United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND
DENYING IN PART NOBLE ENERGY, INC.'S MOTION TO
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
civil action was removed from the Circuit Court of Marshall
County, West Virginia. The case arises out of injuries that
plaintiff Timothy Lester (“Mr. Lester”) allegedly
received while operating his employer's water truck on
County Route 26 (“CR 26”) in Marshall County. Mr.
Lester's employer was C&J Well Services, Inc.
(“C&J”), a defendant in this civil action.
Mr. Lester was driving the truck to deliver water to a gas
well pad owned and operated by a joint venture consisting of
defendants Noble Energy, Inc. (“Noble”), CONSOL
Energy, Inc. (“CONSOL”), and CNX Gas Company, LLC
(“CNX”) and, collectively with Noble and CONSOL,
the “joint venturers”). C&J contracted with
the joint venturers to provide them with oil and gas field
services, including the transportation, delivery, and removal
of equipment and materials to and from the sites of the gas
well pads operated by the joint venturers.
complaint states that Mr. Lester was driving uphill on CR 26
at the same time two other drivers were operating tanker
trucks hauling fluids to the joint venturers' well pads.
The plaintiffs allege that Mr. Lester moved his truck as far
to the right as possible to avoid oncoming traffic but was
run off the road by the two tanker trucks coming from the
joint venturers' well pads in the opposite direction. The
complaint states that the roadway and shoulder of CR 26
collapsed, which caused Mr. Lester's truck to roll over
the guardrail and down a steep embankment, where the truck
struck a tree.
complaint also states that the joint venturers' traffic
plan for CR 26 required drivers driving uphill to call ahead
over their radios and drivers driving downhill to respond by
yielding to the uphill drivers. The complaint alleges,
however, that the two downhill drivers did not yield to Mr.
Lester when Mr. Lester indicated over his radio that he was
driving uphill towards the well pad. The plaintiffs allege
that the downhill drivers' failure to yield to him is
what caused him to run off the road.
plaintiffs then allege that Mr. Lester sustained severe and
permanent injuries as a result of the accident. The
plaintiffs further allege that the joint venturers'
traffic plan was dangerously deficient because it did not
properly regulate the flow of heavy trucks on CR 26.
Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the joint venturers
were negligent in the maintenance and repair of CR 26, which
allowed the roadway and shoulder to become undercut, soft,
and subject to collapse.
filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for
judgment on the pleadings. Noble is named in Count II of the
complaint, which alleges that the joint venturers were
negligent both in the maintenance and repair of CR 26 and in
the formulation and implementation of a traffic control plan
for CR 26. The plaintiffs base these allegations on two
separate duties of care. First, Count II alleges that the
joint venturers had a duty to maintain and control CR 26 by
virtue of the permits issued to them by the West Virginia
Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (the
“WVDOH”). Second, Count II alleges that the joint
ventures had a duty under West Virginia law to provide Mr.
Lester, an invitee, with a reasonably safe workspace.
plaintiffs filed a response in opposition to Noble's
motion to dismiss. Noble then filed a reply to the
plaintiffs' response. After a review of the parties'
memoranda and the applicable law, this Court finds that
Noble's motion to dismiss must be granted in part and
denied in part.
assessing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pled facts
contained in the complaint as true. Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd
v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc, 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir.
2009). However, “legal conclusions, elements of a cause
of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual
enhancement fail to constitute well-pled facts for Rule
12(b)(6) purposes.” Id. (citing Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). This Court also
declines to consider “unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Wahi v.
Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 562 F.3d 599, 615 n.26
(4th Cir. 2009).
often been said that the purpose of a motion under Rule
12(b)(6) is to test the formal sufficiency of the statement
of the claim for relief; it is not a procedure for resolving
a contest about the facts or the merits of the case. 5B
Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1356 (3d ed. 1998). The
Rule 12(b)(6) motion also must be distinguished from a motion
for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56, which goes to the merits of the claim and is designed to
test whether there is a genuine issue of material fact.
Id. For purposes of the motion to dismiss, the
complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the
party making the claim and essentially the court's
inquiry is directed to whether the allegations constitute a
statement of a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8(a). Id. § 1357.
complaint should be dismissed “if it does not allege
‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on is face.'” Giarratano v.
Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “Facial plausibility is established once the
factual content of a complaint ‘allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.'” Nemet
Chevrolet, 591 F.3d at 256 (quoting Iqbal, 129
S.Ct. at 1949). Detailed factual allegations are not
required, but the facts alleged must be sufficient “to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Duty of Care Arising ...