Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Smith v. Liquid Transport Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division

February 15, 2018

W.J. SMITH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LIQUID TRANSPORT CORP., et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SONJA F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the Court on Defendant Liquid Transport Corp.'s Motion to Partially Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint and Strike Certain Improper Allegations (Doc. 38). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for resolution.[1] Upon consideration of all matters presented, the undersigned RECOMMENDS, for the reasons stated herein, that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Strike be denied.

         I. Background Facts

         Plaintiffs W.J. Smith and Irma Smith filed the instant action against Eddie Wayne Williams, Liquid Transport Corp. (hereinafter “Liquid Transport”), Dana Transport, and Great West Casualty Insurance in connection with a collision that occurred on May 5, 2015, in Catoosa County, Georgia. (Doc. 1). In their amended complaint, [2] Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Williams caused the 2003 Peterbilt tractor and tanker trailer that he was driving to hit the back of the 1997 Kenworth tractor and semitrailer operated by Plaintiff W.J. Smith. (Doc. 30). Plaintiffs also contend that “[t]he collision was caused by Williams' inadvertence, his failure to keep an appropriate lookout, his aggressive driving too fast for the circumstances, and his decision to follow too closely.” (Id. at 5). Plaintiffs further contend that W.J. Smith is totally disabled as a result of the injuries that he sustained in the accident. (Id.).

         In count 1 of the amended complaint, Plaintiffs assert a negligence claim against Defendants Williams; in count 2, Plaintiffs assert a negligence claim against Defendants Liquid Transport and Dana Transport; in count 3, Plaintiffs assert a punitive damages claim against Defendants Williams, Liquid Transport and Dana Transport; in count 4, Plaintiffs assert a vicarious liability claim against Defendants Liquid Transport and Dana Transport; in count 5, Plaintiffs assert a joint liability claim against Defendants Liquid Transport and Dana Transport; and in count six, Plaintiffs assert a direct action against Great West Casualty as the indemnity insurer for Liquid Transport. (Doc. 30).

         Liquid Transport's instant motion to dismiss seeks the dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims in counts 2, 3, and 5. (Doc. 38). Liquid Transport also seeks to have certain allegations contained in paragraphs 12, 14, 15, and 17 of Plaintiffs' amended complaint stricken pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) as immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous. (Doc. 38 at 2-3). In their response to Liquid Transport's motion, Plaintiffs stipulated to the voluntary dismissal of all claims against Defendants Dana Transport, Inc. and Williams without prejudice; thus, those Defendants were dismissed from this case. (Docs. 50, 53). Plaintiffs also acknowledged that their claims against Liquid Transport in counts 2 and 5 should be dismissed; however, Plaintiffs contend that they have set forth sufficient facts to support their claim, in count 3, for punitive damages against Liquid Transport. (Doc. 51). Plaintiffs also argue that Liquid Transport's request to strike certain allegations in the amended complaint should be denied because the allegations were not included for an improper purpose. (Id. at 8). In light of Plaintiffs' stipulation and response (Docs. 50, 51), the only issues remaining with respect to Liquid Transports' motion to dismiss and strike are: 1) whether Plaintiffs have stated a claim for punitive damages, and 2) whether specific allegations contained in Plaintiffs' amended complaint should be stricken as immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous.

         II. Standard of Review

         A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. “When considering a motion to dismiss, all facts set forth in the plaintiff's complaint ‘are to be accepted as true and the court limits its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits attached thereto.” Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000) (quoting GSW, Inc. v. Long Cnty., 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993)). All “reasonable inferences” are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. St. George v. Pinellas County, 285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2002). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations”; however, the “plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . ., on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         Although Plaintiffs' request for punitive damages is listed in the amended complaint as a separate count, “[a] request for punitive damages is not a ‘claim' within the meaning of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2); it is only part of the relief demanded in a claim.” Walker v. City of Orlando, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46129, 2007 WL 1839431, *4 (M.D. Fla. June 26, 2007)(quoting Cohen v. Office Depot, Inc., 184 F.3d 1292, 1295-99 (11th Cir. 1999), vacated on other grounds, 204 F.3d 1069 (11th Cir. 2000); Rolle v. Brevard County, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6920, 2007 WL 328682, *13 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 31, 2007); see also Schmidt v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146459, 2014 WL 5149175, *8 (S.D. Ga. 2014)(punitive damages are not a “cause of action” subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6)).

         III. Analysis

         The Court observes, as a threshold matter, that Plaintiffs contend that Georgia law should control because that is where the accident occurred and where Plaintiff W.J. Smith sustained his injuries. Liquid Transport does not dispute that Georgia law controls, but instead asserts that Plaintiffs did not place it on notice that they were seeking to recover under Georgia law, as opposed to Alabama law. “A federal court in a diversity case is required to apply the laws, including principles of conflict of laws, of the state in which the federal court sits.” Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 358 F.3d 1306, 1308 (llth Cir. 2004) (quoting O'Neal v. Kennamer, 958 F.2d 1044, 1046 (llth Cir. 1992). Thus, the beginning point of the Court's analysis is application of Alabama's choice-of-law rules.

         Alabama's choice of law rules for tort actions are based on “the traditional choice of law rule of lex loci delicti” requiring “that the substantive law of the place where the tort occurred must be employed.” In re Verilink Corp., 405 B.R. 356, 365 (N.D. Ala. 2009). “Under lex loci delicti, a tort is deemed to have occurred where the alleged harm was suffered.” Id. (citing Norris v. Taylor, 460 So.2d 151, 152 (Ala. 1984)). As noted, supra, there is no dispute that the collision made the basis of Plaintiffs' lawsuit occurred in Georgia, and that is where Plaintiff W.J. Smith sustained his injuries. The undersigned thus finds that Plaintiffs' claim for tort damages is controlled by Georgia law.

         A. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.