United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
KIERRA THOMAS, ET AL.
RANDALL CHAMBERS, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are plaintiffs' motion to dismiss
defendants' counterclaim and plaintiffs' motion for
sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
Because defendants' counterclaim fails to state a claim
for fraud under Louisiana law and the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, the Court grants plaintiffs' motion to
dismiss. The Court denies plaintiffs' motion for Rule 11
sanctions because plaintiffs have failed to comply with the
rule's procedural requirements.
case arises out of a motor vehicle accident in Orleans
Parish. On April 24, 2017, plaintiff Kierra Thomas
was driving an automobile westbound on Interstate 10 in the
right-hand lane with plaintiffs Antoine Clark and Shirley
Harris as passengers. Defendant Randall Chambers was allegedly
driving a tractor-trailer next to plaintiffs in the middle
lane.Chambers was allegedly driving the
tractor-trailer in the course of his employment with
defendant God's Way Trucking, LLC. Plaintiffs allege
that Thomas was driving “straight in a cautious
fashion” when Chambers negligently attempted to move
into the right-hand lane without “keep[ing] a proper
lookout.” Chambers' vehicle allegedly struck
plaintiffs' vehicle, causing all three plaintiffs to be
“violently jolted.” All three plaintiffs allege that
the accident caused serious injuries to their necks and
backs, and that their injuries require continuing medical
care and treatment.
April 6, 2018, plaintiffs filed suit against Chambers,
God's Way Trucking, and defendant Canal Insurance
Company. Canal Insurance allegedly insured the
vehicle Chambers drove on the day of the
collision.Plaintiffs allege that Chambers'
negligence caused their injuries, and that God's Way
Trucking is liable for their damages as Chambers'
employer under the doctrine of respondent
superior. Plaintiffs also allege causes of action
for negligent entrustment and negligent hiring against
God's Way Trucking. Defendants removed the action to
federal court on April 27, 2018, asserting diversity
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
3, 2018, defendants filed a counterclaim against
plaintiffs. In the counterclaim defendants allege
that plaintiffs intentionally caused the collision and that
plaintiffs suffered no injuries as a result of the
accident.Defendants assert that plaintiffs'
petition for damages constitutes a fraudulent
misrepresentation under Louisiana law. Defendants
further assert that as a result of plaintiffs' alleged
misrepresentations, they have suffered damages to be shown at
trial, including attorneys' fees and litigation
expenses. On July 11, 2018, plaintiffs filed a
motion to dismiss defendants' counterclaim and a motion
for sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
11. Plaintiffs allege that Rule 11 sanctions
are warranted because defendants' counterclaim is
frivolous. Defendants oppose both
motion to dismiss defendants' counterclaim is brought
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). To survive a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a party must plead “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 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the party pleads
facts that allow the court to “draw the reasonable
inference that the [opposing party] is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. A court must
accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.
See Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232
(5th Cir. 2009).
legally sufficient complaint or counterclaim must establish
more than a “sheer possibility” that the
party's claim is true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
It need not contain detailed factual allegations, but it must
go beyond labels, legal conclusions, or formulaic recitations
of the elements of a cause of action. Id. In other
words, the face of the complaint or counterclaim must contain
enough factual matter to raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal relevant evidence of each element of
the party's claim. Lormand, 565 F.3d at 257. The
claim must be dismissed if there are insufficient factual
allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, or if it is
apparent from the face of the complaint or counterclaim that
there is an insuperable bar to relief, Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007).
Motion to Dismiss
counterclaim asserts a claim for fraud, which Louisiana law
defines as “a misrepresentation or a suppression of the
truth made with the intention either to obtain an unjust
advantage for one party or to cause a loss or inconvenience
to the other.” La. Civ. Code art. 1953. The elements of
a Louisiana fraud and intentional misrepresentation claim
are: 1) a misrepresentation of a material fact; 2) made with
intent to deceive; and 3) causing justifiable reliance with
resultant injury. Kadlec Med. Ctr. v. Lakeview
Anesthesia Assoc., 527 F.3d 412, 418 (5th Cir. 2008).
fraud claim is subject to the heightened pleading requirement
in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b). Dorsey v.
Portfolio Equities, Inc., 540 F.3d 333, 339 (5th Cir.
2008). Under Rule 9(b), a party “must state with
particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or
mistake.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). The Fifth Circuit
“interprets Rule 9(b) strictly, requiring the
[complaining party] to specify the statements contended to be
fraudulent, identify the speaker, state when and where the
statements were made, and explain why the statements were
fraudulent.” Flaherty & Crumrine Preferred
Income Fund, Inc. v. TXU Corp., 565 F.3d 200, 207 (5th
Cir. 2009). In other words, “Rule 9(b) requires
‘the who, what, when, where, and how' to be laid
out.” Benchmark Elecs., Inc. v. J.M. Huber
Corp., 343 F.3d 719, 723 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Tel-Phonic Servs., Inc. v. TBS Int'l, Inc., 975
F.2d 1134, 1139 (5th Cir. 1992)). Finally, “although
scienter may be ‘averred generally,' . . . pleading
scienter requires more than a simple allegation that a
[party] had fraudulent intent. To plead scienter adequately,
a [complaining party] must set forth specific facts that
support an inference of fraud.” Tuchman v. DSC
Commc'ns Corp., 14 F.3d 1061, 1068 (5th Cir. 1994)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b)).
defendants have failed to satisfy even the less stringent
Rule 12(b)(6) pleading standard because they do not allege
that they justifiably relied on plaintiffs' alleged
misrepresentations. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Defendants do not allege any facts in their counterclaim
addressing this element. Defendants contend in their
opposition that plaintiffs' alleged misrepresentations
were “used to deceive” them into
“defend[ing] a meritless claim . . . in justifiable
reliance.” But the Court cannot consider this
allegation in defendants' opposition when adjudicating
plaintiffs' motion to dismiss. See Estes v. JP Morgan
Chase Bank, Nat'l Ass'n, 613 Fed.Appx. 277, 280
(5th Cir. 2015) (district court did not err when refusing to
consider new factual allegations in party's opposition,
because “when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a
district court generally must limit itself to the contents of