United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge.
PGT Trucking, Inc. and Jorge Hernandez moved for partial
judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. No. 17). Plaintiffs
Stephanitsa and Nick Dalagiannis opposed the motion (Doc. No.
26) and moved to amend the complaint. (Doc. No. 25).
Defendants opposed the amendment (Doc. No. 27), to which
Plaintiffs replied. (Doc. No. 30). For the reasons stated
below, Plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint is
denied and Defendants' motion for partial judgment on the
pleadings is granted.
case arises from a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff
Stephanista Dalagiannis was injured when a mud flap flew off
a tractor-trailer driving in front of her and landed on the
windshield of the vehicle in which she was riding, causing
the driver to lose visibility. (Doc. No. 1). The
tractor-trailer in question was owned by Defendant PGT
Trucking, Inc. and driven by Defendant Jorge Hernandez.
previously moved the court to dismiss on the grounds that the
Plaintiffs action was barred by the statute of limitations.
(Doc. No. 7). The motion was denied. (Doc. Nos. 12, 13).
Defendants now move for judgment on the pleadings on the
issue of punitive damages. (Doc. No. 17). Opposing the
motion, Plaintiffs move to amend the complaint. (Doc. No.
25). Plaintiff does not seek to add any claims, but instead
proposes adding three paragraphs asserting an additional duty
on the part of Defendant PGT Trucking, Inc. and stating both
Defendants “intentionally failed to inspect, repair,
and maintain” the tractor-trailer “despite
knowing that this failure created a great probability of
causing substantial harm.” (Doc. No. 25-1 at
¶¶ 26, 37, 46).
Motion to Amend the Pleadings
provides a party may amend its pleadings once as a matter of
course within 21 days of serving the pleading or, if a
responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a
responsive pleading. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(a)(1). “In
all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the
opposing party's written consent or the court's
leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so
requires.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(a)(2). “In the
absence of any apparent or declared reason - such as undue
delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the
movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by
virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment,
etc. - the leave sought should, as the rules require, be
‘freely given.'” Foman v. Davis, 371
U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Head v. Jellico Hous.
Auth., 870 F.2d 1117, 1123 (6th Cir. 1989).
“Notice and substantial prejudice to the opposing party
are critical factors in determining whether an amendment
should be granted.” Hageman v. Signal L. P. Gas,
Inc., 486 F.2d 479, 484 (6th Cir. 1973).
proposed amendment is futile if the amendment could not
withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.” Rose
v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 420
(6th Cir. 2000); see also Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of
Treasury, State of Mich., Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376,
383 (6th Cir. 1993) (“[W]here a proposed amendment
would not survive a motion to dismiss, the court need not
permit the amendment”). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, a complaint “does not need detailed
factual allegations [but] requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint also will
not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked
assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
While the court must accept all factual allegations contained
in the complaint as true, it need not give the same deference
to legal conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555;
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Plaintiffs do not seek to add any claims, but instead
“clarify the factual allegations giving rise to their
claims for punitive damages.” (Doc. No. 25 at 1). The
proposed amendments assert only that an additional duty is
owed by Defendant PGT Trucking, Inc. and that Defendants
intentionally engaged in the previously asserted
conduct. (Doc. No. 25-1). Matters of duty and intent are
elements of the cause of action and may not stand alone as
facts to be facially accepted as true. Plaintiffs have
offered no “factual enhancement” to support the
allegations contained in the amendments. In the absence of
any factual foundation asserted by Plaintiffs, I find the
proposed amendments futile as mere conclusory allegations
mirroring legal elements and deny the motion to amend the
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
same pleading requirements apply to a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6) and a motion for judgment under the pleadings
pursuant to Rule 12(c). Sensations, Inc. v. City of Grand
Rapids, 526 F.3d 291, 295 (6th Cir. 2008). A complaint
must state sufficient facts to, when accepted as true, state
a claim that is not merely speculative but “plausible
on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57, 570)
(explaining that the plausibility standard “asks for
more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully” and requires the complaint to allow the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the alleged misconduct); see also Albrecht v.
Treon, 617 F.3d 890, 893 (6th Cir. 2010). As noted
above, conclusory allegations or legal conclusions
masquerading as factual allegations will not suffice.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “For purposes of a
motion for judgment on the pleadings, all well-pleaded
material allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party
must be taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if
the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to
judgment.” S. Ohio Bank v. Merril Lynch, Pierce,
Fenner & Smith, Inc., 479 F.2d 478, 480 (6th Cir.
move for judgment on the pleadings on the issue of punitive
damages. (Doc. No. 17). Under Ohio law, a plaintiff may be
awarded punitive damages in a tort action only if:
The actions or omissions of th[e] defendant demonstrate
malice or aggravated or egregious fraud, or th[e] defendant
as principal or master knowingly authorized, participated in,
or ratified actions or ...