United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
BARBARA S. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
JAMES W. STURGEON III and PV HOLDING CORP., a foreign corporation, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, CHIEF JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant P.V. Holding Corp.'s Motion
to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. ECF No. 4. In the
alternative, Defendant P.V. Holding moves for a more definite
statement pursuant to Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS
the motion to dismiss and DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE the
claims against P.V. Holding Corp.
February 27, 2017, Plaintiff Barbara S. Edwards filed a
Complaint against Defendants James W. Sturgeon III and P.V.
Holding in the Circuit Court of Mason County. On April 3,
2017, Defendant Sturgeon removed the action to this Court. In
the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sturgeon was
driving a vehicle owned by Defendant P.V. Holding, when he
failed to maintain control of the vehicle and struck
Plaintiff's vehicle. In Count I of the Complaint,
Plaintiff alleges that the accident was caused by Defendant
Sturgeon's negligence. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges
that Defendant P.V. Holding was negligent for two reasons.
First, Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant PV Holding
Corp. knew, or had reason to know, that defendant James
Sturgeon III, because of routine, experience and or prior
actions, was likely to drive his vehicle in a negligent and
reckless manner.” Compl. at ¶12, ECF No.
1-1, at 6. Second, Plaintiff contends that “Defendant
PV Holding Corp. knew, or had reason to know, that its
vehicle was mechanically unsound and/or defective and the use
of which posed a risk to others, and specifically to the
plaintiff Barbara Edwards.” Id. at ¶13.
Following removal, Defendant P.V. Holding moved to dismiss
the action for failing to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, in the
alternative, for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e).
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007),
the United States Supreme Court disavowed the “no set
of facts” language found in Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41 (1957), which was long used to evaluate
complaints subject to 12(b)(6) motions. 550 U.S. at 563. In
its place, courts must now look for
“plausibility” in the complaint. This standard
requires a plaintiff to set forth the “grounds”
for an “entitle[ment] to relief” that is more
than mere “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Id. at 555 (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). Accepting the factual allegations in the
complaint as true (even when doubtful), the allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level . . . .” Id. (citations
omitted). If the allegations in the complaint, assuming their
truth, do “not raise a claim of entitlement to relief,
this basic deficiency should . . . be exposed at the point of
minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the
court.” Id. at 558 (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted).
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme
Court explained the requirements of Rule 8 and the
“plausibility standard” in more detail. In
Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated that Rule 8 does
not demand “detailed factual allegations[.]” 556
U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
However, a mere “unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” is
insufficient. Id. “To survive a 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.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Facial plausibility
exists when a claim contains “factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. (citation omitted). The Supreme Court continued
by explaining that, although factual allegations in a
complaint must be accepted as true for purposes of a motion
to dismiss, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions.
Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Id. (citation omitted). Whether
a plausible claim is stated in a complaint requires a court
to conduct a context-specific analysis, drawing upon the
court's own judicial experience and common sense.
Id. at 679. If the court finds from its analysis
that “the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to
infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” Id. (quoting, in part,
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The Supreme Court further articulated
that “a court considering a motion to dismiss can
choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they
are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the
assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the
framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual
reviewing the Complaint in this case, the Court finds that
Plaintiff has failed to provide any factual basis for
alleging that P.V. Holding knew about any proclivity of Mr.
Sturgeon to drive in a negligent or reckless manner. In fact,
Plaintiff states in her Response that she has no information
regarding Mr. Sturgeon's condition at the time of the
accident, nor his driving history. Thus, as Plaintiff's
claim is mere speculation without any factual support, the
Court GRANTS P.V. Holding's motion to dismiss this claim.
the Court finds no facts in the Complaint to that support
Plaintiff's claim that the vehicle Mr. Sturgeon was
driving was mechanically unsound or defective and that P.V.
Holding knew, or had reason to know, about the condition. In
her Response, Plaintiff asserts her allegation is based upon
the crash report in which Mr. Sturgeon stated
“something caused the car to go left and I don't
know what.” Point Pleasant Police Dep't
Accident Statement Form, ECF No. 9-1, at 14. However,
this information appears nowhere in the Complaint and, even
if it did, does not support Plaintiff's allegation that
P.V. Holding knew the vehicle was unsound or defective.
Without more in the Complaint, Plaintiff's
unsubstantiated statement cannot survive dismissal and,
therefore, the Court GRANTS the motion to dismiss the claim.
for the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant P.V.
Holding Corp.'s Motion to Dismiss and DISMISSES WITHOUT
PREJUDICE Count II.
Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Order to c and
any unrepresented parties.
Although P.V. Holding made an
alternative request for a more definite statement under Rule
12(e), this Rule applies when a pleading “is so vague
or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a
response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). However, “[i]t is
‘ordinarily restricted to situations where a pleading
suffers from unintelligibility rather than want of
detail[.]'” Tilley v. Allstate Ins. Co.,
40 F.Supp.2d 809, 814 (S.D. W.Va. 1999). In this case,
Plaintiff's claims are insufficient because she fails to