United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
CHRISTOPHER J. BAKER, et al., Plaintiffs,
SWIFT TRANSPORTATION CO. OF ARIZONA, LLC, et al., Defendants.
Magistrate Judge, Chelsey M. Vascura
OPINION AND ORDER
A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Swift Transportation
Co. of Arizona's ("Swift") Partial Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 13). For the following reasons, that
Motion is GRANTED IN PART
and DENIED IN PART.
February 13, 2017, Plaintiff Christopher J. Baker
("Baker") was driving westbound on Interstate 70 in
a semi-tractor trailer owned by his employer, Defendant UPS
Ground Freight, Inc. ("UPS"). (Compl. ¶ 8, ECF
No. 1.) One of Defendant Swift's drivers, Theodore A.
Stacker, III ("Stocker"), was also
driving a semi-tractor trailer westbound on Interstate 70.
(Id.) Baker alleges that Stocker rear-ended several
stopped or slowed vehicles while traveling at approximately
70 miles per hour. (Id.) The collision caused a
chain-reaction, and one of the vehicles rear-ended by Stocker
struck Baker's semi-tractor trailer. (Id.) There
were no physical indications that Stocker applied his brakes
prior to impact. (Id.)
was killed in the accident. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Baker survived
but alleges that, as a result of the collision, he suffered
brain damage; seizures; injuries to his eye, head, chest,
neck, back, right shoulder, and right arm; and substantial
property damage. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 12.)
has sued Swift and UPS. (Compl. at 1.) He alleges seven
causes of action: (1) vicarious liability for Stacker's
actions; (2) strict liability for Stocker's actions; (3)
negligence; (4) statutory violations; (5) punitive damages;
(6) spoliation of evidence; and (7) declaratory judgment.
(Id. at 5-11.) Baker brings the first six causes of
action against only Swift. (Id. at 5-10.) He brings
the seventh cause of action against only UPS. (Id.
moves to dismiss Counts 2, 3, and 5 in its current Motion.
(Partial Mot. to Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 13.)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court will
dismiss an action that fails to state a claim upon which
relief maybe granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). An action will
be dismissed where "there is no law to support the
claims made" or where "the facts alleged are
insufficient to state a claim." Stew Farm, Ltd. v.
Nat. Res. Conservation Serv., No. 2:12-cv-299, 2013 WL
4517825, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 26, 2013) (citing Rauch v.
Day & Night Mfg. Corp., 576 F.2d 697, 702 (6th Cir.
1978)). When deciding a motion to dismiss, the court must
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff and accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded
factual allegations as true. Grindstaff v. Green,
133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1998). The court may consider the
complaint and any attached exhibits, public records, items
appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to
the defendant's motion to dismiss as long as the exhibits
are referenced in the complaint and are central to the
plaintiffs claims. Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate
Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008).
complaint will survive a motion to dismiss if it contains
sufficient factual allegations to "state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Ad.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim
"has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). A complaint will not "suffice if it tenders
'naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual
enhancement'" or "[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 557). Determining whether a complaint states a
plausible claim for relief is "a context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense." Id. at 679.
Strict Liability (Count 2)
that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs),
49 C.F.R. Part 390, do not create an independent cause of
action for strict liability against a motor carrier and that
Baker's strict liability claim (Count 2) is duplicative
of his vicarious liability claim, Swift moves to dismiss the
strict liability claim. (Partial Mot. to Dismiss, at 8-9, ECF
No. 13.) Swift's arguments have merit.
Count 2, labeled "Strict Liability of Defendant Swift,
" Baker alleges that Swift is responsible for
Stocker's actions because Swift "is the registered
owner of the USDOT number 54283 displayed on the
tractor-trailer involved in this collision." (Compl.
¶ 24, ECF No. 1.) Baker elaborates on this claim in his
Response to the Partial Motion to Dismiss:
Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs),
the rules contained in 49 CFR §§ 350 through 399
("Subchapter B") "are applicable to all
employers, employees, and commercial motor vehicles that
transport property or passengers in interstate commerce. In
addition, every commercial motor vehicle must be operated in
accordance with the laws, ...