United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ANNA M. PLANERA-OHREN, as independent administrator of the estate of EMIL GALABOV, deceased, Plaintiff,
FERNANDO B. GUERRERO and NEW PRIME INC. d/b/a PRIME, Inc., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JOHNSON COLEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Anna M. Planera-Ohren, acting as the independent
administrator of the estate of the decedent, Emil Galabov
(hereinafter “the estate”), originally brought
this action against defendants Fernando Guerrero and New
Prime, Inc. (“Prime”) alleging claims of wrongful
death and survival. The complaint was subsequently amended to
incorporate claims of wrongful death and survival sounding in
negligent training, negligent supervision, and respondeat
superior against the defendants. The defendants now move this
Court to dismiss these newly added claims and, in doing so,
ask this Court to determine which state's substantive law
governs this action. The defendants further ask this Court to
dismiss the remainder of the complaint in its entirety. For
the reasons set forth herein, the defendants' motion to
dismiss  is denied.
following allegations are taken from the plaintiff's
second amended complaint and are accepted as true for the
purpose of ruling on the present motion. Guerrero was a truck
driver for Prime, a trucking company. On February 1, 2015,
during inclement weather, Guerrero parked his truck along the
left shoulder of I-80 westbound in Lincoln Nebraska. Galabov,
who was also a truck driver, was also driving westbound on
I-80 through Lincoln, Nebraska. In an unfortunate series of
events, Galabov collided with Guerrero's parked truck,
resulting in his death.
was an Illinois resident, but all of his immediate relatives
reside in Bulgaria. Accordingly, Anna M. Planera-Ohren was
appointed by the Circuit Court of Cook County to act as the
independent administrator of his estate. Guerrrero is a
California resident. Prime is incorporated in Nebraska, but
is based in Missouri.
estate's original complaint in this action asserted
claims of wrongful death and survival based upon a respondeat
superior theory of liability. In their initial answer, the
defendants admitted to a statutory master/servant
relationship between Guerrero and New Prime. The estate
subsequently filed a Second Amended Complaint setting forth
additional claims of negligent wrongful death, negligence
premised upon respondeat superior liability, negligent
training, and negligent supervision sounding in both wrongful
death and survival.
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not
the merits of the allegations. The allegations must contain
sufficient factual material to raise a plausible right to
relief. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 569 n.14, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). When
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all
well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and
draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Park v. Ind. Univ. Sch. of Dentistry, 692 F.3d 828,
830 (7th Cir. 2012).
present motion results from a difference between Illinois,
Missouri, and Nebraska law. The general rule under Illinois
law is that once an employer admits responsibility under a
respondeat superior theory of liability, a plaintiff may not
proceed against the employer on another theory of imputed
liability. Gant v. L.U. Transport, Inc., 770 N.E.2d
1155, 1159, 331 Ill.App.3d 924 (2002). Thus, Illinois law
would preclude the estate's newly added claims for
negligent training and negligent supervision. Missouri has
adopted a similar rule. State ex rel. McHaffie ex rel.
McHaffie v. Bunch, 891 S.W.2d 822, 826 (Mo. 1995). The
estate contends that Nebraska does not follow a similar rule,
although the defendants' challenge this claim.
estate asserts that Nebraska's treatment of this issue is
established by a Nebraska Supreme Court case, Kozlov v.
Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. Kozlov, however, was
decided by the United States District Court for the District
of Nebraska, not the Nebraska Supreme Court. Kozlov v.
Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc., Nos. 4:10CV3211,
4:10CV3212, 8:10CV3191, 2014 WL 1572440 at *5 (D. Neb. April
18, 2014). A thorough reading of its holding shows only that
the district court speculated as to how the Nebraska Supreme
Court would likely resolve the issue based on its existing
caselaw; its holding did not establish Nebraska law.
defendants, however, fail to offer any authority establishing
what the state of the law in Nebraska is or to support their
conclusory assertion that the state of the law remains
unsettled. Kozlov, despite its weaknesses, therefore
remains the sole relevant authority before this Court. And,
in any event, Kozlov is based on the
well-established principle that federal courts should not
expand state law beyond the boundaries of established state
precedent. Sompo Japan Ins. Co. of America, Inc. v.
Alliance Transp. Grp., LLC, 627 F.Supp.2d 897, 904 (N.D.
Ill. 2009) (Dow, J.). The Court in Kozlov held that
the position the defendants now seek to advance is
unsupported by Nebraska precedent and this Court, having
conducted its own review of Nebraska law, can see no reason
to deviate from that conclusion. A conflict of law therefore
courts hearing state law claims under diversity or
supplemental jurisdiction apply the forum state's choice
of law rules to select the applicable state substantive
law.” McCoy v. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., 760
F.3d 674, 684 (7th Cir. 2014). In deciding questions of
choice of law, Illinois has adopted the “most
significant relationship” test set forth in the
Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Law. Fredrick v.
Simmons Airlines, Inc., 144 F.3d 500, 503 (7th Cir.
1998). Under Illinois choice of law rules, the law of the
place of injury controls unless another state has a more
significant relationship with the occurrence and the parties.
Id. at 504. In determining whether another state has
a more significant relationship, the court must consider (1)
where the injury occurred; (2) where the injury-causing
conduct occurred; (3) the domicile of the parties; and (4)
where the relationship of the parties is centered.
Ingersoll v. Klein, 262 N.E.2d 593, 596, 46 Ill.2d
it is undisputed that the injury in this case occurred in
Nebraska, which favors the application of Nebraska law. It is
further undisputed that the estate's negligence claims
arising from the circumstances of the accident itself are
premised on negligent conduct that occurred in Nebraska. The
defendants, however, contend that the conduct giving rise to
the estate's allegations of negligent training and
negligent supervision occurred at Prime's headquarters in
Missouri. This conclusory assertion is unsupported by any
legal authority establishing that in negligent training or
negligent supervision cases the injury-causing conduct occurs
at the place of training or supervision rather than the place
of the resultant physical harm. The defendants, moreover,
have failed to identify any allegations or evidence to
support their logical but entirely unsupported assertion that
Guerrero's training or supervision is attributable to