United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on defendants' motion to
dismiss plaintiff's punitive damages claim against
defendant J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. (“J.B.
Hunt”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), and defendants' motion to strike certain
allegations in plaintiff's complaint, pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) (DE 14). The issues raised have
been fully briefed by the parties. For the following reasons,
defendants' motion to dismiss is denied as moot and
defendants' motion to strike is denied.
commenced this action on October 8, 2018, in Wake County
Superior Court, alleging defendants negligently caused him
injuries arising from a motor vehicle collision. Defendants
removed the case on November 14, 2018. Following removal,
defendants filed the instant motions, together with their
answer. Defendants seek dismissal of plaintiff's
purported claim for punitive damages against defendant J.B.
Hunt. Defendants also ask the court to strike allegations of
criminal charges against defendant James Michael Pratt
(“Pratt”), and allegations involving trucking
safety rules. Plaintiffs responded in opposition to both of
facts alleged in the complaint may be summarized as follows.
On September 19, 2018, plaintiff drove his Ford automobile
down Interstate 85 South (“I-8 5”) . (Compl.
¶11) . The weather was sunny, and road conditions were
dry and visible. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 13). As
plaintiff proceeded down the road, he noticed traffic ahead
of him had stopped. (Id. ¶ 14). In turn,
plaintiff came to a complete stop behind the traffic.
Pratt was also traveling south on the same stretch of
roadway, many lengths behind plaintiff in the same lane of
travel. (Id. ¶ 16). Defendant Pratt was driving
a tractor-trailer owned, maintained, and utilized by
defendant J.B. Hunt. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 18).
Before defendant Pratt approached the area of stopped traffic
ahead of him, he passed a roadway sign warning motorists of
the upcoming congestion. (Id. ¶ 20). Defendant
Pratt failed to notice the sign, and was using a cell phone
or mobile device instead of keeping a proper lookout on the
roadway ahead. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 35-38). Pratt
collided with the rear of plaintiff's vehicle at
approximately 50 miles-per-hour, causing plaintiff to hit the
guardrail along I-85 and the rear of another tractor-trailer.
(Id. ¶¶ 23-30).
Standard of Review
survive a motion to dismiss” under Rule 12(b)(6),
‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. In evaluating whether a claim is stated,
“[the] court accepts all well-pled facts as true and
construes these facts in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, ” but does not consider “legal
conclusions, elements of a cause of action, . . . bare
assertions devoid of further factual enhancement[, ] . . .
unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments.” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v.
Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir.
2009) (citations omitted).
motion or its own initiative, “[t]he court may strike
from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Whether to grant a motion to strike is
within the discretion of the district court. See United
States v. Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, 899 F.3d 295,
324 (4th Cir. 2018). “The purpose of the motion to
strike is to avoid the waste of time and money that arises
from litigating unnecessary issues.” Godfredson v.
JBC Legal Group, P.C., 387 F.Supp.2d 543, 547 (E.D. N.C.
2005) (quotations omitted). However, motions to strike are
“generally viewed with disfavor because striking a
portion of a pleading is a drastic remedy.” Waste
Management Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore, 252 F.3d 316, 347
(4th Cir. 2001). “[T]he court is required to view the
pleading under attack in a light most favorable to the
pleader.” Kelly v. United States, 809
F.Supp.2d 429, 433 (E.D. N.C. 2011) (internal citation
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Punitive Damages Claim
move to dismiss any claim for punitive damages against
defendant J.B. Hunt. Defendants' motion is unnecessary,
because plaintiff alleges no punitive damages claim against
defendant J.B. Hunt.
damages shall not be awarded against a person solely on the
basis of vicarious liability for the acts or omissions of
another.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1D-15(c). Punitive
damages claims lie against a corporate defendant where
“the officers, directors, or managers of the
corporation participated in or condoned the conduct
constituting the aggravating factor giving rise to punitive
damages.” Id. § 1D-15(c). “A demand
for punitive damages shall be specifically stated, except for
the amount, and ...