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Daniels v. The Carter-Jones Lumber Co.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 16, 2017



          Ellen L. Hollander, United States District Judge.

         On April 10, 2017, plaintiffs Clara and Robert Daniels filed suit against three defendants: The Carter-Jones Lumber Company (“Carter-Jones Lumber”); E3 Holdings, LLC (“EnerLux”); and “John Doe” as “Owner Of Transport Company.” ECF 1. Plaintiffs seek damages for negligence, negligent supervision, and loss of consortium as a result of an accident that occurred on April 11, 2014, during the course of delivery of home windows. Id.[1] Subject matter jurisdiction is founded on diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         In an Amended Complaint filed on August 31, 2017 (ECF 26), i.e., after the expiration of the statute of limitations, plaintiffs identified J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. as the third defendant. J.B. Hunt has moved to dismiss the claims against it, arguing that, under Maryland's statute of limitations, the suit was untimely filed. ECF 31 (“Motion”). Plaintiffs oppose the Motion (ECF 33), supported by a memorandum (ECF 33-1) (collectively, “Opposition”). J.B. Hunt has replied. ECF 34; ECF 34-1 (collectively, “Reply”).

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rules 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant J.B. Hunt's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2014 plaintiffs, who are domiciled in West Virginia, purchased custom manufactured windows from EnerLux for a home then under construction in West Virginia. ECF 26, ¶¶ 4, 5, 12, 15, 16. EnerLux hired J.B. Hunt to deliver the windows to Carter-Jones Lumber, a building supply company, which was to store the windows at its premises in Hagerstown, Maryland, until they were ready for installation. Id. ¶¶ 12, 16, 17, 19, 70. On April 11, 2014, plaintiffs arrived at Carter-Jones Lumber to inspect the windows. Id. ¶¶ 18, 20. J.B. Hunt's tractor trailer was backed into a loading bay. Id. ¶ 23. Ms. Daniels was concerned about the way in which the windows were packed (id. ¶ 23), and climbed aboard J.B. Hunt's tractor trailer in an attempt to determine whether any windows had been damaged “because of the negligent packing . . . .” Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiffs allege that at some point while Ms. Daniels was on the truck and the windows were being unloaded, several suddenly toppled onto her, causing very serious injuries to her. Id. ¶¶ 29-36.

         On April 10, 2017, just before the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations applicable for a negligence action in Maryland, plaintiffs filed suit against EnerLux, Carter-Jones, and “John Doe[, ] Owner of Transport Company.” ECF 1. On July 13, 2017, plaintiffs sought to amend their complaint to replace “John Doe” with named defendant J.B. Hunt. ECF 22. Plaintiffs were notified that if they wished to amend their Complaint they needed to obtain leave of the court. ECF 23. They subsequently sought such leave on July 21, 2017 (ECF 24), which the court granted on August 31, 2017. ECF 25. The Amended Complaint was docketed that same day. ECF 26. J.B. Hunt was served with a summons on September 1, 2017. ECF 31.


         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, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 1709 (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). It 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 a 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 plaintiff need not include “detailed factual allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading rules “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “‘must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint'” and must “‘draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.'” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see Semenova v. Maryland Transit Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015); Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011). But, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). “A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer” that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).

         Of import here, courts generally do not “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses” through a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999); accord King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). But, “in the relatively rare circumstances where facts sufficient to rule on an affirmative defense are alleged in the complaint, the defense may be reached by a motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6).” Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007) (en banc); accord Pressley v. Tupperware Long Term Disability Plan, 533 F.3d 334, 336 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Meridian Investments, Inc. v. Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp., 855 F.3d 573, 577 (4th Cir. 2017) (“A defendant's claim that an action is time-barred is an affirmative defense that it can raise in a motion to dismiss when the ‘face of the complaint includes all necessary facts for the defense to prevail.'”) (citation omitted). However, because Rule 12(b)(6) “is intended [only] to test the legal adequacy of the complaint, ” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. Forst, 4 F.3d 244, 250 (4th Cir. 1993), “[t]his principle only applies . . . if all facts necessary to the affirmative defense ‘clearly appear[ ] on the face of the complaint.'” Goodman, 494 F.3d at 464 (quoting Forst, 4 F.3d at 250) (emphasis added in Goodman ).

         III. ...

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