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Liles v. Wyman

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division

October 31, 2019

JAMIE LILES Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the court on plaintiff's motions to strike several defenses raised in answers to complaint (DE 62, 64). The motions have been fully briefed, and, in this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, the court denies plaintiff's motion to strike directed against the fifth defense raised by defendant Norfolk Dredging Company (“Norfolk”), and grants in part and denies in part plaintiff's motion directed against the third and sixth defenses raised by defendant Lawrence R. Wyman (“Wyman”).


         Plaintiff commenced this action in Brunswick County Superior Court on October 15, 2018, seeking damages for alleged personal injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on or about April 7, 2017. Plaintiff alleges defendant Wyman was negligent in failing to operate his motor vehicle safely, thereby hitting and injuring plaintiff, and that defendant Wyman's actions were done in the course and scope of his employment with defendant Norfolk. Defendants removed the action to this court on December 3, 2018.

         Plaintiff filed amended complaint on January 8, 2019, and later sought leave to amend his amended complaint on March 28, 2019. On May 24, 2019, the court granted in part and denied in part plaintiff's motion, directing plaintiff to strike from his proposed second amended complaint 1) allegations in support of the application of maritime law to this case and 2) claims of fraud and negligent supervision against defendant Norfolk. Plaintiff filed the operative second amended complaint, upon extension granted with leave of court, on June 4, 2019. Defendant Wyman filed his answer July 29, 2019, and defendant Norfolk filed its answer the following day.

         On August 13, 2019, plaintiff filed the instant motion to strike to defendant Norfolk's fifth defense, contributory negligence, asserting it was insufficiently pleaded. In response, defendant Norfolk argues that affirmative defenses are not subject to the same pleading standards that apply to complaints. On August 15, 2019, plaintiff filed the instant motion to strike defendant Wyman's third defense, contributory negligence, and his sixth defense, that any award of punitive damages in this case would be illegal. Defendant Wyman responded on September 4, 2019, arguing that he adequately pleaded his third defense.[1]


         The court incorporates by reference the statement of facts set forth in its May 24, 2019, order:

On or about April 7, 2017, plaintiff was working at Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (“MOTSU”), refueling vessels. Plaintiff alleges that he “was working on a pier over navigable waters and engaged in maritime employment as defined by 33 [U.S.C.§] 912(4)” and “[suit] was filed in state court who have concurrent jurisdiction with this court over maritime claims under the Savings to Suitors Act 28 [U.S.C. §] 1331(1).” (Prop. second am. compl. (DE 35-2) ¶ 5).
At or around 8:00 a.m., defendant Wyman was traveling to or from his vessel in a motor vehicle when he struck plaintiff on the pier as plaintiff was exiting his refueling truck. Defendant Wyman attempted to drive between two parked vehicles and had less than two inches of clearance between the vehicles.
Plaintiff alleges defendant Wyman should have seen plaintiff opening the door of his fuel truck. Defendant Wyman admitted the accident was his fault to the accident investigator. Plaintiff suffered serious and permanent injury to his ankle, lost time from work, and remains in pain, unable to function or exercise as he had previously.
Defendant Wyman admitted to investigating officer Kevin Tatum (“Tatum”) that he experienced medical symptoms which defendant Wyman believed caused the accident. Plaintiff alleges that after the accident, defendant Wyman also admitted to Tatum that he was impaired at the time of the accident due to his reactions to Lasix and Rapalfo, and defendant Wyman allegedly provided a statement from his doctor to explain this reaction.
On the day in question, defendant Wyman was working for defendant Norfolk, and at the time of the accident, defendant Wyman was traveling on federal property, on the north wharf, as part of his job duties. MOTSU is a limited access facility operated by the Army and does not allow visitors or other people who are not acting in the course of employment. Defendant Wyman gained access to the facility by representing that he was an employee of defendant Norfolk and that he needed to be on the property as part of his job duties. Plaintiff alleges that “with the consent and knowledge of Norfolk, ” defendant Wyman obtained a security badge to get access to MOTSU and “[a] condition of this access was that Norfolk employees were only allowed on base as part of the job duties, ” as opposed to “sightseeing, joy-riding or running personal errands.” (Prop. second am. compl. (DE 35-2) ¶ 26). Plaintiff further alleges defendant Wyman gained access to MOTSU by falsely representing that he was engaged in work-related matters, that “[a]ccess would have been denied had he been honest and explained that he was not acting in the court ...

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