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Rand v. Stanosheck

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 12, 2019

TIMOTHY E. RAND, an individual; Plaintiff,
v.
JONATHAN P. STANOSHECK, an individual; and ASCHOFF CONSTRUCTION, INC., a Nebraska corporation; Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Laurie Smith Camp, Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings, ECF No. 32, filed by Defendants Jonathan P. Stanosheck and Aschoff Construction, Inc. For the reasons stated below, the Motion will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are those stated in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, ECF No. 12, and, unless otherwise indicated, admitted in Defendants' Amended Answer, ECF No. 31.

         Plaintiff, Timothy E. Rand is a resident of Salix, Iowa. Defendant, Jonathan P. Stanosheck, is a resident of Osmond, Nebraska, and is employed by Aschoff Construction, Inc. (Aschoff), a Nebraska Corporation with its principal place of business in Osmond, Nebraska.

         On November 20, 2014, Rand was traveling eastbound on Highway 84 in Cedar County, Nebraska, where he collided with a vehicle as it entered the intersection of Highway 84 and 568th Avenue. Rand has alleged multiple counts of negligence against Stanosheck and Aschoff.

         Rand filed this action against Defendants on October 11, 2018, ECF No. 1, and filed his Amended Complaint on January 3, 2019, ECF No. 12. Defendants filed their Answer on February 1, 2019, ECF No. 18, and filed an Amended Answer on May 24, 2019, ECF No. 31. None of the parties disputes that Nebraska law governs in this case.

         Rand alleges that Stanosheck negligently failed to observe traffic controls and, as a result, Rand suffered personal and pecuniary injuries. Rand claims that Stanosheck's negligence occurred in the scope of his employment with Aschoff, and that Aschoff is vicariously liable under a theory of respondeat superior. Rand also alleges direct negligence against Aschoff because “[a] reasonable and ordinarily prudent employer . . . would not have hired Defendant Stanosheck and allowed him to operate its vehicle on the public roadways.” ECF No. 12 at ¶ 20. Included in the complaint's prayer for relief is a request for punitive damages to be paid to the Common School Fund of the State of Nebraska.

         Defendants move for partial judgment on the pleadings to dismiss Rand's negligent hiring claim against Aschoff. Aschoff argues that the negligent hiring claim is moot because Aschoff admits that it is vicariously liable for any liability that may be attributed to Stanosheck. Defendants also move to dismiss the request for punitive damages. Defendants argue that the Nebraska Constitution precludes Rand from requesting punitive damages, and that he has no standing to request that it be paid to the schools.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion for partial judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is reviewed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Ginsburg v. InBev NV/SA, 623 F.3d 1229, 1233 n.3 (8th Cir. 2010); Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990), and is “appropriate where no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Minch Family LLLP v. Buffalo-Red River Watershed Dist., 628 F.3d 960, 965 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Faibisch v. Univ. of Minn., 304 F.3d 797, 803 (8th Cir. 2002)).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To satisfy this requirement, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Corrado v. Life Inv'rs Ins. Co. of Am., 804 F.3d 915, 917 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Zink v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 2941 (2015). The complaint's factual allegations must be “sufficient to ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” McDonough v. Anoka Cty., 799 F.3d 931, 946 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must accept factual allegations as true, but it is not required to accept any “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 373 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Thus, “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ash v. Anderson Merchandisers, LLC, 799 F.3d 957, 960 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 804 (2016).

         On a motion to dismiss, courts must rule “on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true, ” and “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Mickelson v. Cty. of Ramsey, 823 F.3d 918, 923 (8th Cir. 2016) (alteration in original) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         Further, with respect to a motion for judgment on the pleadings, “[t]he movant has the burden of ‘clearly establish[ing] that there are no material issues of fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Levitt v. Merck & Co., Inc., No. 17-2630, 2019 WL 418018, at *1, --F.3d-- (8th Cir. Feb. ...


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