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Mejia v. Pelamati

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 25, 2017

ZENAIDA MEIJA, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID PELAMATI, TITAN TRANSFER, INC., and ZURICH NORTH AMERICA INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation doing business in New Mexico, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND OPINION ORDER

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. 8). In the Motion, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claims for (1) negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention and (2) negligence against Defendant Titan Transfer, Inc. fail to comply with federal pleading standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). For the following reasons, the Court finds that Defendants' Motion is well-taken. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in New Mexico State District Court against Defendants. Doc. 1-1. Defendants subsequently removed the action to federal district court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Doc. 1. Plaintiff's claims arise from an alleged vehicle accident that occurred on August 1, 2015. Doc. 1-1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant David Pelamati ran a red light and crashed into her vehicle. Doc. 1-1.

         In addition to bringing claims against Pelamati for negligence, Plaintiff claims that Pelamati's employer, Defendant Titan Transfer, Inc. was “negligent in hiring, contracting of, training, supervision and retention of Defendant Pelamati.” Doc. 1-1. Plaintiff alleges that Titan Transfer's negligence includes, but is not limited to, (1) inadequate screening of Pelamati as a prospective employee or independent contractor; (2) inadequate management, training, and enforcement of policies regarding vehicle operation and maintenance; (3) placement or retention of Pelamati as a vehicle or tractor-trailer operator, and (4) inadequate supervision of Pelamati. Doc. 1-1. Plaintiff further claims that Titan Transfer was negligent because it “owned or leased or otherwise had a possessory interest in the vehicle driven by Pelamati.” Doc. 1-1. Plaintiff alleges that as the owner or lessor, Titan Transfer “owed a duty of ordinary care and/or pursuant to local, state or federal law, to maintain and ensure the careful operation of the vehicle.” Doc. 1-1. After removal, Defendant filed the present Motion contending that Plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for negligent hiring, training, supervising and retention or negligence against Titan Transfer.[1]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A Rule 12(b)(6) request to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted requires the Court to test the legal sufficiency of a party's claim for relief. “[I]f, viewing the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the complaint does not contain ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '” dismissal is proper. MacArthur v. San Juan Cnty., 497 F.3d 1057, 1064 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         A plaintiff's factual allegations against a defendant “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” See Christy Sports, LLC. v. Deer Valley Resort Co., 555 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Stated differently, a plaintiff must provide sufficient allegations to “nudge[] [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Although Rule 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007), the federal pleading duty is not trivial. Rule 8 pleading requirements “do[] not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-89. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court disregards conclusory statements of law and considers if the remaining factual allegations plausibly suggest the defendant is liable. Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10 Cir. 2011).

         In sum, the Tenth Circuit has concluded that the Twombly/Iqbal standard is “a middle ground between heightened fact pleading, which is expressly rejected, and allowing complaints that are no more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, which the Court stated will not do.” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief “is context specific, requiring the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claims against Titan Transfer for (1) negligence and (2) negligent hiring, monitoring/supervising, training and retention must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Doc. 8 at 5, 7. The Court will address these contentions in turn.

         A. Plaintiff's Claim for Negligence Against Titan Transfer

         In support of her claim for negligence against Titan Transfer, Plaintiff alleges that Titan Transfer, as owner of the vehicle, “owed a duty of ordinary care and/or pursuant to local, state or federal law, to maintain and ensure the careful operation of the vehicle.” Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 36. Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant breached its duty of ordinary care and/or its duty pursuant to local, state, or federal law.” Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 37. Plaintiff alleges that as “a proximate result of Defendant's Titan's negligence in its obligations of ownership, possessor interest, and maintenance, Plaintiff suffered the above described damages.” Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 38. Defendants contend that these allegations are insufficient because other than alleging that Titan Transfer owned or leased the vehicle driven by Pelamati, Plaintiff fails to identify specifically how Titan Transfer breached an alleged duty of care or how Plaintiff suffered damages as a result of Defendant Titan's alleged breach. Doc. 8 at 7-8. The Court agrees with Defendant.

         “Generally, a negligence claim requires the existence of a duty from a defendant to a plaintiff, breach of that duty, which is typically based upon a standard of reasonable care, and the breach being a proximate cause and cause in fact of the plaintiff's damages.” Herrera v. Quality Pontiac,2003-NMSC-018, ¶ 6, 73 P.3d 181. As noted above, in deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court disregards conclusory statements of law and considers if the remaining factual allegations plausibly suggest that the defendant is liable. Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC, 656 F.3d at 1214. Plaintiff's allegations do no more than state vague and conclusory statements of law. Indeed, the only relevant factual allegations underlying Plaintiff's claim of negligence on the part of Titan Transfer is that it owned or had a possessory interest in a vehicle that was involved in an accident. Plaintiff makes no factual allegations that would allow the Court to infer that the vehicle involved in the crash was negligently maintained or that Titan Transfer failed to ensure its careful operation. Further, Plaintiff does not provide any specificity as to what duties Titan ...


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