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Montgomery v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 20, 2015

LOU MONTGOMERY and MELISSA MONTGOMERY H/W, Plaintiffs,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC. and JAMCO PRODUCTS, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Lou Montgomery initiated this lawsuit against Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX") under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA") for injuries he sustained as a result of a workplace injury at the CSX Cumberland Yard. [ECF No. 1]. Thereafter, Mr. Montgomery and his wife, Melissa Montgomery ("Plaintiffs"), added Defendant Jamco Products, Inc. ("Jamco") to the action, alleging negligence, breach of warranties, strict products liability, and loss of consortium for injuries arising out of the same incident. [ECF No. 16]. Jamco has moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' third amended complaint as to Jamco (Counts II and III) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [ECF No. 38]. Plaintiffs' opposition followed, [ECF No. 44], and Jamco did not file a reply. No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons set forth below, Jamco's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

Taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the facts of this case are as follows. On or about October 5, 2013, Plaintiff Lou Montgomery was employed by CSX Transportation and was working at the CSX Cumberland Yard in or near Cumberland, Maryland. Third Amended Complaint ¶ 37. At about 1:40 p.m., Mr. Montgomery went to place the toolbox he was holding onto a tool cart, which was designed and manufactured by Jamco. Id. ¶¶ 41, 47-48. As Mr. Montgomery placed the tool box on the tool cart, the cart collapsed to the ground, causing the tool box to fall, which caused Mr. Montgomery's body to lurch downward in order to continue to hold the tool box. Id. ¶¶ 41-42. As a result of his body moving in this manner, Mr. Montgomery experienced immediate pain, and sustained injuries to his back and lower extremities. Id. ¶¶ 43, 60.

On May 8, 2014, Mr. Montgomery commenced this lawsuit against CSX for relief under FELA. [ECF No. 1]. On June 12, 2014, Mr. Montgomery amended the complaint to add state law claims on behalf of himself and his wife against Jamco.[1] [ECF No. 16]. CSX filed a motion to dismiss on June 26, 2014. [ECF No. 20]. On July 1, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint. [ECF No. 22]. Jamco filed its first motion to dismiss on August 26, 2014. [ECF No. 30]. On September 2, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint, and thereafter, on September 18, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a consent motion for leave to file a third amended complaint. [ECF Nos. 31, 32]. On November 17, 2014, Judge Bennett granted Plaintiffs' consent motion, and dismissed CSX and Jamco's earlier motions to dismiss as moot. [ECF No. 33]. This case was referred to this Court for all proceedings on November 18, 2014.[2] [ECF No. 34]. On November 20, 2014, Jamco filed the instant motion to dismiss, which is now ripe for adjudication.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Jamco argues that Counts II and III of Plaintiffs' third amended complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion "test[s] the sufficiency of a complaint" and does not "resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted). When ruling on such a motion, the court must "accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true, " and "construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997).

To survive a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). It is not sufficient that the facts suggest "the mere possibility of misconduct." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Rather, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " such that the court could "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint need not provide "detailed factual allegations, " but it must "provide the grounds of [the plaintiff's] entitlement to relief" with "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

III. ANALYSIS

Jamco contends that Plaintiffs' third amended complaint (hereinafter "Complaint") lacks factual specificity, fails to give Jamco fair notice of the nature of the claims against it, and makes it impossible for Jamco to properly answer. Jamco Mot. 2-3. To the extent that Jamco claims it cannot comprehend exactly which claims Plaintiffs assert against it, the Court finds that, while disorganized, Plaintiffs' Complaint sufficiently conveys which claims are asserted against Jamco. In Count II, Plaintiff Lou Montgomery appears to have asserted the following products liability claims against Jamco: (1) negligence; (2) breach of the implied warranties of (i) merchantability, and (ii) fitness for a particular purpose;[3] and (3) strict liability. In Count III, Plaintiff Melissa Montgomery asserts a loss of consortium claim against Jamco. However, the Complaint should have been organized differently. In particular, each count should allege an individual cause of action, not several causes of action for each plaintiff against each defendant. While not in violation of any federal or local rule by organizing the Complaint in this way, Plaintiffs' counsel is directed to re-format the Complaint-specifically, the numerous claims alleged in Count II-in the more standard format, for purposes of clarity and efficiency.

To recover on a products liability claim in Maryland-whether under a theory of negligence, breach of warranty, or strict liability-a plaintiff must prove: (1) the existence of a defect; (2) the attribution of the defect to the seller; and (3) a causal relationship between the defect and the injury.[4] Ford Motor Co. v. General Acc. Ins. Co., 365 Md. 321, 334-35, 779 A.2d 362, 370 (2001). "A product defect can arise from the design of the product, a deficiency in its manufacture, or from the absence or inadequacy of instructions or warnings as to its safe and appropriate use." Shreve v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 166 F.Supp.2d 378, 407 (D. Md. 2001) (citations omitted). Under each theory, the plaintiff must prove that the product was defective at the time it left the manufacturer. Ford Motor Co., 365 Md. at 334, 779 A.2d at 369.

1. Negligence

Plaintiffs allege that Jamco "negligently designed, manufactured, sold, distributed, delivered, and/or assembled the subject cart." Compl. ¶ 53. A cause of action for negligence must include sufficient facts to allege: "(1) that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) that the defendant breached that duty, (3) that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss, and (4) that the loss or injury proximately resulted from the defendant's breach of the duty." Lloyd v. General Motors Corp., 397 Md. 108, 131-32, 916 A.2d 257, 270-71 (2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A negligence theory of products liability "focuses upon the reasonableness of the manufacturer's acts and omissions, including the reasonableness of any warning, rather than upon the existence of a defect in the product itself." Shreve, 166 F.Supp.2d at 407 (citations omitted).

Jamco argues that Plaintiffs have failed to set out specific facts that establish whether Jamco owed Plaintiffs a duty, and how Jamco allegedly breached that duty. Jamco Mot. 4. This Court disagrees. Plaintiffs allege that Jamco had a duty to design, manufacture, and distribute its tool carts in a safe condition. Compl. ¶ 54. It is well-settled law that a manufacturer owes a duty of reasonable care to all those who can reasonably be expected to make use of its product. Plaintiffs allege that Jamco breached this duty when it failed to reasonably use a proper metal to create a secure weld, failed to use reasonable and adequate welding techniques, and failed to reasonably and properly inspect the cart to discover substandard welds, among other things. Id. According to Plaintiffs, the cart collapsed "without any warning to the plaintiff, and as a result of improper welds and/or metal fatigue, " caused Mr. Montgomery's body to lurch downward to continue to hold the tool box that he had just placed on the tool cart, and resulted in injuries. Id. ¶¶ 41-42. Plaintiffs also ...


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