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Faulkner v. Brooks Custom Application, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

September 25, 2019

HUNTER R. FAULKNER and REBECCA G. FAULKNER, collectively d/b/a HUNTER FAULKNER FARMS, Plaintiffs,
v.
BROOKS CUSTOM APPLICATION, LLC, and PINNACLE AGRICULTURAL DISTRIBUTION, INC., d/b/a SANDERS, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS FOR PARTIAL DISMISSAL

          S. THOMAS ANDERSON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendants’ Brooks Custom Application, LLC’s (“Brooks”) Motion for Partial Dismiss (ECF No. 6) filed on May 29, 2019, and Pinnacle Agricultural Distribution, Inc. d/b/a Sanders’s (“Pinnacle”) Motions for Partial Dismissal (ECF No. 9) filed on May 30, 2019. Plaintiffs Hunter R. Faulkner and Rebecca G. Faulkner, collectively d/b/a Hunter Faulkner Farms, have responded in opposition, and Pinnacle has filed a reply. For the reasons discussed below, Brooks’ Motion for Partial Dismissal is DENIED as moot, and Pinnacle’s Motion for Partial Dismissal is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Allegations of the Amended Complaint

          Plaintiffs operate a 2, 500-acre family farm situated in three counties in Western Tennessee. (First Am. Comp. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1-1.) In 2018, Plaintiff purchased seed and fertilizer for a winter wheat crop from Pinnacle at a cost of approximately $34, 000. (Id. ¶ 8.) As part of that cost, Pinnacle employed Brooks to spread the fertilizer on Plaintiffs’ land. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiffs specifically requested for the seed and fertilizer to be spread twice, or “double spread, ” over the acreage but were informed that Pinnacle’s product was of such quality that only one application was required. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11.) In June 2018, Plaintiffs discovered that the seed and fertilizer had not been applied evenly. (Id. ¶ 12.) Both a Pinnacle salesman and the Brooks employee who had applied the seed and fertilizer admitted that the product had not been applied correctly. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 14.) While Plaintiffs’ winter wheat crop generally yields an average of 82 bushels per acre, this specific crop yielded only 56 bushels per acre, resulting in loss of $50, 000. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 18.)

         Thereafter, Plaintiffs followed a common practice and planted a soybean crop over the same fields where the winter wheat crop had been. (Id. ¶ 20.) However, because of the poor application of fertilizer, Plaintiffs’ soybean crop also produced a poor yield, 20 bushels per acre compared to the more typical 50 bushels per acre. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiffs suffered an economic loss of $66, 000 on its poor soybean crop. (Id.)

         II. Procedural Posture

         Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on April 23, 2019, in the Chester County Chancery Court, alleging both Defendants were grossly negligent and Defendant Pinnacle breached its contract to spread the fertilizer. (Compl., ECF No. 1-1.) Plaintiffs then filed a First Amended Complaint on May 3, 2019, adding a claim for ordinary negligence against both Defendants. (Id.) Defendants removed the case to this Court on May 24, 2019. (ECF No. 1.)

         Defendants Brooks and Pinnacle have now filed nearly identical Motions for the Partial Dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims for gross negligence, punitive damages, joint and several liability, and breach of contract. It should be noted that neither Defendant sought the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ negligence claims. The parties subsequently filed an Agreed Stipulation of Dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims of gross negligence, punitive damages, and joint and several liability. (ECF No. 27.) Pursuant to this Court’s Order on the Parties’ Stipulation to Dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for gross negligence, punitive damages, and joint and several liability, the only remaining issue in Defendant Pinnacle’s Motion for Partial Dismissal is Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim.[1](ECF No. 28.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996). A complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint does not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertions’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         “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.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         ANALYSIS

         The Court will first briefly address Pinnacle’s argument that, under the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff was required to attach a copy of the alleged contract. The Court will then address Defendant Pinnacle’s ...


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