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Pugh v. Junqing

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 12, 2017

TIFFANY PUGH, Plaintiff,
v.
FANG JUNQING and YING LAN TRUCKING EXPRESS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Defendants Junqing and Ying Lan Trucking Express's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 12, 2015, a Ying Lan Trucking Express ("Trucking Express") tractor trailer, operated by Fang Junqing ("Junqing"), rear-ended Plaintiff Tiffany Pugh ("Pugh") on Interstate 44. (Petition, ECF No. 3, ¶l). Pugh claims that Junqing was negligent by driving at an improper speed, following too close, failing to keep his vehicle under proper control, and failing to maintain a proper lookout. (Petition, ¶7). Pugh further alleges that Trucking Express was negligent in failing to adequately train and supervise Junqing, in maintaining and repairing its vehicle, and equipping the vehicle with proper safety features. (Petition, ¶\2). As a result, Pugh claims she was injured. (Petition, ¶¶8, 13, 18). Pugh filed a Petition in St. Louis County Circuit Court, alleging claims for Negligence of Junqing (Count I), Negligence of Ying Lan Trucking Express (Count II), and Vicarious Liability of Ying Lan Trucking Express (Count III).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

         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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., v. Twombly, 550 U.S 544, 570 (2007). A "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         II. Discussion

         A. Count I

         Defendants claim that Count I is defective because it improperly combines a claim of simple negligence and claims of negligence per se against Junqing in violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(b). (ECF No. 5, ¶9 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b) ("If doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence-and each defense other than a denial-must be stated in a separate count or defense."). Defendants assert that Count I is devoid of any facts upon which Pugh bases her negligence per se claims and "thus improperly combines such claims with the simple negligence claims." (ECF No. 5, ¶11). Defendants note that Pugh fails to allege which specific construction zone regulations and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Junqing violated. (ECF No. 5, ¶11).

         Defendants further assert that Count I is defective because it is devoid of facts to support a negligence per se claim. (ECF No. 5, ¶12). Defendants claim that Pugh has not alleged that she was within a class of people intended to be protected by the cited statutes and regulations or that Pugh's injury was of the nature and that the statutes were designed to protect. (ECF No. 5, ¶13).

         In response, Pugh states that her pleading properly combines different theories of recovery in a single count because they are based on the same facts. (ECF No. 7 at 2). Pugh asserts that her negligent per se claim alleges a violation of specific, applicable statutory rules of conduct and that Junqing's driving was "undoubtedly" negligently violated statutory rules of the road. (ECF No. No. 7 at 2). Pugh states that Petition provides "fair notice" as to what is being claimed. (ECF No. 7 at 2-3).

         Under Missouri law, "[a] claimant may proceed on a negligence per se claim 'if the following four elements are met: (1) There was, in fact, a violation of the statute; (2) The injured plaintiff was a member of the class of persons intended to be protected by the statute; (3) The injury complained of was of the kind the statute was designed to prevent; and (4) The violation of the statute was the proximate cause of the injury.'" Sill v. Burlington N. R.R., 87 S.W.3d 386, 392 (Mo.Ct.App. 2002) (quoting King v. Morgan, 873 S.W.2d 272, 275 (Mo.Ct.App. 1994)). Similarly, under Missouri law, "[t]he elements of negligence are: 1) the existence of a duty; 2) breach of that duty; 3) injury proximately caused by breach of that duty; and 4) actual damages." In re Complaint of Jessup for Exoneration from, or Limitation of, Liab., 196 F.Supp.2d 914, 918 (E.D. Mo. 2002) (citing Hoover's Dairy, Inc. v. Mid-America Dairymen, Inc./Special Products, Inc., 700 S.W.2d 426, 431 (Mo. 1985)).

         Although Pugh's pleadings could have been clearer as to her allegations, the Court holds that she has sufficiently alleged claims for negligence per se and for negligence against Junqing. The mere fact that Pugh seems to have included both claims in one count does not "require dismissal." Mattingly v. Medtronic, Inc., 466 F.Supp.2d 1170, 1173 (E.D. Mo. 2006). With respect to the negligence per se claim, Pugh has identified several statutes that she claims Junqing violated, which resulted in her injury. See Petition, ECF No. 3, ¶7(e), (f), (g). With respect to the negligence claim, Pugh has alleged several deficiencies in Junqing's driving which resulted in her injury, including driving too close and at an improper speed. See Petition, ...


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