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Shaul v. Canal Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 7, 2019

TAMINIKA SHAUL, DERRICK THOMAS, and RICHARD J. TURNER
v.
CANAL INSURANCE COMPANY, CHRISTOPHER C. COOK, and TEXAS FREIGHT SERVICES, INC.

         SECTION “F”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the plaintiffs' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the defendants' amended counterclaim, or in the alternative, Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

         Background

         This personal injury action arises out of a motor vehicle accident that allegedly occurred on the I-10's Highrise Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana.

         On November 29, 2017, Richard Turner, Taminika Shaul, and Derrick Thomas were riding as passengers in a Nissan Murano traveling westbound on Interstate 10 in the center lane. Christopher Cook was allegedly driving a Freightliner semi-truck in the right-hand lane next to the Nissan. It is alleged that, “suddenly and without warning, ” Mr. Cook “changed to the middle lane, ” causing his semi-truck to strike the Nissan.

         On March 16, 2018, Richard Turner, Taminika Shaul, and Derrick Thomas sued Christopher Cook, Texas Freight Services, Inc. (Cook's employer), and Canal Insurance Company (Texas Freight's automobile liability insurer), alleging that Cook's negligence caused their injuries and seeking damages in excess of $1, 000, 000.

         In October of 2018, the defendants were granted leave to file a counterclaim, alleging that the plaintiffs misrepresented and/or staged the accident and/or misrepresented their injuries, causing the defendants to sustain damages in the form of attorneys' fees and litigation expenses. The plaintiffs then moved to dismiss the counterclaim for failure to state a claim, after which the defendants filed an amended counterclaim on December 17, 2018.

         In their amended counterclaim, the defendants allege that the plaintiffs conspired together to cause and/or stage this accident. For support, the defendants submit that Mr. Cook did not merge to the left as plaintiffs allege or experience any type of impact consistent with a motor vehicle accident. They further allege that there was no damage to the 18-wheeler and minimal damage to the passenger side of the plaintiffs' vehicle, which plaintiffs attribute to the purported accident discussed in their complaint. The defendants also allege that they have discovered over 30 other accidents with similar factual scenarios, where 18-wheelers on the I-10 or 6-10 in New Orleans are flagged down regarding accidents of which their drivers are unaware. According to the defendants, plaintiff Richard Turner's brother (Rashad Turner) was involved in one of these similar accidents one week prior to this accident, his mother (Tiffany Turner) and sister (Adonte Turner) were involved in their own similar accident just a week before Rashad's, and Tiffany Turner's former husband (Juan Matthews) was involved in an accident with the same fact pattern about four months earlier.

         The plaintiffs now move to dismiss the defendants' amended counterclaim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56.

         I.

         A.

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Such a motion is rarely granted because it is viewed with disfavor. See Lowrey v. Tex. A & M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997) (quoting Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982)).

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Stated ...


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