Bertram v. Progressive Se. Ins. Co., CASE NO. 2:19-CV-01478

Decision Date13 July 2021
Docket NumberCASE NO. 2:19-CV-01478
PartiesLAUREN BERTRAM v. PROGRESSIVE SOUTHEASTERN INSURANCE CO ET AL
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Louisiana

LAUREN BERTRAM
v.
PROGRESSIVE SOUTHEASTERN INSURANCE CO ET AL

CASE NO. 2:19-CV-01478

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA LAKE CHARLES DIVISION

July 13, 2021


JUDGE JAMES D. CAIN, JR.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE KAY

MEMORANDUM RULING

Before the Court is "Defendant Blue-Grace Logistics LLC's FRCP 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss" (Doc. 98) wherein Blue-Grace Logistics LLC ("Blue-Grace) moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' state law negligence claims asserted in Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint. Blue-Grace maintains that these claims are preempted under the provisions of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act ("FAAAA"), 49 U.S.C. § 14501.

ALLEGATIONS

In their Third Amended and Restated Complaint,1 Plaintiffs, Lauren Bertram, C B, Julian Bertram and Alexander Bertram, allege the following which is relevant to the instant Motion to Dismiss:

On or about July 16, 2019, at approximately 6:30 p.m., Stephen Duane Bertram was driving in the westbound lane of Interstate Highway 10. At that same time, Defendant Justin Chong was operating a Freightline tractor towing a trailer and traveling east on Interstate 10.2 The tractor experienced a blow-out of the front driver's side tire causing

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Chong to lose control of the truck and trailer. The truck and trailer crossed the solid yellow line ultimately entering the westbound travel lanes and oncoming traffic, striking a vehicle driven by Zachary N. Flessner and then Mr. Bertram's vehicle.3 Mr. Bertram sustained fatal injuries that resulted in his demise at the scene.4

Defendant Blue-Grace is a freight broker operating under the terms of a Motor Carrier Truckload Transport Agreement ("Empire-Blue Grace Agreement"); Blue-Grace acted as a freight broker for Empire National, Inc. ("Empire").5 As a freight-broker, Blue Grace was responsible for arranging for the transportation of paper product that Empire/Mr. Chong, the truck driver was hauling in the tractor-trailer at the time of the accident.6

The Third Amended Complaint alleges that Blue-Grace: (1) negligently investigated, selected, and hired Empire; (2) failed to exercise ordinary care in investigating Empire's competence to transport goods in a commercial vehicle on the public roadways; and (3) failed to exercise ordinary care in selecting Empire to transport goods in a commercial motor vehicle on the public roadways.7

RULE 12(b)(6) STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows dismissal of a complaint when it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The test for determining the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) is that "a complaint should not be dismissed

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for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Hitt v. City of Pasadena, 561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977) (per curium) citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99 (1957).

Subsumed within the rigorous standard of the Conley test is the requirement that the plaintiff's complaint be stated with enough clarity to enable a court or an opposing party to determine whether a claim is sufficiently alleged. Elliot v. Foufas, 867 F.2d 877, 880 (5th Cir. 1989). The plaintiff's complaint is to be construed in a light most favorable to plaintiff, and the allegations contained therein are to be taken as true. Oppenheimer v. Prudential Securities, Inc., 94 F.3d 189, 194 (5th Cir. 1996). In other words, a motion to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim "admits the facts alleged in the complaint, but challenges plaintiff's rights to relief based upon those facts." Tel-Phonic Servs., Inc. v. TBS Int'l, Inc., 975 F.2d 1134, 1137 (5th Cir. 1992).

"In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff must plead specific facts, not mere conclusory allegations . . ." Guidry v. Bank of LaPlace, 954 F.2d 278, 281 (5th Cir. 1992). "Legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Blackburn v. City of Marshall, 42 F.3d 925, 931 (5th Cir. 1995). "[T]he complaint must contain either direct allegations on every material point necessary to sustain a recovery . . . or contain allegations from which an inference fairly may be drawn that evidence on these material points will be introduced at trial." Campbell v. City of San Antonio, 43 F.3d 973, 975 (5th Cir. 1995).

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Under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the pleading standard does not require a complaint to contain "detailed factual allegations," but it "demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). A complaint that offers "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement." Id., at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955.

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id., at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955.

LAW AND ANALYSIS

Blue-Grace is a freight broker who arranged for Empire to transport jumbo rolls of paper in the tractor-trailer that was involved in the accident that caused Mr. Bertram's death. Plaintiffs allege that Blue-Grace: (1) negligently investigated, selected, and hired Empire; (2) failed to exercise ordinary care in investigating Empire's competence to transport goods in a commercial vehicle on the public roadways; and (3) failed to exercise ordinary care in...

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