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Adamson v. Canam Steel Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 12, 2016

ARTHUR ADAMSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CANAM STEEL COPORATION, a Delaware Corporation and MERCER TRANSPORTATION CO., INC., an Indiana Corporation Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          Sidney Schenkier, Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Arthur Adamson ("Plaintiff or "Adamson") filed a two-count First Amended Complaint (the "Complaint") asserting a negligence claim against defendant Canam Steel Corporation ("Canam") (Count I) and against defendant Mercer Transportation Co., Inc. ("Mercer") (Count II) (doc. #15: First Am. Compl.). Mercer answered and filed affirmative defenses (doc. #16: Mercer Answer and Aff. Def. to First Am. Compl.). Canam has moved to dismiss with prejudice Count I of Adamson's Complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (doc. # 17: Canam Mot. to Dismiss; doc. # 18: Canam Memo. at 2 and n. 1). The motion to dismiss has now been fully briefed. For the reasons that follow, we deny Canam's motion.

         I.

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, we accept as true all we 11-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. White v. Keely, 814 F.3d 883, 887-88 (7th Cir. 2016), We summarize the relevant, well-pleaded facts below.

         Plaintiff alleges that Canam, the owner and operator of a steel manufacturing plant in Peru, Illinois, entered into a contract with co-defendant Mercer, for Mercer to deliver a load of steel to a Canam customer via a flatbed truck (Compl. ¶¶ 6-7). Mercer hired Adamson, an independent contractor, to drive the flatbed truck (Id. ¶8). On October 23, 2015, Mercer directed and instructed Adamson to drive to Canam's plant to pick up a load of sheet metal and galvanized tin to be delivered to a customer in Missouri (Id. ¶ 9).

         Canam loaded the sheet metal and galvanized tin onto the flatbed truck (Id. ¶ 10). Canam and Mercer required that the truck be tarped, and they directed Adamson to cover the loaded flatbed truck with a tarp (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). This requirement was reflected in the Bill of Lading, attached to the Complaint as Exhibit A (Id. ¶13). Under "Directions, " the Bill of Lading states "TARP LOAD" (Compl. Ex. A).[2]

         Weather conditions at the Canam plant at the time of the loading were "hazardous, " with high winds and rain (Compl. ¶ 15). Due to these conditions, Adamson asked to place the tarp over the load while the vehicle was located in Canam's indoor loading dock (Id. ¶ 16). Canam denied the request (Id.). Adamson also asked Canam for permission to use an available forklift to place the tarp over the load, but was denied the use of a forklift or other mechanical assistance in covering the flatbed truck with tarp (Id. ¶¶ 18, 25).

         Adamson was not permitted to stage the flatbed truck in the loading bay until the rain and high winds stopped (Id. ¶ 17). He was ordered to tarp the truck outside in the wind and rain (Id. ¶ 16). "At the direction of Canam, " Adamson moved his truck outdoors and "following orders of Canam and Mercer, Adamson climbed on top of the truck to place the tarp manually" over the load in the hazardous weather (Id. ¶¶ 26, 28). While placing the tarp, "the wind caught the tarp and blew Adamson off the top of the truck and onto the ground" (Id. ¶ 29). He landed on his arm and head and incurred "serious and painful permanent injuries, including a fracture of the radius, a cervical fracture at ¶ 1-2, a fracture of the frontal bone, a facial bone fracture, and other traumatic injuries" (Id. ¶ 29). As a result of these injuries, Adamson has been forced to undergo multiple surgeries, therapy and other medical treatment, and has "suffered permanent disability" (Id. ¶¶ 30-31).

         Plaintiff alleges that based on the wind, rain and failure to provide a forklift, it was reasonably foreseeable that he could fall and be injured when tarping the load outside while exposed to the hazardous weather elements (Id. ¶¶ 22-23). He contends that Canam "knew, or should have known, " that when Canam and Mercer "ordered the cargo be covered by tarp without proper equipment in hazardous weather or a safe place to tarp, Adamson would be forced to manually cover the cargo with the tarp outdoors in the wind and rain" (Id. ¶ 27). Adamson further alleges that Canam owed Adamson a duty of reasonable care to provide a safe area and mechanical assistance to tarp the load (Id. ¶ 34). Canam moves to dismiss the negligence claim against it on the ground that Adamson fails to allege a sufficient factual predicate to establish the existence of a legal duty on the part of Canam (Canam Mot. to Dismiss, at 1).

         II.

         '"The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits.'" Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir, 1990) (citation omitted). "In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, we must accept all well pled facts as true and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the plaintiff, " Agnew v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 683 F.3d 328, 334 (7th Cir. 2012); see also, Marquez v. Weinstein, Pinson & Riley, P.S., 836 F.3d 808, 810 (7th Cir. 2016) (reviewing de novo grant of Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "accepting as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff).

         To determine if plaintiffs' allegations are sufficient to state a claim, we must determine if they both give the defendants notice of the claims to which they must respond and make the asserted claims "plausible on [their] face " Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); see also Agnew, 683 F.3d at 334 ("The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that a complaint provide the defendant with 'fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests'"). "'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.'" Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 752 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The "complaint must contain 'enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' to support [his] claim." Pierce v. Zoetis, Inc., 818 F.3d 274, 280 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).

         "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell v. City of Country Club Hills,841 F.3d 713 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations and internal alterations omitted)). "Nevertheless, even with the heightened pleading requirements of Iqbal and Twombly, the pleading requirements to ...


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