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Graciano v. Blue Sky Logistics LLC

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

May 16, 2018



          OSTEEN, JR., District Judge.

         Presently before this court is a Motion to Strike filed by Defendants Blue Sky Logistics, LLC, and Michael Walker Daniels (“Defendants”). (Doc. 8.) Defendants have filed a corrected brief in support of their motion, (Doc. 10), Plaintiff Casimiro Graciano (“Plaintiff”) has responded in opposition, (Doc. 11), and Defendants have replied, (Doc. 12). This matter is ripe for resolution, and for the reasons stated herein, this court will deny Defendants' Motion to Strike.


         The following facts are recited in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. On or about March 1, 2016, Plaintiff was operating a tractor trailer in Surry County, North Carolina. (Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 42, 44.) On the same date, Defendant Michael Walker Daniels (“Defendant Daniels”) was also operating a tractor trailer in Surry County, North Carolina as an employee of Defendant Blue Sky Logistics, LLC (“Defendant Blue Sky”). (Id. ¶¶ 42-43.) The tractor trailer driven by Defendant Daniels crashed into the tractor trailer driven by Plaintiff, causing injuries to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 46-47.) Plaintiff alleges that he properly came to a stop for traffic while Defendant Daniels failed to reduce his speed, causing the collision. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.)

         Plaintiff's Complaint details necessary requirements that Defendant Blue Sky met in order to become a licensed motor carrier. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10.) Plaintiff then extensively outlines prior instances of Defendant Blue Sky employees being cited for violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. (Id. ¶¶ 11-40.) After describing the circumstances of the collision at issue, Plaintiff alleges that “[d]ue to the circumstances in the collision, combined with Defendant Blue Sky Logistics, LLC's history of hours-of-service violation, upon information and belief Defendant Daniels was fatigued and operating in violation of the hours of service regulation set out in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.” (Id. ¶ 48.) Plaintiff further alleges that “[d]ue to Defendant Blue Sky Logistics LLC's historic pattern of violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and state traffic laws, upon information and belief Blue Sky Logistics had an inadequate driver qualification, training, and monitoring process.” (Id. ¶ 49.)

         Plaintiff asserts, among other things, a cause of action against Defendants for negligence, asserting that Defendant Daniels's actions are imputed to Defendant Blue Sky under the doctrine of respondeat superior. (Id. ¶¶ 52-62.) Plaintiff seeks, jointly and severally from the Defendants, compensatory damages, punitive damages, prejudgment interest, postjudgment interest, and court costs. (Id. at 8.)[1]

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Jurisdiction

         While jurisdiction has not been challenged in the existing motions, the existence of jurisdiction is a “question the court is bound to ask and answer for itself[.]” Mansfield, C. & L.M. Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884). This case finds jurisdiction in this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff is a citizen of Texas while Defendant Blue Sky is a Utah corporation with Utah headquarters. Defendant Daniels is a citizen of Nevada. The amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. (Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 1-4.)

         B. Motion to Strike

         Defendants, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), seek to strike paragraphs eight through forty, forty-eight, and forty-nine of the Complaint.[2] (Defs.' Br. in Supp. of their Mot. to Strike (“Defs.' Br.”) (Doc. 10) at 1.) These portions of the Complaint largely deal with alleged prior citations issued to Defendant Blue Sky's employees. (See Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 8-40, 48, 49.) Defendants contend that these paragraphs “assert inadmissible subject matter which will unnecessarily broaden the scope and increase the expense of discovery and this litigation as a whole, distract from the issues at bar, and unfairly and unjustly smear Defendants.” (Defs.' Br. (Doc. 10) at 1.) Specifically, Defendant contend that the paragraphs at issue are purported “prior bad acts” which are either unrelated to the conduct at issue, (¶¶ 8-30), or, if related, are used to suggest that Defendants acted in conformity therewith during the time at issue, (¶¶ 8-30, 48, 49). (Id. at 2.)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides: “The court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). “Such motions can prevent the litigation of ‘unnecessary issues, ' and expedite the proceedings.” Staton v. N. State Acceptance, LLC, No. 1:13-CV-277, 2013 WL 3910153, at *2 (M.D. N.C. July 29, 2013) (citations omitted). Courts have broad discretion in disposing of motions to strike, but “Rule 12(f) motions are generally viewed with disfavor ‘because striking a portion of a pleading is a drastic remedy and because it is often sought by the movant simply as a dilatory tactic.'” Waste Mgmt. Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore, 252 F.3d 316, 347 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing 5A A. Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1380, 647 (2d ed. 1990)); see also Simaan, Inc. v. BP Prods. N. Am., Inc., 395 F.Supp.2d 271, 278 (M.D. N.C. 2005). “When reviewing a motion to strike, a court must view the pleading under attack in a light most favorable to the pleader.” Guessford v. Pa. Nat'l Mut. Cas. Ins. Co., 918 F.Supp.2d 453, 465 (M.D. N.C. 2013) (citing Racick v. Dominion Law Assocs., 270 F.R.D. 228, 232 (E.D. N.C. 2010)).

         1. Motion to Strike Paragraphs Eight through Thirty as Irrelevant

         With respect to Defendants' contention that paragraphs eight through thirty of the Complaint are irrelevant, Plaintiff ...

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