 4537936, at
*2 (S.D.Miss. Nov. 2, 2010).
argues that Defendants denied that they are vicariously
liable for Passeau's actions. This is incorrect.
Defendants admitted that Passeau was acting in the course and
scope of his employment, but they denied that he was
negligent. In other words, they admitted that they would be
vicariously liable if Passeau had been negligent.
See Complaint at 8, Myers v. Legacy Equip.,
Inc., No. 2:19-CV-100-KS-MTP (S.D.Miss. July 8, 2019),
ECF No. 1; Answer at 10, Myers v. Legacy Equip.,
Inc., No. 2:19-CV-100-KS-MTP (S.D.Miss. July 30, 2019),
ECF No. 8; Joint Answer at 10, Myers v. Legacy Equip.,
Inc., No. 2:19-CV-100-KS-MTP (S.D.Miss. Aug. 2, 2019),
ECF No. 12.
also argues that punitive damages are available against
Legacy and G. A. West because Passeau had a “heightened
duty of care” as a commercial truck driver at a
railroad crossing. Assuming that Passeau had such
“heightened” duties, that doesn't alter the
punitive damages statute or the principles of vicarious
liability discussed in the cases cited above. Even if
Passeau's duties were heightened, broadening the scope of
actionable conduct, it was still his conduct, and
the punitive damages statute requires that the
“defendant against whom punitive damages are
sought” commit the wrongful acts in dispute. Miss. Code
Ann. § 11-1-65(1)(a).
Plaintiff argues that he should be permitted to conduct
discovery. “[A] request for discovery is generally not
an appropriate response to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.”
Minor v. Jackson Mun. Airport Auth., 2016 WL
4869696, at *5 (S.D.Miss. Sept. 13, 2016). This is because
“when deciding . . . whether to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, the court considers, of course, only the
allegations in the complaint.” Sw. Bell Telephone,
LP v. City of Houston, 529 F.3d 257, 263 (5th Cir.
2008). Here, Plaintiff alleged that Passeau acted within the
course and scope of his employment, and Legacy and G. A. West
admitted as much. There is nothing to discover on this issue.
these reasons, the Court grants Legacy and
G. A. West's Motion to Dismiss . Plaintiff's
punitive damages claims against Legacy and G. A. West are
dismissed with prejudice, as are his claims that they failed
to properly train, hire, and supervise Passeau.
Motion to Strike 
asserted a cross-claim against Legacy, G. A. West, and
Passeau, alleging that they negligently disregarded the
warning devices at the railroad crossing. ICRC also alleged
that Legacy, G. A. West, and Passeau “have already paid
the Railroad for property damages, ” and that
“[s]uch payments demonstrate that [they] have
recognized liability for all damages resulting from the
collision.” Answer and Cross-Claim at 13, Myers v.
Legacy Equip., Inc., No. 2:19-CV-100-KS-MTP (S.D.Miss.
Aug. 14, 2019), ECF No. 16. Legacy, G. A. West, and Passeau
filed a Motion to Strike  these ...