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Odom v. Penske Truck Leasing Co., LP

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

June 4, 2019

PERRY ODOM; and CAROLYN ODOM, Plaintiffs,
v.
PENSKE TRUCK LEASING CO., LP, a foreign limited partnership; HENDRICKSON USA, L.L.C., a foreign limited liability company; and BARSKDALE, INC., a foreign company, Defendants.

          ORDER

          PATRICK R. WYRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Barksdale, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss and Brief in Support Pursuant to 12(B)(2) and 12(C) (Dkt. 99), filed February 4, 2019. Plaintiffs filed their response on February 25, 2019 (Dkt. 102), and Defendant Barksdale filed its reply on March 4, 2019 (Dkt. 103). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.

         Plaintiffs bring this action against Barksdale alleging that it is liable for personal injuries sustained by Plaintiff Perry Odom from an accident caused in part by a defective Barksdale height control valve.[1] This height control valve is a component part of the air suspension system within the Penske trailer that fell on Mr. Odom and resulted in his injuries.[2] Specifically, Plaintiffs bring claims against Barksdale based on theories of products liability/strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Plaintiffs also seek personal injury damages on behalf of Mr. Odom, loss of consortium damages on behalf of Mrs. Odom, and entitlement to punitive damages.[3]

         Although Barksdale moves to dismiss these claims pursuant to both Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6), [4] the Court need only address the 12(b)(6) motion, as the granting of that motion renders moot the alternative basis for dismissal.

         Standard of Review

         In reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true and viewed “in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”[5] While a complaint need not recite “detailed factual allegations, ” “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”[6] The pleaded facts must establish that the claim is plausible.[7]

         Analysis

         Upon careful consideration of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, and accepting all of Plaintiffs' factual allegations as true and construing those facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the Court finds that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against Barksdale.

         Tort Claims

         First, Plaintiffs' tort claims of products liability/strict liability and negligence fail because they are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Oklahoma law imposes a two-year statute of limitations from accrual upon tort claims.[8] A claim “accrues when a litigant could first maintain an action to successful conclusion.”[9]

         The alleged accident occurred on July 27, 2015.[10] Plaintiffs do not argue that accrual of their tort claims occurred on a later date, nor are there any factual allegations in the Amended Complaint indicating a different accrual date. Although this suit was initiated on April 29, 2016, against other defendants, Plaintiffs did not seek to impose liability upon Barksdale until the Amended Complaint was filed on November 21, 2018-more than three (3) years after the alleged accident and well outside of the two-year statute of limitations period.

         Plaintiffs disagree with this conclusion and argue that the statute of limitations was tolled due to a stay of proceedings pending appeal[11] from February 27, 2017, until July 13, 2018.[12] They assert that this stay “prevented [Plaintiffs] from prosecuting any claims, including those against Barksdale.”[13] But while the stay prevented Plaintiffs from prosecuting their claims against the other defendants named at the time of the appeal, Plaintiff remained free to prosecute its claims against Barksdale because prior to November 21, 2018, Barksdale was not a party to this case and was thus not subject to the stay. Nothing prevented Plaintiffs from filing a separate action against Barksdale during the appeal and before the statute of limitations ran. Thus, the ancillary stay of separate proceedings did not toll the statute of limitations as to Plaintiffs' tort claims against Barksdale.

         Plaintiffs further explain that only upon receiving discovery responses from Defendant Hendrickson on November 5, 2018, did they learn that Barksdale designed and manufactured the component height control valve within Hendrickson's air suspension system.[14] Oklahoma's discovery rule, however, allows “limitations in tort cases to be tolled until the injured party knows or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the injury.”[15] This rule “exclude[s] the period of time during which the injured party is reasonably unaware tha[t] an injury has been sustained so that people in that class have the same rights as those who suffer an immediately ascertainable injury.”[16] But “[s]tatutes of limitation were not designed to help those who negligently refrain from prosecuting inquiries plainly suggested by the facts.”[17]

         Apparent from the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Perry Odom was aware of his injury contemporaneously with its occurrence when the Penske trailer “fell upon him and struck his head” on July 27, 2015.[18] Knowing that he was injured by the trailer and in a position to investigate the causes of that injury, the statute of limitations began to run at that time, and was not tolled by the discovery rule. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' tort claims against Barksdale were filed too late-the statute of limitations expired on July 27, 2017, so ...


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