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Moore v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 5, 2017

BESSIE MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORP. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Bessie Moore, the self-represented plaintiff, brought suit against defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Amtrak”), arising out of an injury that she sustained on December 20, 2013, when she tripped over a luggage strap while boarding an Amtrak train in Baltimore. ECF 1. By Memorandum (ECF 13) and Order (ECF 14) of April 18, 2017, I granted Amtrak's motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). I concluded that Moore did not allege the elements of a prima facie case of negligence because she “ha[d] not alleged that Amtrak had actual or constructive knowledge of the luggage strap . . . .” ECF 13 at 10. However, the dismissal was without prejudice and with leave to amend. ECF 14. Thereafter, Moore filed an unsigned Amended Complaint, alleging that “defendant was negligent.” ECF 15.

         Amtrak has again moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) (ECF 16), supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 16-1 (collectively, “Motion”).[1] The Clerk subsequently sent a notice to Moore stating, in part: “Defendant filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. If this motion is granted, it could result in the dismissal of your case or the entry of judgment against you.” ECF 18. Moreover, the Clerk advised Moore of her right to respond to the Motion. Id.

         On June 14, 2017, the Clerk received Moore's “Response To Defendant's Answers To Plaintiffs Amended Complaint”, which did not contain Moore's original signature. See Docket. In a Return Document Order of the same date (ECF 19), I stated: “It is not necessary to respond to the defendant's answer to the amended complaint; however, you can respond to the motion to dismiss within the time specified in the rule 12/56 letter sent on 5/26/17, ECF 18.” On July 5, 2017, Moore again filed a document with the heading: “Response To Defendant's Answers To Plaintiffs Amended Complaint.” ECF 20 (“Response”). It contains responses to the various defenses asserted by Amtrak in its Answer to the Amended Complaint.

         The Court is mindful of its obligation to construe liberally the pleadings of a pro se litigant, which are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989). Because Moore is a self-represented litigant, the Court will construe Moore's Response (ECF 20) as her opposition to the Motion. For the same reason, I will assume that plaintiff intended to incorporate in her Amended Complaint (ECF 15) all of the factual allegations she included in ECF 1.

         Nevertheless, no hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion.

         I. Factual Summary

         In her Complaint (ECF 1), Moore stated that at 1:30 p.m. on December 20, 2013, she boarded an Amtrak train at Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore for a trip to Philadelphia. Id. at 2. As she was walking down the aisle, her “right foot became entangled in the strap of a passenger's bag.” Id. According to Moore, she was “unable to disengage [her] right foot from the strap”, causing her to fall forward. Id. Moore claims that she tore her right rotator cuff in the fall, which had to be surgically repaired. Id. She also suffered pain in her left arm and hips as a result of the fall. Id. Moore seeks $200, 000 in damages. Id. at 3.

         Moore's Amended Complaint (ECF 15) does not recite these facts in detail. She generally reiterates that she fell while boarding an Amtrak rail car because of “the unsafe condition [that] was on the plaintiff's [sic] property.” Id.

         In the Amended Complaint, Moore notes that Amtrak conductors are typically “diligent in maintaining safe passage through rail car aisles”, that “safe travel is rightfully expected” by passengers, and “due diligence should have been taken [by Amtrak] to assure safe travel.” ECF 15. According to Moore, Amtrak was aware of the “possibility” that another passenger's luggage could obstruct the aisle, and could have “prevented this accident” by the “exercise of due diligence to clear the aisles . . . .” Id. Notably, Moore states that it was “impossible” for her to “have known how long the [luggage] strap was in the aisle” because “the incident occurred while [she] was boarding the train.” Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         A defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In re Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd sub nom. McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

         Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendant with “fair notice” of the claims and the “grounds” for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . .” (citation omitted)); see also Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). But, a ...


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