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Day v. Stevens

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 3, 2018

MATTHEW DAY, Plaintiff,
v.
JULIAN STEVENS, III, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. Mark Coulson United States Magistrate Judge.

         This suit arises out of a motor vehicle accident involving Plaintiff Matthew Day and Defendants Julian Stevens, III and TAK Trucking (“Defendant” or “TAK”), (collectively, “Defendants”). The parties consented to proceed before a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 301.4. (ECF Nos. 20, 23). Now pending before the Court is Defendant TAK's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts III and IV of the Complaint. (ECF No. 26). In considering that Motion, the Court has also reviewed Plaintiff's Response in Opposition and Defendant's Reply. (ECF Nos. 31, 34). The Court finds that no hearing is necessary. (ECF No. 32); see Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Defendant TAK's Motion will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 16, 2014, Plaintiff Matthew Day was driving a vehicle eastbound on Interstate 70 in Howard County, Maryland. (ECF No. 2, Compl. at 2). Mr. Day alleges that Defendant Julian Stevens, III, who was driving a tractor-trailer behind Mr. Day, was unable to timely stop and rear-ended Mr. Day's vehicle. Id. Mr. Day further alleges that, as a result of the collision, he sustained physical injury. Id. Mr. Day filed suit against Mr. Stevens and TAK Trucking, alleging negligence against Mr. Stevens and vicarious liability, negligent entrustment, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision against TAK Trucking. Id. at 5. TAK Trucking now moves to dismiss the claims for negligent entrustment and negligent hiring, training, and supervision. (ECF No. 26).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The purpose of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) “is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to 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) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)) (internal quotations omitted). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “detailed factual allegations are not required, but a plaintiff must provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, ” which does require “more than labels and conclusions, or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Petry v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 597 F.Supp.2d 558, 561-62 (D. Md. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007)) (internal quotations omitted). In considering a motion to dismiss, “the Court must accept the complaint's allegations as true, and must liberally construe the complaint as a whole.” Humphrey v. National Flood Ins. Program, 885 F.Supp. 133, 136 (D. Md. 1995) (internal citations omitted). The Court must also construe the facts and reasonable inferences from the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997); see also Petry, 597 F.Supp.2d at 562 (“Once a claim has been stated adequately . . . it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.”) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 546).

         If the motion to dismiss “is supported by matters outside the pleading which the Court does not exclude, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment” pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Humphrey, 885 F.Supp. at 136. Rule 56(a) requires the Court to “grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The moving party bears the burden “to demonstrate the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact.” Jones v. Hoffberger Moving Servs. LLC, 92 F.Supp.3d 405, 409 (D. Md. 2015) (internal citations omitted). A dispute as to a material fact “is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P. Dev. Ltd. P'ship, 115 F.Supp.35 593, 600 (D. Md. 2015) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

         A nonmoving party “opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). The court is “required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to” the nonmoving party, Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007)), but must also “abide by the ‘affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.'” Heckman v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 962 F.Supp.2d 792, 799-800 (D. Md. 2013) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).

         In this case, the parties have submitted matters outside the pleadings. As explained below, however, this Court did not consider any outside exhibits and, thus, Defendant TAK's Motion will not be converted to one for summary judgment. See Petry, 597 F.Supp.2d at 562.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Count III: Negligent Entrustment

         In its Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant TAK argues that because (i) Plaintiff's Complaint contains no factual allegations, other than the occurrence of the collision itself, to support his claims; and (ii) Defendant TAK has already admitted agency, or that Defendant Stevens was in the scope of his employment at the time of the collision, it is entitled to dismissal of Plaintiff's Count III for negligent entrustment.

         The Maryland Court of Appeals has adopted the doctrine of negligent entrustment as enunciated in the Restatement (Second) of Torts:

One who supplies directly or through a third person a chattel for the use of another whom the supplier knows or has reason to know to be likely because of his youth, inexperience, or otherwise, to use it in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical harm to himself and others whom the supplier should expect to share in or be ...

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