United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar Chief Judge
Keith Cowin filed this lawsuit against Defendants Mark
Richard Krebs, Sr., and Kibler Construction Company, Inc.
(“Kibler”), claiming personal injuries resulting
from a car accident in which Krebs, who is alleged to be the
agent of Kibler, rear-ended the vehicle driven by Cowin.
(Compl., ECF No. 1.) Cowin's complaint has two counts,
the first against Krebs and Kibler for negligence and the
second against Krebs for gross negligence; the second count
seeks punitive damages against Krebs. Now pending before the
Court is Krebs's motion to dismiss Count II. (ECF No. 7.)
The motion has been briefed (ECF Nos. 13, 14), and no hearing
is required, Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). The motion will
Standard of Dismissal for Failure to State a
complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
Facial plausibility exists “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. An inference
of a mere possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to
support a plausible claim. Id. at 679. As the
Twombly opinion stated, “Factual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” 550 U.S. at 555. “A pleading
that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.' . . . Nor does a complaint suffice if it
tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.'”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555, 557). Although when considering a motion to
dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations
in the complaint, this principle does not apply to legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555.
Allegations of the Complaint
alleges he was waiting at a traffic signal on southbound
Route 32, north of Niner Road in Carroll County, Maryland,
when the vehicle Krebs was operating failed to stop and
struck Cowin's vehicle in the rear. (Compl. ¶¶
5-7.) Cowin alleges that Krebs was using his cell phone and
not devoting his full attention to his driving. (Id.
¶ 8.) Cowin further alleges, as to Count II, that
Krebs did willfully operate his motor vehicle in violation of
the traffic laws of the State of Maryland and did carelessly
and recklessly operated [sic] the motor vehicle of
Defendant Kibler without regard for the safety and wellbeing
[sic] of others upon the roadway and did act with
such wanton disregard and indifference for the obligations
associated with the operation of a motor vehicle so as to
create a dangerous and hazardous situation which ultimately
led to the collision in question.
The actions of Defendant Krebs were intentional or so utterly
indifferent to the health, welfare and safety of others
traveling upon the roadway in question to amount to gross
Defendant Krebs drove the vehicle in a careless and imprudent
manner endangering property, life and persons upon the
(Id. ¶¶ 17-19.)
premise of Krebs's motion to dismiss is that Cowin's
complaint fails to allege an adequate basis for punitive
damages. Krebs is correct.
Maryland Court of Appeals has concluded that the elements of
a tort claim of gross negligence do not support a prayer for
punitive damages. Beall v. Holloway-Johnson, 130
A.3d 406, 419 (Md. 2016). Punitive damages may not be awarded
unless a “defendant's conduct was characterized by
evil motive, intent to injure, ill will, or fraud,
i.e., actual malice.” Id. at 420
(standard applicable to both nonintentional torts and
intentional torts) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“Negligence alone, no ...