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Brown v. Kahl

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 29, 2018

BROWN, etal, Plaintiffs,
KAHL, et al, Defendants.



         This suit arises out of a motor vehicle accident involving Plaintiffs Johna Lynn Brown and Carl Mitchell Brown (collectively, "Plaintiffs") and Defendants David Allen Kahl and Smith Transport, Inc. (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. 55, 56). On March 16, 2018, Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiffs' Complaint. (ECF No. 44). In considering that Motion, the Court also reviewed Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition thereto and Defendants' Reply in Support thereof. (ECF Nos. 49, 58). Both parties requested a hearing on Defendants' Motion, (ECF Nos. 45, 50), and the Court held a motions hearing on July 23, 2018, (ECF No. 69). See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). At that hearing, the Court granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 62), and treated Defendants' Motion, (ECF No. 44), as equally applicable to the Second Amended Complaint. In the interim, Defendants have filed an answer to the Second Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 70), and a revised Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 71), rendering moot their previous Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 44), which the Court now denies as moot. Defendants' new Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 71), essentially reiterates their arguments from their prior Motion and those made at the July 23, 2018 hearing. The Court has also reviewed Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendants' new Motion, (ECF No. 72), as well as Defendants' Reply, (ECF No. 74). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 71), will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 3, 2015, Plaintiff Johna Lynn Brown was seated in the passenger seat of a vehicle parked at a gas pump at Fair Price Market in Allegany County, Maryland, waiting for her husband, Plaintiff Carl Mitchell Brown, to complete a purchase inside the store. (ECF No. 62-3, Am. Compl. at 2). Plaintiffs allege that Defendant David Allen Kahl, in the scope of his employment with Defendant Smith Transport, Inc., was driving a semi-truck and was unable to timely stop the vehicle, rear-ending Plaintiffs' parked vehicle. Id. Plaintiffs further allege that, as a result of the collision, Ms. Brown sustained physical injury and was then terminated from her employment. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiffs filed suit against Mr. Kahl and Smith Transport alleging negligence, negligent entrustment, respondeat superior, and loss of consortium. (ECF No. 62-3, Am. Compl.). The pending Motion to Dismiss seeks again to dismiss Count II, negligent entrustment for failing to state a claim.


         The Supreme Court's holdings in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, enunciated the pleading standard that plaintiffs must meet in order to proceed past the motion to dismiss stage. In general, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         This rule for pleading "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." McCleary-Evans v. Maryland Dept. of Tramp., State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 585 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint cannot be mere "threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements supported by mere conclusory statements," Tobey v. Jones, 706 F.3d 379, 387 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556), and instead must contain factual "sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," Woods v. City of Greensboro, 855 F.3d 639, 647 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         In order to satisfy Twombly and Iqbal, the plaintiff need not plead facts sufficient to establish a prima facie case, but is "required to allege facts to satisfy the elements of the cause of action he chooses to bring. Id. at 648 (citing McCleary-Evans, at 780 F.3d at 585). Thus, Plaintiffs here are required to allege facts that satisfy each of the elements of the tort of 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 endangered by its use, is subject to liability for physical harm resulting to them.

Curley v. General Valet Service, Inc., 270 Md. 248, 255 (1973) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 390 (1965)). Liability attaches in such situations because the negligence in entrusting the chattel "operates as a concurrent cause with the negligence of the entrustee." Kohlenberg v. Goldstein, 290 Md. 477, 488 (1981).

         Liability for negligent entrustment "arises only if a reasonable man could have foreseen the negligent acts" and "when the foreseeability of harm stems from past conduct, it must be conduct so repetitive as to make its recurrence foreseeable." Essem v. Stone, Civ. No. PWG-14-113, 2014 WL 4182615, at *2 (D. Md. Aug. 19, 2014) (citing Curley v. General Valet Service, Inc., 270 Md. 248 (1973)). Furthermore, the Maryland Court of Appeals has observed that where negligent entrustment involves the entrustee's use of alcohol or drugs, or an underlying medical condition such as epilepsy, it is also necessary for the plaintiff to demonstrate that the particular characteristic relied upon for the negligent entrustment is also the ...

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