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Steppp v. Bohren Logistics, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 3, 2017

JUDY STEPP, Plaintiff,
v.
BOHREN LOGISTICS, INC. an Indiana Corporation, and JERRY BECK, Individually and as agent of BOHREN LOGISTICS, INC., Defendants. BOHREN LOGISTICS, INC. an Indiana Corporation, and JERRY BECK, Third-Party Plaintiffs,
v.
MARTIN & BAYLEY, INC., et at, Third-Party Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Third-Party Defendant Martin & Bayley Inc.'s Second Amended Counterclaim (Doc. 74), and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss MB-MTV Properties, Charles L. Martin, and Mark F. Bayley's Counterclaim (Doc. 83). This case originated as a fairly straight forward allegation that a semi-truck struck a pedestrian at a truck stop. The procedural history grew increasingly complicated, however, once the parties conducted discovery into the ownership of the truck stop where the accident occurred.

         Procedural History

          Plaintiff Judy Stepp filed her original complaint against Defendant Bohren Logistics, Inc., an Indiana corporation, and Jerry Beck, (collectively referred to as "Beck and Bohren") on September 4, 2014. (Doc. 2). The complaint revolves around an alleged accident in which an employee of Bohren ran over the leg of Stepp in the parking lot of a truck stop resulting in serious injuries. Id. at 2-3. On November 19, 2014, Defendants filed answers to the complaint. (Docs. 10; 11). The Court sua sponte ordered Stepp to file an amended complaint because the original document failed to properly allege diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 12). On November 25, 2014, Stepp filed her first amended complaint, [1]which was followed by Defendants7 answer on December 4, 2014. (Docs. 14; 17; 18).

         The case experienced a significant delay due to Stepp's medical treatment. (Doc. 31). On June 2, 2016, Defendants filed a third-party complaint against Third-Party Defendants Martin and Bayley, Inc., and Jacobson Transportation Company, Inc. (Doc. 32). Defendants allege contributory negligence under the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act, Chapter 740 ILCS 100/01 et seq. (Id. at 7). The Court exercises its supplemental jurisdiction over the third party claims because they are so related to Stepp's claims that they form part of the same case or controversy. See Timm v. Mead Corp., 32 F.3d 273, 277 (7th Cir. 1994) (noting that "[s]o long as an arguable balance of [judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity] points in the direction of the district court's discretionary determination whether or not to exercise jurisdiction, that decision, being discretionary, will not be disturbed.")

         Jacobson Transportation Company ("Jacobson") employed Judy Stepp, who was allegedly in the scope and performance of her duties when the accident occurred. (Doc. 32, at p. 3). Defendants allege that Jacobson breached its duty to Stepp by failing to provide her with the training and equipment needed to preform her job safely.

         Martin and Bayley, Inc. is one of the alleged owners and operators of the truck stop where the accident occurred. Defendants allege that Martin and Bayley, Inc. breached the duty owed to Stepp by failing to regulate the parking lot traffic and failing to provide adequate sidewalks. On August 2, 2016, Third-Party Defendant Martin and Bayley, Inc. filed an answer to the third-party complaint and counterclaim against Defendants for contributory negligence under the same Illinois statute. (Doc. 35).

         Additional discovery was conducted into the ownership of the truck stop and the facts of the underlying accident. Based on the additional discovery, Defendants filed their second amended third-party complaint expanding the list of third-party defendants to also include MB-MTV Properties, MB-MTV Properties as land trustee, Land Trust #1995-1, the beneficiaries of Land Trust #1995-1, Charles L. Martin, Frank M. Bayley, Mark Bayley, and Thomas Waldron d/b/a Tom Waldron Concrete/' (Doc. 52, at pp. 1-2).

         Third-party Defendant Martin and Bayley, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as "Martin") filed its second amended answer and counterclaim for contribution on October 14, 2016. (Doc. 67). Third-party Defendants MB-MTV Properties, MB-MTV Properties as land trustee, Land Trust #1995-1, the beneficiaries of Land Trust #1995-1, Charles L. Martin, Frank M. Bayley, and Mark Bayley (hereinafter referred to as "MB-MTV Properties, /), filed their answer and counterclaim for contribution on November 18, 2016. (Doc. 79).

         The counterclaims of Martin and the counterclaims of MB-MTV Properties allege identical causes of action against Defendants pursuant to the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act. Compare (Doc. 67, at pp. 30-37) with (Doc. 79, at pp. 34-42). Defendants seek to dismiss Third-Party Defendant Martin's and Third-Party Defendant MB-MTV Properties' identical counterclaims for contribution. (Docs. 74; 83).

         The Court notes that although Third-Party Defendants Martin and MB-MTV Properties filed separate answers and counterclaims, they are represented by the same attorney. Accordingly, they filed one unified Response to Defendants' motions on December 8, 2016. (Doc. 88). Defendants filed a single reply on December 15, 2016. (Doc. 93).

         Discussion

          The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to address the legal sufficiency of the plaintiffs claim for relief, not the merits of the case or whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept as true all well-pleaded facts, and draw all possible inferences in the plaintiffs favor. See, e.g., Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must allege facts sufficient to "'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face' and 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Camasta, 761 F.3d at 736 (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         The answers filed by Third-Party Defendants Martin and MB-MTV Properties deny general liability for the action and set forth various affirmative defenses including those for contributory negligence on the part of Plaintiff, Defendants, and other Third-Party Defendants. See e.g. (Doc. 79). In addition to the affirmative defenses asserting contributory negligence, Martin or MB-MTV Properties seek compensation ...


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