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Henao v. Smiths Detection, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 13, 2019

JAIME HENAO, Plaintiff,
SMITHS DETECTION, INC., et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Jaime Henao, a passerby, stopped to help a delivery truck driver unload a large x-ray scanner-only to have the scanner fall off the truck and injure him. Almost three years later, he sued several parties, including the scanner's manufacturer and two companies purportedly delivering it that unlucky day. He seeks recovery under various theories of negligence. Before the Court are motions to dismiss filed by the three remaining defendants named in his amended complaint. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motions and dismiss the amended complaint, but not the action.

         I. Background

         For purposes of the instant motions, the Court presumes the truth of the allegations in the amended complaint. Defendant Smiths Detection, Inc., (“Smiths”) manufactures x-ray scanners used for building security. ECF No. 19 (“Am. Compl.”) ¶ 1.[1] Around December 2015, Smiths sold a scanner to a customer in the District of Columbia and arranged for its delivery. Id. ¶ 2. The scanner weighed almost 900 pounds. Id. ¶ 1. Smiths contracted Defendant CRST Specialized Transportation, Inc. (“CRST”) to arrange for the delivery of the scanner. Id. ¶ 4. CRST, in turn, contracted with Defendant Valley Logistics, LLC (“Valley”) to make the delivery. Id. ¶ 5. On December 7, 2015, Henao was walking near Columbus Circle N.E. when he observed a delivery truck driver employed by either CRST or Valley struggling to unload the scanner from his truck.[2] Id. ¶¶ 12-13. Henao approached the driver to help. Id. As Henao approached, the driver lost control of the scanner and it fell off the truck's liftgate and onto Henao, injuring him. Id.

         In September 2018, Henao filed this action in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia against Smiths and two other defendants purportedly responsible for the delivery of the scanner-C. H. Robinson Transportation Company, Inc. (“CHRTC”) and C. H. Robinson Company (“CHRC”). ECF No. 1-1. In his original complaint, Henao brought claims for negligence, vicarious liability, negligent hiring, and negligence per se against each defendant. In November 2018, CHRTC and CHRC removed this action to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction, ECF No. 1, and Smiths consented to removal, ECF No. 9.

         On December 5, 2018, Henao moved for leave to file an amended complaint that named CRST and Valley as defendants for the first time, alleging the same four negligence claims against them. See ECF No. 14. That same day, the Court denied the motion without prejudice for failure to comply with Local Rule 7(m), which requires, before filing any nondispositive motion, counsel for the moving party to confer with opposing counsel in a good-faith effort to determine whether there is any opposition to the relief sought. See Minute Order of December 5, 2019. On December 11, 2018, Henao filed a second motion for leave to amend that complied with Local Rule 7(m), ECF No. 16, which the Court granted, ECF No. 19. The Court also dismissed CHRTC and CHRC as parties to the action, in accordance with a stipulation of voluntary dismissal signed by Henao's counsel. ECF No. 18.

         Smiths, CRST, and Valley now move to dismiss Henao's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12. Smiths contends that the claims against it should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. ECF No. 22. CRST and Valley argue that Henao's claims against them should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) as time-barred or, in the alternative, for failure to state a claim. ECF Nos. 24, 26. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motions.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” “A court considering such a motion presumes the factual allegations of the complaint to be true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff's favor.” Philogene v. District of Columbia, 864 F.Supp.2d 127, 133 (D.D.C. 2012) (citing United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000)).

         If “the allegations [in a complaint] show that relief is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007). But a defendant “may raise a statute of limitations as an affirmative defense via a Rule 12(b)(6) motion only when the facts that give rise to the defense are clear from the face of the complaint.” Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. Ark Union Station, Inc., 268 F.Supp.3d 196, 203 (D.D.C. 2017) (citing Mizell v. SunTrust Bank, 26 F.Supp.3d 80, 85 (D.D.C. 2014)). “If no reasonable person could disagree on the date on which the cause of action accrued, the court may dismiss a claim on statute of limitations grounds.” Id. At 204 (quoting DePippo v. Chertoff, 453 F.Supp.2d 30, 33 (D.D.C. 2006)).

         In addition, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the plaintiff's complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the [plaintiff] is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations omitted) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Although “detailed factual allegations” are unnecessary, a complaint must contain “a claim that is plausible on its face” that goes beyond “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations and quotations omitted). That is, the factual allegations in the complaint should allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements . . . do not suffice.” Id. And in deciding motions to dismiss, the Court examines only those facts alleged in the complaint, see Tabb v. District of Columbia, 477 F.Supp.2d 185, 187 (D.D.C. 2007), and need not consider facts alleged in later motions, see Garabis v. Unknown Officers of Metro. Police, 820 F.Supp.2d 32, 35-36 (D.D.C. 2011).

         III. Analysis

         A. Whether the Amended Complaint's Claims Against CRST and Valley are Barred by the Statute of Limitations

         CRST and Valley argue that claims against them are time-barred. See ECF No. 24; ECF No. 26. “When deciding state-law claims under diversity or supplemental jurisdiction, federal courts apply the choice-of-law rules of the jurisdiction in which they sit.” Ideal Elec. Sec. Co. v. Int'l Fid. Ins. Co.,129 F.3d 143, 148 (D.C. Cir. 1997). As a ...

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