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Adame v. Meridia Exp LLC

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

June 22, 2017

PROTO ADAME, JOSE HERNANDEZ, NICHOLAS VARGAS-CATREJON, and FRANCISCO LOPEZ Plaintiffs,
v.
MERIDIA EXP LLC, CSX CORP., CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., THOMAS EMMANUEL, METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, JAMISON CONSTRUCTION LLC, CECIL JAMISON, BERKLEY INSURANCE COMPANY, and CARL SIMS, Defendants. and BITCO GENERAL INSURANCE CORP., Intervening Party,

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          ALETA A. TRAUGER Judge United States District Court

         Pending before the court are six motions. First, there are five unopposed Motions to Dismiss: 1) a Motion to Dismiss filed by Jamison Construction LLC, Cecil Jamison, and Carl Sims (collectively “the Jamison Defendants”) (Docket No. 16); 2) a Motion to Dismiss filed by Berkley Insurance Company (“Berkley”) (Docket No. 18); 3) a Motion to Dismiss filed by CSX Corporation (Docket No. 24); 4) a Motion to Dismiss filed by CSX Transportation, Inc. (“CSXT”) and CSX Corporation (collectively, the “CSX Defendants”) (Docket No. 26); and 5) a Motion to Dismiss filed by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro”) (Docket No. 28). Next, there is a pending motion for Sanctions against the plaintiffs' counsel, Joel R. Bellis, filed by Metro. (Docket No. 33.) For the reasons discussed herein, all of the pending motions will be granted.

         BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The plaintiffs filed this personal injury action on January 27, 2017 based on allegations that they were injured while working for defendant Jamison Construction, Inc. (“Jamison Construction”). (Docket No. 1.) According to the Complaint, in August of 2015, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (“TDOT”) contractually retained Jamison Construction to repair TDOT bridges, so as to prevent damage to the neighboring property of the CSX Defendants, and the contract provided that certain safety measures for the project would be overseen by the CSX Defendants. On January 30, 2016, the Complaint alleges, the plaintiffs were suspended on a scaffold by Jamison Construction foreman, defendant Carl Sims, when defendant Thomas Emmanuel, driving a truck for Meridia EXP LLC (“Meridia”), crashed into the scaffolding, causing severe physical injuries and emotional distress to the plaintiffs. According to the Complaint, Mr. Sims knew the scaffolding was damaged and unable to carry the amount of weight it was holding, and he acted in violation of the TDOT contract and the safety regulation plans for the jobsite. The Complaint further alleges that CSX Transportation, Jamison Construction, and the TDOT all failed to properly supervise Mr. Sims and the jobsite to ensure compliance with the requisite safety control plan and other applicable safety regulations. In addition, the Complaint alleges that Mr. Emmanuel was driving negligently at the time and that he was negligently supervised by Meridia in being permitted to drive for too many hours consecutively.

         While Metro is named as a defendant, the Complaint lacks any explanation of Metro's role in this action. There are no factual allegations raised against Metro, nor any legal theories asserted for Metro's liability in this matter, other than the fact that the events giving rise to this action took place within the city of Nashville.

         The only allegation in the Complaint involving Berkley is the allegation that Berkley acts as a surety to the performance and payment bonds of the Jamison Defendants under their contract with the TDOT.

         According to the Complaint, the plaintiffs are all residents of Tennessee, as are Jamison Construction and Cecil Jamison. The remaining defendants, other than Metro, are identified as having residence in various other states, with the exception of Carl Sims, whose residence is not indicated.

         The Complaint brings claims against all defendants for common law negligence per se under Tennessee law. The Complaint also brings claims against the CSX Defendants for premises liability, strict liability, and violation of the Federal Employer's Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51 (“FELA”). It further brings a claim against Jamison Construction, Cecil Jamison (an agent of Jamison Construction), and Berkeley for breach of the TDOT contract, to which the plaintiffs allege they are third-party beneficiaries. Finally, the Complaint brings claims against Mr. Sims for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         On April 6, 2017, the Jamison Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) (Docket No. 16), along with a Memorandum in support (Docket No. 17). The Jamison Defendants argue that the claims against them are barred under Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-108, which states that the Tennessee Workers' Compensation Law provides the exclusive remedy for personal injury claims by an employee against his or her employer, and bars all other claims under Tennessee tort or contract law.[1]

         On April 10, 2017, Berkley filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) (Docket No. 18), along with a Memorandum in support (Docket No. 19), arguing that the allegations in the Complaint involving Berkeley consist solely of the allegation that Berkeley acted as a surety with respect to the Jamison Defendants' performance under the TDOT contract. Berkley asks the court to take judicial notice of the fact that such a surety relationship gives rise to only limited liability for Berkley - namely, liability to the TDOT in the event that the Jamison Defendants do not fulfill their contractual obligations - but does not give rise to general liability for Berkley for all claims that may arise out of the Jamison Defendants' actions in carrying out their contractual obligations. Accordingly, Berkley argues that the allegations in the Complaint do not support a claim against Berkley in contract or in tort.

         On April 12, 2017, the court granted a Motion to Intervene by BITCO General Insurance Corporation (“BITCO”), a provider of workers' compensation insurance for Jamison Construction. BITCO has provided (and continues to provide) certain workers' compensation benefits to the plaintiffs in connection with the incident giving rise to this action. (Docket No. 20.) On the same day, BITCO filed an Intervenor Complaint, seeking to recover from the defendants all past and future benefits paid by BITCO to the plaintiffs pursuant to workers' compensation. (Docket No. 21.)

         On April 21, 2017, CSX Corporation, a parent of subsidiary CSXT, filed a Motion To Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) (Docket No. 24), along with a Memorandum in support (Docket No. 25). CSX Corporation argues that it is a Virginia corporation with its principal place of business in Florida and that it lacks sufficient contacts with the state of Tennessee to give rise to general personal jurisdiction, and did not purposely avail itself of doing business in Tennessee so as to give rise to specific personal jurisdiction here.[2]

         On the same day, the CSX Defendants filed a joint Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) and failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) (Docket No. 26), along with a Memorandum in support (Docket No. 27). The CSX Defendants argue that the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim with respect to the only federal law claim at issue in the case - the claim against the CSX Defendants for violation of the FELA - and the Complaint otherwise lacks diversity jurisdiction, so there is no ground for subject matter jurisdiction in federal court. According to the CSX Defendants, they cannot be liable to the plaintiffs under the FELA because they never employed the plaintiffs, nor are there any allegations in the Complaint that they did so.

         Also on April 21, 2017, Metro filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) and lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) (Docket No. 28), along with a Memorandum in support (Docket No. 29). Metro argues that the claims against it have been insufficiently pled because the Complaint contains no ...


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