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Cassady v. CRST Malone, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 16, 2017




         Before the Court are (1) Defendant ACE American Insurance Company, Inc.'s (“ACE”) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 30); (2) Plaintiffs' Motion to Serve Defendant Medley by Other Means (Doc. 31); and (3) Plaintiffs' Motion for Additional Time to Serve Defendant Medley (Doc. 36).[1]

         I. Background

         This proceeding arises from a January 14, 2016 motor vehicle accident in Tulsa County, Oklahoma. Plaintiffs were injured when they collided with a semi truck driven by Defendant Nathanial S. Medley (“Medley”). Plaintiffs allege Medley was acting in the course and scope of his employment with Defendant CRST Malone, Inc. (“CRST”). Plaintiffs further allege Defendant ACE was the insurer of both Medley and CRST. On August 18, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the District Court for Tulsa County, Oklahoma, alleging negligence claims against several defendants including CRST, Medley, and ACE. On October 4, 2016, CRST removed the complaint to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction (Doc. 2).

         II. Defendant ACE's Motion to Dismiss

         Plaintiffs' original complaint named as Defendants ACE, Chubb Group Holdings, Inc., and Chubb National Insurance Company, Inc. (“Defendant Insurers”), in addition to CRST and Medley. On October 11, 2016, Defendant Insurers filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (“Rule 12(b)(6)”) (Doc. 11). Defendant Insurers' motion argued that they were improper parties, as Plaintiffs failed to allege facts supporting a required element of their claim against the Defendant Insurers. Plaintiffs' complaint sought to hold Defendant Insurers liable under the Oklahoma Motor Carrier Act (“OMCA”), Okla. Stat. tit. 47, § 230.30 (“§ 230.30”), which requires motor carriers to file a liability insurance policy or bond with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (“OCC”) before obtaining a license to operate in Oklahoma. Defendant Insurers argued that § 230.30 did not apply, because Plaintiffs failed to allege that CRST operated under a license from OCC or that it filed a liability insurance policy or surety bond with OCC at the relevant time period.

         On December 5, 2016, the Court denied the Defendant Insurers' motion to dismiss and granted Plaintiffs fifteen days to file an amended complaint (Doc. 28). On December 12, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 29) alleging negligence claims against CRST, Medley, and ACE. On December 22, 2016, ACE filed the instant motion to dismiss it from this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).[2]

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. “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.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[T]he mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original).

         The Tenth Circuit has interpreted “plausibility, ” the term used by the Supreme Court in Twombly, to “refer to the scope of the allegations in a complaint” rather than to mean “likely to be true.” Robbins v. Okla. ex rel. Okla. Dep't of Human Servs., 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008). Thus, “if [allegations] are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). “The allegations must be enough that, if assumed to be true, the plaintiff plausibly (not just speculatively) has a claim for relief.” Id. “This requirement of plausibility serves not only to weed out claims that do not (in the absence of additional allegations) have a reasonable prospect of success, but also to inform the defendants of the actual grounds of the claim against them.” Id. at 1248.

         B. Analysis

         ACE moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for failure to state a direct liability claim against it. Under Oklahoma law, a defendant's liability insurer generally cannot be sued directly. See, e.g., Daigle v. Hamilton, 782 P.2d 1379, 1383 (Okla. 1989) (“We have never before recognized the right of a plaintiff to bring a direct action against the insurer of an alleged tortfeasor absent statutory edict. We do not recognize this right now.”). However, an exception is sometimes created by statute. Plaintiffs allege that ACE is liable under the OMCA, which states:

A. No license shall be issued by the Commission to any carrier until after the carrier shall have filed with the Commission a liability insurance policy . . . and the liability and property damage insurance policy . . . shall bind the obligor thereunder to make compensation for injuries to, or death of, persons . . . resulting from the operation of any carrier for which the carrier is legally liable. A copy of the policy . . . shall be filed with the Commission, and, after judgment against the carrier for any damage, the injured party may maintain an action upon the policy . . . to recover the same, and shall be a proper party to maintain such action.

         Okla. Stat. tit. 47, § 230.30(A). In order to state a claim against a motor carrier's insurer under this provision, a plaintiff must allege: “(1) he suffered injury; (2) the injury occurred by operation of a motor carrier; and (3) the motor carrier was required to be and was in fact insured pursuant to § ...

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