United States District Court, N.D. Alabama
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a personal injury action arising out of a motor vehicle
accident. The operative pleading is the third amended
complaint filed by Benjamin Bradford Laney (“Benjamin
Laney”); Dax Jonathan Stiefel (“Stiefel”);
and Gerald Don Laney, d/b/a Laney Electric, Limited Liability
Company (“Laney Electric”), naming as defendants
Robert K. Malone (“Malone”); The Cincinnati
Insurance Company (“Cincinnati”); Mid-Century
Insurance Company (“Mid-Century”); State Farm
Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State
Farm”); and Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc., d/b/a R
Carriers (“Greenwood”). (Doc. 31). Before the
undersigned is a motion filed by defendants Malone and
Greenwood. (Doc. 36). The moving defendants request (1)
dismissal of the plaintiffs’ wantonness claim;
negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision claim; and
negligent entrustment claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; (2) a more
definite statement with respect to the plaintiffs’
other claims pursuant to Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure; and (3) an allegation related to
Greenwood’s accident history be stricken pursuant to
Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
(Id.). For the reasons discussed below, the motion
is due to be granted in part and denied in part.
relevant part, the plaintiffs allege that on or about May 17,
2018, Benjamin Laney and Stiefel were travelling north on
Gault Avenue in a 2001 Chevrolet C34 pickup truck titled to
Laney Electric (the “pickup truck”). (Doc. 31 at
¶ 9). While acting as an agent of and in the
line and scope of his employment with Greenwood, Malone was
driving behind them in a 2015 Peterbilt 18-wheel truck (the
“tractor-trailer”). (Id. at ¶¶
9, 33, 37). When the plaintiffs slowed to allow a vehicle in
front of them to make a right turn off Gault Avenue, Malone
failed to slow, and the tractor-trailer collided with the
rear end of the pickup truck. (Id. at ¶
Preceding impact, Malone was not maintaining a safe distance,
was not looking ahead, was driving at a dangerous speed, was
distracted by electronic devices, and was fatigued from
working more hours than permitted by the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Regulations. (Id. at ¶¶ 13,
15). Based on these allegations, the plaintiffs assert claims
for negligence and wantonness against Malone. (Id.
at ¶¶ 11-16). They seek to hold Greenwood liable
for Malone’s negligence and/or wantonness on theories
of agency and respondeat superior. (Id. at
plaintiffs further allege Greenwood failed to use reasonable
care in hiring, training, and/or supervising Malone.
(Id. at ¶ 43). According to the plaintiffs,
Greenwood knew or should have known Malone was incompetent
and posed an undue risk of harm to others. (Id. at
¶¶ 44, 51). The plaintiffs claim that records
maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
show that within the past 24 months, drivers employed by
Greenwood have been involved in 461 accidents, including 12
accidents involves fatalities and 137 accidents involving
injuries. (Id. at ¶ 45). Based on these
allegations, the plaintiffs assert a claim for negligent
hiring, training, and/or supervision against Greenwood.
(Id. at ¶¶ 40-48).
the plaintiffs allege Greenwood know or should have known
Malone was a dangerous, reckless, heedless, indifferent,
and/or incompetent driver. (Id. at ¶ 51). Based
on this allegation, the plaintiffs assert a negligent
entrustment claim against Greenwood. (Id. at
12(b)(6) must be considered against the backdrop of Rule
8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Rule 8(a)(2) “requires only ‘a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, ’ in order to ‘give the defendant fair
notice of what the … claim is and the grounds upon
which it rests.’” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Rule 8 “does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations, ’ but it
demands more than an unadorned, the
defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “[L]abels and
conclusions, ” “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action, ” and “naked
assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement” are
insufficient. Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555, 557) (internal quotation marks omitted).
survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on
which relief may be granted brought pursuant to 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.’” Id.
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556).
hold a defendant liable for wanton conduct in Alabama, a
plaintiff must establish a high degree of culpability.”
Craft v. Triumph Logistics, Inc., 107 F.Supp. 3d
1218, 1220 (M.D. Ala. 2015). “While negligent conduct
is characterized by inattention, thoughtlessness, or
heedlessness and a lack of due care, wantonness is
characterized by a conscious act.” Id.
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Wantonness
requires proof of “the conscious doing of some act or
the omission of some duty while knowing of the existing
conditions and being conscious that, from doing or
omitting to do an act, injury will likely or probably
result.” Ex parte Essary, 992 So.2d 5, 9 (Ala.
2007) (citing Bozeman v. Central Bank of the South,
646 So.2d 601, 603 (Ala. 1994)). “Knowledge need not be
proven directly but may be inferred from the facts of the
case.” Klaber v. Elliott, 533 So.2d 576, 579
courts presume a defendant did not consciously engage in
self-destructive behavior, that is behavior that would likely
or probably cause harm not only to others but also to the
defendant. See Ex parte Essary, 992 So.2d at 12.
This presumption may be overcome by a showing the
defendant’s judgment was impaired (e.g., by the
consumption of alcohol) or that the conduct at issue was
“so inherently reckless that [a court] might otherwise
impute to [the defendant] a depravity consistent with
disregard of instincts of safety and
self-preservation.” Id. “
‘Inherently reckless’ behavior, for example,
might be driving in reverse on a major interstate, driving
through an intersection at a very fast speed after ignoring a
stop sign, or abruptly moving from the right lane into the
left lane after seeing a video store on the left and deciding
to stop and get a movie.” Craft, 107 F.Supp.
3d at 1222 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
“In each of these instances, something more than mere
inattention, that is, an exacerbating circumstance,
contributed to the accident.” Id.
plaintiffs allege Malone was not maintaining a safe distance,
was not looking ahead, was distracted by electronic devices,
was fatigued from overwork, was driving at a dangerous speed,
and failed to reduce that speed before making impact with
their pickup truck. While the allegations, standing alone,
demonstrate inattention or a lack of due care, taken
together, they permit the inference Malone knew the way in
which he was operating the tractor-trailer was likely or
probable to cause injury. See Hicks v. Dunn, 819
So.2d 22, 24 (Ala. 2001) (“This Court has held that
while speed alone does not amount to wantonness, speed,
coupled with other circumstances, may amount to
wantonness.”); Hornady Truck Line, Inc. v.
Meadows, 847 So.2d 908, 916 (Ala. 2002) (holding speed
at which driver was operating tractor-trailer, coupled with
weather conditions and driver’s inattention, was
sufficient to permit submission of wantonness claim to jury).
Moreover, driving a tractor-trailer at a dangerous speed and
unsafe proximity to another vehicle without looking ahead,
while fatigued from overwork and distracted by electronic
devices, suggests the kind of disregard for self-preservation
necessary to rebut the presumption discussed ...