United States District Court, D. Maryland
Debra Cavey, et al.
Mach Trucking LLC, et al.
before the Court are Defendants'; Mach Trucking LLC
(“Mach Trucking”), Nghia Yan Mac (“Yan
Mac”), and Thao Nguyen Mac (“Nguyen Mac”);
Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 9, 17). The Motions are ripe for
disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local
Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the
Court will grant the Motions.
an automobile tort case arising out of a collision in Anne
Arundel County, Maryland between a tractor trailer operated
by Yan Mac and an automobile driven by Plaintiff Debra Cavey.
On March 16, 2013, Mrs. Cavey was driving behind Yan
Mac's tractor trailer when the tractor trailer stopped,
causing Mrs. Cavey and other drivers behind her to stop their
vehicles. (Compl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 2). Mrs. Cavey alleges
Yan Mac missed a turn. (See id. ¶ 8).
Cavey waited for the tractor trailer to continue forward, it
began backing toward her vehicle. (Id. ¶ 7).
Mrs. Cavey attempted to elude the tractor trailer, but she
could not drive backward because there were other cars behind
her. (Id.). Mrs. Cavey sounded her horn, but the
tractor trailer did not stop, and she was unable to exit her
vehicle before the impact. (Id.). The tractor
trailer's rear underride guard, also known as the
“ICC bar, ” began crushing the hood and fenders
of Mrs. Cavey's vehicle. (Id. ¶ 8). As the
ICC bar moved closer to the passenger compartment, it
shattered the windshield and activated an air bag.
(Id.). Because Mrs. Cavey was sounding her horn when
the air bag deployed, the air bag fractured her left wrist.
(Id.). The force of the tractor trailer pushed Mrs.
Cavey's car backward by approximately 120 feet, and the
tractor trailer did not stop until it had backed far enough
to execute the turn Yan Mac had missed. (Id.). Mrs.
Cavey sustained multiple injuries and underwent surgery for
her fractured wrist. (Id.).
March 2016, Mrs. Cavey and her husband, Plaintiff Kent Cavey,
sued Defendants in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City,
Maryland, raising five claims: (1) negligent infliction of
physical pain and suffering (Count I); (2) negligent
infliction of fear (Count II); (3) intentional infliction of
emotional distress (Count III); (4) lost wages and benefits
(Count IV); and (5) punitive damages (Count V). (ECF No. 2).
On May 6, 2016, Defendants removed the case to this court
under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441 (2012). (ECF No. 1).
Mach Trucking and Yan Mac filed a Motion to Dismiss on May
18, 2016. (ECF No. 9). Nguyen Mac filed a separate Motion to
Dismiss on August 24, 2016. (ECF No. 17). Both Motions are
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint, ” not to “resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting
Republican Party v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th
Cir. 1992)). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does
not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to
forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the
complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each
element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d
445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen,
684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd sub
nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 F.App'x
165 (4th Cir. 2013).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the
complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the
complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v.
Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of
Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th
Cir. 2005) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232,
236 (1974)). But, the court need not accept unsupported or
conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to
actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst,
604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions
couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
the Court does not consider extrinsic evidence at the
12(b)(6) stage. Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal
Sparrows Point, LLC, 794 F.Supp.2d 602, 611 (D.Md.
2011). The Court, however, may consider documents attached to
the complaint, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c), as well as
those attached to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are
integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint and
their authenticity is not challenged, Am. Chiropractic
Ass'n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234
(4th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). Additionally, the Court
does not consider allegations asserted for the first time in
a brief opposing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim. See Zachair, Ltd. v. Driggs, 965 F.Supp. 741,
748 n.4 (D.Md. 1997) (explaining that a plaintiff is
“bound by the allegations contained in its complaint
and cannot, through the use of motion briefs, amend the
complaint”), aff'd, 141 F.3d 1162 (4th
Trucking and Yan Mac's Motion to Dismiss
Trucking and Yan Mac argue Mr. and Mrs. Cavey (the
“Caveys”) fail to state a claim for punitive
damages. The Court agrees.
to recover punitive damages under Maryland law,
plaintiff only had to prove “that the defendant was
guilty of ‘gross negligence, ' which was defined as
a ‘wanton or reckless disregard for human
life.'” Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Zenobia,
601 A.2d 633, 650 (Md. 1992) (quoting Smith v. Gray
Concrete Pipe Co., 297 A.2d 721, 731 (Md. 1972),
overruled by Zenobia, 601 A.2d 633)). In
Zenobia, however, the Maryland Court of Appeals
overruled Smith and heightened the standard for
recovering punitive damages. Under Zenobia, a
plaintiff must demonstrate the tortfeasor acted with actual
malice, meaning the “defendant's conduct was
characterized by evil motive, intent to injure, ill will, or
fraud.” Id. at 652. A defendant acts with
actual malice when he engages in “knowing and
deliberate wrongdoing.” Ellerin v. Fairfax Sav.,
F.S.B., 652 A.2d 1117, 1123 (Md. 1995). After
Zenobia, punitive damages are reserved for
“punishing the most heinous of intentional torts and
tortfeasors.” Beall v. Holloway-Johnson, 130
A.3d 406, 419 (Md. 2016). A plaintiff must prove the basis
for punitive damages by clear and convincing evidence.
Zenobia, 601 A.2d at 657.
is insufficient evidence to establish actual malice when a
plaintiff relies on only the egregious circumstances
surrounding a tort. See Beall v. Holloway-Johnson,
130 A.3d 406, 422 (Md. 2016). In Beall, a police
officer struck and killed a motorcyclist after pursuing the
motorcyclist for suspicion of a crime. 130 A.3d at 411-12.
The Maryland Court of Appeals concluded that evidence of
egregious circumstances-that the officer saw the
motorcyclist's brake lights but did not apply his brakes
before rear-ending the motorcyclist and killing him- did not
support an inference of actual malice because there was no
evidence the officer specifically intended to injure or harm
the motorcyclist. Beall, 130 A.3d at 422.
Caveys allege Defendants' actual malice toward them was
“evidenced by the wanton and grossly negligent”
conduct Yan Mach exhibited when he crashed into Mrs.
Cavey's vehicle. (Compl. ¶ 13). While the Court need
not accept the Caveys' legal conclusions that Yan Mac was
wantonly and grossly negligent, these allegations, on their
face, suggest that the Caveys overlook that wantonly or
grossly negligent conduct is no longer sufficient to prove an
entitlement to punitive damages. See Zenobia, 601
A.2d at 654 ...