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Gene Crowe v. Strong Built

August 28, 2012

GENE CROWE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STRONG BUILT, INC., STRONG BUILT INTERNATIONAL, LLC, STRONG BUILT OUTDOORS, LLC, BPS CATALOG, LLC, AND BASS PRO, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on a motion filed by jointly by Defendants who seek to dismiss Plaintiff's third amended complaint, or in the alternative ask the Court to grant summary judgment (Doc. 50). The motion was filed jointly by Defendants Strong Built International, LLC ("International") and Strong Built Outdoors, LLC ("Outdoors"). Plaintiff, Gene Crowe, filed a response to Defendants' motion (Doc. 56). The Court entertained oral arguments on the motion (See Doc. 68). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion (Doc. 50) is DENIED.

Plaintiff's third amended complaint, which is the operative complaint here, contains a total of ten counts (Doc. 46). Only counts one through six are at issue in Defendants' motion (See Doc. 50). The first four counts of the complaint pertain to International and counts five and six pertain to Outdoors (Doc. 46). The Court will address the issues pertaining to International first and then discuss the motion as it pertains to Outdoors.

I. Strong Built International, LLC

Counts one and two of Plaintiff's third amended complaint are for strict liability and negligence, respectively (Doc. 46). These two counts are asserted against International as successor in interest to Strong Built, Incorporated ("Incorporated") (Doc. 46). Counts three and four are also for strict liability and negligence, respectively, and are alleged directly against International (Doc. 46).

The incident that underlies this lawsuit occurred on October 3, 2007, when Plaintiff's tree stand fell to the ground after a ratchet strap allegedly failed (Doc. 46). Plaintiff contends that Incorporated manufactured and sold the ratchet strap (Doc.46). When Incorporated ceased operations, International carried on the operation as a successor in interest (Doc. 46). Accordingly, International is responsible for the liabilities of Incorporated (Doc. 46).

Defendants point out that both Incorporated and International have been adjudicated bankrupt (Doc. 50). Incorporated's bankruptcy case was closed on March 14, 2006, which is before Plaintiff's cause of action arose (Doc. 50). Therefore, Plaintiff is foreclosed from pursuing claims against Incorporated (Doc. 50).

International was adjudicated bankrupt on January 7, 2010 (Doc. 50). Defendants contend that since Plaintiff's cause of action arose before International was adjudicated bankrupt, counts one through four were discharged in International's bankruptcy plan (Doc. 50). Accordingly, Defendants ask the Court to dismiss counts one through four of Plaintiff's third amended complaint (Doc. 50).

Analysis

Defendants' motion, as it pertains to International and Incorporated is essentially a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (See Doc. 50). Defendants couch the motion as one also sounding in summary judgment. However, Defendants make only one argument; they simply pose the argument under two legal standards.

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, - U.S. -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). While "[s]pecific facts are not necessary," the pleaded facts must "give the defendant fair notice of what the.claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). The Seventh Circuit has succinctly elucidated post-Twombly pleading standards:

So, what do we take away from Twombly, Erickson, and Iqbal? First, a plaintiff must provide notice to defendants of her claims. Second, courts must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true, but some factual allegations will be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice to defendants of the plaintiff's claim. Third, in considering the plaintiff's factual allegations, courts should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.

Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). It is, therefore, "not enough to give a threadbare recitation of the elements of a claim without factual support." Bissessur v. Indiana Univ. Bd. Of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 603 (7th Cir. 2009).

The standard applied to summary judgment motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is well-settled and has ...


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