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Cavanagh v. Ford Motor Company; Altec, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

May 19, 2014

ROBERT CAVANAGH and JOANNE CAVANAGH, Plaintiffs,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY; ALTEC, INC.; and ALTEC INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendants.

Joseph G. Dell, Esq., Christopher Dean, Esq., James V. Durgana, Esq., Dell & Dean, PLLC, Garden City, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Peter Joseph Fazio, Esq., Aaronson, Rappaport, Feinstein & Deutsch, New York, NY, for Defendants, Ford Motor Co.

Carl Judah Schaerf, Esq., Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, New York, NY, for Defendants, Altec, Inc. & Altec Industries, Inc.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

JOANNA SEYBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Robert and Joanne Cavanagh (collectively, "Plaintiffs") commenced this products liability action on July 30, 2013 in New York State Supreme Court, Suffolk County, against defendants Altec, Inc.; Altec Industries, Inc. (together, "Altec"); and Ford Motor Company ("Ford, " and together with Altec, "Defendants"). Plaintiffs, who are spouses, allege that they suffered damages as a result of injuries that Mr. Cavanagh allegedly sustained while using a bucket truck designed, manufactured, and sold by Defendants. Ford removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1332. Ford now moves to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs oppose Ford's motion and crossmove, in the alternative, for leave to file an amended complaint should the Court find the Complaint to be deficient. For the following reasons, Ford's motion to dismiss the Complaint is GRANTED with leave to amend.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiffs are residents of Suffolk County, New York. (Compl. ¶ 1[2].) Plaintiffs allege that on August 13, 2010, Mr. Cavanagh was using a 2000 Ford F650 Altec TA41 46' Bucket Truck- a bucket truck designed and manufactured by Defendants (the "Bucket Truck")-"in the manner intended and/or foreseeably intended, when the product malfunctioned, failed, jammed, and/or otherwise caused injury to [Mr. Cavanagh], thereby causing severe and catastrophic personal injuries to [Mr. Cavanagh]." (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 12; see also Compl. ¶ 19 ("That on August 13, 2013... [Mr. Cavanagh] while using the product in accordance with its intended use and pursuant to the Defendants' instructions, if any, was caused to suffer and sustain severe bodily injuries.").)

The Court reads the Complaint to assert the following causes of action: (1) negligence and strict products liability based on theories of design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn; (2) breach of express and implied warranties; and (3) loss of consortium. However, besides the allegations that Mr. Cavanagh was using the Bucket Truck on August 13, 2010 and was subsequently injured, the Complaint is entirely devoid of any other factual allegations supporting the causes of action asserted.

On August 21, 2013, Ford moved to dismiss the Complaint, arguing that the Complaint fails to meet the Iqbal/Twombly pleading standard.[3] (Docket Entry 5.) Plaintiffs opposed and cross-moved, in the alternative, for leave to file an amended complaint should the Court find the Complaint to be deficient. (Docket Entry 11.) Plaintiffs' cross motion attaches a proposed amended complaint. These motions are currently pending.

DISCUSSION

The Court will first address Ford's motion to dismiss the Complaint before turning to Plaintiffs' alternative motion for leave to file an amended complaint.

I. Ford's Motion to Dismiss

Ford moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to meet the Iqbal/Twombly "plausibility" pleading standard. Before addressing Ford's motion to dismiss, it must be noted that deciphering Plaintiffs' claims herein was not easy. The claims are not clearly pleaded. For instance, paragraph 22 of the Complaint consists of one sentence spanning nearly an entire page of the Complaint and each cause of action is not labeled. Moreover, Plaintiffs' opposition offers little clarity, as Plaintiffs failed to analyze each cause of action under the Iqbal/Twombly pleading standard. Indeed, Plaintiffs' only substantive argument is confined to two sentences of their opposition and only addresses Plaintiffs' negligence claim under a design defect theory. (See Dean Affirm, Docket Entry 11, ¶ 8.) In any event, the Court will analyze each claim asserted in the Complaint below.

A. Legal Standard

In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court applies a "plausibility standard, " which is guided by "[t]wo working principles." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); accord Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2009). First, although the Court must accept all allegations as true, this "tenet" is "inapplicable to legal conclusions;" thus, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; accord Harris, 572 F.3d at 72. Second, only complaints that state a "plausible claim for relief" can survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Determining whether a complaint does so is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id .; accord Harris, 572 F.3d at 72.

The Court is confined to "the allegations contained within the four corners of [the] complaint." Pani v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 152 F.3d 67, 71 (2d Cir. 1998). However, this has been interpreted broadly to include any document attached to the complaint, any statements or documents incorporated in the complaint by reference, any document on which the complaint heavily relies, and anything of which judicial notice may be taken. See Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152-53 (2d Cir. 2002) (citations omitted); Kramer v. Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991).

B. Strict Products Liability Claims

"A cause of action in strict products liability lies where a manufacturer places on the market a product which has a defect that causes injury." Robinson v. Reed-Prentice Div. of Package Mach. Co., 49 N.Y.2d 471, 478, 403 N.E.2d 440, 443, 426 N.Y.S.2d 717, 720 (1980) (citation omitted). New York law recognizes that a defect may exist in three ways-improper design, mistake in manufacturing, or by ...


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