United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause is before the Court on Defendant Guy M. Turner
Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Defendant Relay Associates'
claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure [DE 24], Defendant Turner's motion to strike
Defendant Relay Associates' surreply brief [DE 37], and
Third-Party Defendant Altran Solutions' motion for
partial judgment on the pleadings [DE 34]. The matters have
been fully briefed and are ripe for ruling. For the reasons
discussed below, the motion to dismiss is DENIED, the motion
to strike the surreply is DENIED, and the motion for partial
judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED.
seeds of this case were sown when an oversized truck bearing
electronic equipment was hit by a train in Halifax, North
Carolina in 2015. The truck was bound for New Jersey, where
third-party defendant Altran had contracted with defendant
Relay Associates to build a control house as part of an
electrical switching station. Defendant Relay Associates in
turn hired plaintiff PCX, a North Carolina corporation, to
build the control house sections. Once the sections were
completed, plaintiff PCX, through a shipping broker, hired
defendant Turner to transport the pieces from North Carolina
to New Jersey. En route, the truck bearing one of the
sections was hit and the cargo was destroyed. Most of the
underlying merits claims, which include claims for damages
between PCX and Relay Associates, PCX and Turner, Relay
Associates and Turner, and Relay Associates and Altran, are
not yet before this Court.
Relay Associates filed a crossclaim against defendant Turner,
asserting a negligence claim stemming from the destruction of
the control house section. Defendant Turner has moved to
dismiss that claim. Additionally, defendant Turner has filed
a motion to strike a surreply filed by defendant Relay
Associates. Finally, Relay Associates' series of claims
against Altran include a claim under the New Jersey Prompt
Pay Act, which is the subject of Altran's motion for
partial judgment on the pleadings.
Court has jurisdiction over the claim plaintiff PCX brought
against defendant Turner on the basis of the federal question
asserted, 49 U.S.C. § 14706. This Court has jurisdiction
over the remaining claims between the various parties under
diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, as well as
supplemental jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §1367.
Turner's Motion to Dismiss
Turner's motion to dismiss defendant Relay
Associates' crossclaim is made under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion
tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 283 (1986). When acting on a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), "the court should
accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and should view
the complaint in a light most favorable to the
plaintiff." Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7
F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir.1993). A complaint must allege
enough facts to state a claim for relief that is facially
plausible. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). Facial plausibility means that the facts
pled "allow the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged,
" and mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action
supported by conclusory statements do not suffice.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A
complaint must be dismissed if the factual allegations do not
nudge the claims "across the line from conceivable to
plausible." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
Relay Associates, in its crossclaim against defendant Turner,
asserts a cause of action sounding in negligence. To do so, a
claimant must allege the following: a duty, breach of that
duty, causation, and damages. E.g., William L. Thorp
Revocable Trust v. Ameritas Inv. Group, 57 F.Supp.3d
508, 531 (E.D. N.C. 2014). Defendant Relay Associates has
pled enough facts to state a claim. It has alleged that
defendant Turner owed defendant Relay Associates a duty of
due care. It has alleged specific facts as to defendant
Turner's neglect of that duty when crossing the train
tracks. It has alleged that this negligence led to a train
hitting the equipment on the truck. And it has alleged that
the destruction of the equipment on the truck led to its
injury. These facts suffice to state a tort claim.
Turner, in its motion to dismiss defendant Relay
Associates' negligence claim, argues that the claim is
preempted by the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce
Commission Act, 49 U.S.C. §14706. The Carmack Amendment
provides a mechanism to resolve contractual and tort disputes
between carriers and shippers. Turner is undisputedly the
motor carrier. But Relay Associates has alleged facts
sufficient to argue that it is neither the shipper nor on the
bill of lading, and thus is not controlled by the Carmack
Amendment. At this juncture, such factual claims are
substantial enough that a motion to dismiss should not be
granted. Relay Associates has stated a plausible claim.
Turner's Motion to Strike Defendant Relay Associates'
Turner also filed a motion to strike defendant Relay
Associates' surreply regarding the above claim. While
surreply briefs are generally disfavored, this Court has the
discretion to permit them. See Osei v. University of
Maryland University College, 202 F.Supp.3d 471 (D. Md.
2016). The Court declines to strike the surreply brief at
issue here. The motion is therefore denied.
Defendant Altran's Motion for Partial ...