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Miller v. Pam Transport Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 8, 2019

DIEGO MILLER, WARLLEY SOARS, and WARLEY SANTIAGO, Plaintiffs,
v.
PAM TRANSPORT INC. and JAMES OLIVER DOTSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arose after a tractor-trailer owned by defendant PAM Transport Inc. (“PAM”) and driven by its employee defendant James Oliver Dotson collided with a van driven by plaintiff Diego Miller in which plaintiffs Warlley Soars, and Warley Santiago were passengers. All vehicles were traveling westbound on Interstate 64 in Washington County, Illinois, at the time of the accident. Miller, Soars, and Santiago filed this lawsuit to recover for their injuries. The matter is before the Court now on the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and to strike the First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) (Doc. 18). The plaintiffs have responded to the motion (Doc. 28), and the defendants have replied to that response (Doc. 32).

         The plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint alleges the following causes of action:

Count I: a claim for negligence and willful and wanton conduct against Dotson based on his operation of the tractor-trailer without observing various Illinois statutory duties (e.g., driving too fast for conditions and failing to reduce speed to avoid a collision, 625 ILCS 5/11-601(a)) and common law duties (e.g., failing to keep a proper lookout) imposed on drivers in the state;
Count II:a claim against PAM seeking to hold it vicariously liable for Dotson's negligence described in Count I based on employment, logo, and/or lease liability theories;
Count III:a claim against PAM seeking to hold it vicariously liable for Dotson's negligence described in Count I based on agency and respondeat superior theories;
Count IV:a claim against PAM for its own negligence and willful and wanton conduct in failing to comply with various Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSRs”) and in failing to have an adequate safety program to ensure such compliance;
Count V:a claim against PAM for its own negligence and willful and wanton conduct in hiring and retaining Dotson, an unqualified driver, based on its failure to adequately screen and investigate him as required by the FMCSRs;
Count VI:a claim against PAM for its own negligence and willful and wanton conduct in failing to train Dotson on the safe operation of a tractor-trailer, including the training and rules set forth in the FMCSRs; and
Count VIII:[1] a claim against PAM for its own negligence and willful and wanton conduct in failing to supervise Dotson and to discharge him because he was an unsafe driver as provided by the FMCSRs.

         I. Legal Standards

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard for Dismissal

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This requirement is satisfied if the complaint (1) describes the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and (2) plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 556). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         In Bell Atlantic, the Supreme Court rejected the more expansive interpretation of Rule 8(a)(2) that “a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief, ” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 561-63; Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 777. Now “it is not enough for a complaint to avoid foreclosing possible bases for relief; it must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief . . . by providing ...


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