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Wagner v. International Automotive Components Group North America, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 15, 2015

RAYMOND LEE WAGNER, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL AUTOMOTIVE COMPONENTS GROUP NORTH AMERICA, INC. and CAD ENGINEERING RESOURCES INC. D/B/A CER GROUP, N.A., INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ALETA A. TRAUGER, District Judge.

On November 7, 2014, defendants International Automotive Components Group North America, Inc. ("IAC") and CAD Engineering Resources Inc. d/b/a CER Group, N.A., Inc. ("CAD") filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (Docket No. 27), to which plaintiff Raymond Lee Wagner, Jr. ("Wagner") has filed a Response (Docket No. 33), and the defendants have filed two Joint Replies (Docket Nos. 37, 41). For the following reasons, the court will deny the Motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Amended Complaint Allegations

At the time of the incident giving rise to this action, Wagner was an employee of True Blue, Inc. d/b/a/Labor Ready ("True Blue"), a company which provides workers to other businesses on a temporary basis. Wagner was assigned by True Blue to work at a factory ("Springfield Plant") owned by IAC and operated by IAC and CER.

The court focuses on the well-pleaded allegations in the Amended Complaint. Wagner was hired by True Blue without any involvement of the defendants. (Docket No. 26 at ¶ 5.) True Blue entered into a contract to provide the defendants with services. ( Id. at ¶ 6.) Wagner had no direct contractual relationship with the defendants. ( Id. at ¶ 5.) Wagner was paid by True Blue. ( Id. at ¶ 7.) The plaintiff alleges that True Blue retained the ability to control the work to be performed by Wagner, including the ability to discipline or terminate him. ( Id. at ¶ 8.)

At the Springfield Plant, IAC manufactures components that are placed into newly manufactured automobiles. ( Id. at ¶ 9.) On August 11, 2013, Wagner was working in the Springfield Plant and performing tasks alongside an employee of the defendants. ( Id. at ¶ 10.) As Wagner was placing form material into a permanent form ("mold press"), the machinery resumed operation and the mold press crushed Wagner's body. ( Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.) Wagner suffered serious and permanent injuries. (Id. at ¶ 17.) The defendants had exclusive control over the ownership, installation, maintenance, and servicing of the machinery relevant to Wagner's injury. ( Id. at ¶ 20.)

II. Wagner's Claims and the Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion

The Amended Complaint is not a model of organization. It appears that Wagner brings claims against the defendants based upon multiple theories of liability, each of which sounds in simple negligence. These claims include: (1) failure to properly hire and train the employee who worked with Wagner; (2) failure to train Wagner; (3) failure to adequately warn Wagner of dangers at the Springfield Plant; (4) failure to provide a safe working environment; (5) operation of the mold press in a defective manner or condition; (6) failure to provide adequate safeguards to prevent direct employee exposure to the mold press; (7) failure to adequately maintain the mold press; and (8) violation of Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-3-105 by failure to provide a place of employment free from hazards likely to cause death or serious injury or harm to employees ( Id. at ¶¶ 14-18.) The Amended Complaint does not contain any claim premised upon reckless or intentional conduct. ( Id., passim. )

The defendants have moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint based upon the exclusivity provision of Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-108. This statute provides that workers' compensation insurance benefits are the exclusive remedy for individuals who are injured while working, unless there is actual intent of the employer to injure the employee. See Valencia v. Freeland and Lemm Constr. Co., 108 S.W.3d 239, 242 (Tenn. 2003) (citing Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Stevenson, 368 S.W.2d 760 (Tenn. 1963)). The defendants contend that the Amended Complaint should be dismissed because Wagner has only asserted claims for ordinary negligence and has failed to bring any claim involving actual intent. The defendants invoke the "borrowed servant" or "loaned employee" doctrine ("Borrowed Servant Doctrine"), under which a plaintiff's status as a temporary employee does not negate the exclusivity of the workers' compensation system, if it is determined that an employee's actual employer lends the employee to a "special employer" to perform certain duties. The defendants claim that they are Wagner's "special employer" for purposes of the Borrowed Servant Doctrine. In response, Wagner essentially argues that there are insufficient grounds at this stage of the case for the court to find that he is a borrowed servant of the defendants.

RULE 12(b)(6) STANDARD

In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the court will "construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007); Inge v. Rock Fin. Corp., 281 F.3d 613, 619 (6th Cir. 2002). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that a plaintiff provide "a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). The court must determine only whether "the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims, " not whether the plaintiff can ultimately prove the facts alleged. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

A complaint's allegations, however, "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To establish the "facial plausibility" required to "unlock the doors of discovery, " the plaintiff cannot rely on "legal conclusions" or "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, " but, instead, the plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. ...


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