United States District Court, D. Maryland
Deborah L. Gogel, et al.
John Maroulis, et al.
L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are: (1) Plaintiffs Deborah L. Gogel, Amanda
Foti, Candace Gogel, Helen Gogel, Elena Ramos, Maria A.
Uribe, Thiana Castro, Freddy Ortiz, and Joshua Castro's
Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (ECF No.
27); and (2) Defendant Paula A. Maroulis's Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 24). The Motions are ripe for disposition,
and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6
(D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will
grant Plaintiffs' Motion and deny as moot the Motion to
August 5, 2013, a boating accident occurred on navigable
waters off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. (Am. Compl.
¶ 3, ECF No. 18). The accident resulted in the deaths of two
invited passengers on the boat, William M. Gogel and Fredy F.
Castro. (Id. ¶ 5). Paula and Defendant John
Maroulis (collectively, the “Maroulises”)
“owned, operated, and had in their possession and
control” the boat, a NAUTI CAT passenger
vessel. (Id. ¶ 2). John was
operating the boat at the time of the accident. (Id.
26, 2016, Plaintiffs sued John Maroulis and “Sharon
Maroulis” under the Death on the High Seas Act, 46
U.S.C. §§ 30301 et seq. (2018). (ECF No.
1-1). On May 3, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiffs leave to
change the name of Defendant Sharon Maroulis to Paula A.
Maroulis. (May 2, 2018 Order, ECF No. 17). Plaintiffs then
filed an Amended Complaint against the Maroulises. (ECF No.
18). The two-Count Amended Complaint alleges that John
Maroulis negligently operated and controlled the boat. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 4). Plaintiffs seek monetary damages.
(Id. at 4, 5).
11, 2018, Paula filed a Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No.
Plaintiffs filed an Opposition on July 12, 2018. (ECF No.
28). To date, the Court has no record that Paula filed a
27, 2018, approximately two weeks after Paula filed her
Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to
File a Second Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 27). The Maroulises
filed an Opposition on July 12, 2018. (ECF No. 28). To date,
the Court has no record that Plaintiffs filed a Reply.
proposed Second Amended Complaint adds allegations that Paula
Maroulis knew or should have known all passengers were
required to have personal floatation devices. (2d Am. Compl.
¶ 5, ECF No. 27-2). It further alleges that Paula was
negligent by: (1) “failing to provide a seaworthy
vessel”; (2) failing to maintain properly the
vessel's condition, “including the electrical
system and electrical breakers, as well as the bilge pumps of
said vessel”; (3) “failing to promulgate and
enforce reasonable rules and regulations for” wearing
personal floatation devices aboard the boat at issue; and (4)
otherwise being “careless, reckless and
negligent.” (Id.). The proposed Second Amended
Complaint asserts that the Maroulises' negligence caused
Gogel's death (Count I) and Castro's death (Count
II). (Id. ¶¶ 6, 9, 14).
is a “federal policy in favor of resolving cases on the
merits instead of disposing of them on technicalities.”
Mayfield v. Nat'l Ass'n for Stock Car Auto
Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 379 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Matrix Capital Mgmt. Fund, LP v. Bearing Point,
Inc., 576 F.3d 172, 193 (4th Cir. 2009)). Consonant with
this policy, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2)
provides that the Court should “freely give
leave” to file an amended complaint “when justice
so requires.” The United States Court of Appeals for
the Fourth Circuit has “interpreted Rule 15(a) to
provide that ‘leave to amend a pleading should be
denied only when the amendment would be prejudicial to the
opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the
moving party, or the amendment would have been
futile.'” Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404,
426 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting Johnson v. Oroweat Foods
Co., 785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986)).
Maroulises submit that the requested amendment would be
futile. Leave to amend would be futile when an amended
complaint could not survive a motion to dismiss for failure
to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). See U.S. ex rel.
Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370,
376 (4th Cir. 2008). The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is
to “test the sufficiency of a complaint, ” not to
“resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of
a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Edwards
v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir.
1999) (quoting Republican Party v. Martin, 980 F.2d
943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992)). A complaint fails to state a claim
if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to
prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank
of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013)
(quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th
Cir. 2012)), aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of
Am., NA, 546 Fed.Appx. 165 (4th Cir. 2013).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the
complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the
complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v.
Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of
Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th
Cir. 2005) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232,
236 (1974)). But, the court need not accept unsupported or
conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to
actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst,
604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions
couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
Death on the High Seas Act creates a cause of action
“in admiralty” for a person's death caused
by, among other things, negligence “on the high seas
beyond 3 nautical miles from the shore of the United
States.” 46 U.S.C. § 30302. “To prevail in a
negligence action in admiralty, a plaintiff must demonstrate
that the boat owner breached the duty of ‘exercising
reasonable care under the circumstances' that he [or she]
owes to boat passengers.” Holesapple v.
Barrett, 5 Fed.Appx. 177, 180 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 358
U.S. 625, 632 (1959)). The pleadings need only “allege
facts sufficient to support plausible claims that: (1)
[t]here was a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff;
(2) [t]he duty was breached; (3) [t]he plaintiff sustained
injury; and (4) [t]here is a causal connection between the
defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's
injury.” Krajcsik v. Ramsey, MJG-15-3708, 2017
WL 3868560, at *2 (D.Md. Sept. 5, 2017) (citing Vollmar
v. O.C. Seacrets, Inc., 831 F.Supp.2d 862, 866 (D.Md.
the Maroulises argue that Plaintiffs' proposed Second
Amended Complaint fails to state a claim against Paula
because it does not identify specific allegations supporting
her breach of a duty. The Court disagrees. The proposed
Second Amended Complaint adequately pleads a cause of action
for negligence in admiralty against Paula. Construing the
factual allegations set forth above in the light most
favorable to Plaintiffs, the Court can reasonably infer that
Paula Maroulis breached the duty she owed to Gogel and Castro
because she: (1) invited the decedents on her unseaworthy
boat; (2) knowingly disregarded the requirement that the
decedents must have worn personal floatation devices while
aboard the boat; and (3) failed to maintain the boat's
electrical system and breakers and bilge pumps in a proper
condition. (See 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5-6, 9,
Maroulises maintain that the proposed pleading lacks any
factual explanation or predicate supporting Paula's
alleged breach of a duty. The Court is not persuaded. The
Second Amended Complaint need only contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that [Plaintiffs are]
entitled to relief” for the deaths of Gogel and Castro.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In light of the