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Mitchell v. Dixie Transport, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

November 19, 2019

Guy Mitchell, Plaintiff,
Dixie Transport, Inc., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Michael L. Brown United States District Judge.

         Defendants Dixie Transport, Inc., Felix Milo Daley, and Grange Indemnity Insurance Company move to dismiss Grange as a party defendant and, alternatively, move to bifurcate the trial on the issues of tort and contractual liabilities. (Dkt. 84.) Finding neither request to have merit, the Court denies Defendants' motion.

         I. Background Facts

         This case arises from a motor vehicle accident between Plaintiff Guy Mitchell and Defendant Felix Daley that occurred on March 9, 2014, on I-75 South. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 23.) Defendant Daley was driving a tractor-trailer truck owned by Defendant Dixie Transport, Inc., and was an employee of Dixie at the time of the crash. (Id. ¶ 50.) Plaintiff sued Felix Milo Daley, the driver of the truck; Dixie Transport, Inc., his employer; and Grange Indemnity Insurance Company, Dixie's insurance company in a single action. After a failed mediation and unsuccessful attempts at settlement, a denial of a motion for summary judgment based on res judicata, and multiple extensions of time to complete discovery, discovery has closed and Defendants now move to dismiss Grange as a party defendant, contending that no legal authority exists for it to be joined as a party in this action. (Dkt. 84.)

         II. Defendants' Failure to Comply with the Local Rules and the Court's Standing Order

         The Court notes at the outset that Defendants' brief exceeds the 25-page limit set by both the local rules and by this Court's standing order. See LR, NDGa 7.1D. Defendants have also not sought leave from the Court to file excess pages. (See Dkt. 79 at 3 (“Parties seeking an extension of the page limit must do so at least five (5) days in advance of their filing deadline and should explain with specificity the reasons necessitating the extension.”).) In his response brief, Plaintiff pointed out this failure, but Defendants, declining to file a reply brief, did not address or attempt to remedy their noncompliance. (See Dkt. 87 at 2-3.)

         This is not a mere technicality, especially considering that Plaintiff managed to address the entirety of Defendants' excessive briefing within the prescribed page limit. As a matter of fairness, the Court will not consider anything beyond the required page limit. (See Dkt. 79 at 3 (“The Court will not consider any arguments made in pages that exceed the Local Rules' requirements.”).) This includes Defendants' arguments regarding Daley's course and scope of employment with Dixie and whether a plaintiff can join both an insurer and the driver within the same action. The Court disregards these points of argument.

         Although both parties attached deposition excerpts and other documents to their motions and briefing, the Court elects not to consider these ancillary documents and declines to treat this motion as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. See Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1275-76 (11th Cir. 2005) (recognizing that a “district court generally must convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment if it considers materials outside the complaint”). The Court thus reviews Defendants' motion under the usual motion to dismiss standard.

         III. Legal Standard

         A court may dismiss a pleading for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). At the motion to dismiss stage, “all well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999). Even so, a complaint offering mere “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” is insufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Put another way, a plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. This so-called “plausibility standard” is not a probability requirement. But the plaintiff must allege enough facts so that it is reasonable to expect that discovery will lead to evidence supporting the claim. Id.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants moved to dismiss “Grange Indemnity Insurance Company as a party pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and (6) on the grounds that there is no authority for Grange to be joined as a party in this tort action with its insureds.” (Dkt. 84 at 1.) At the outset, the Court notes that it is unclear why Defendants have only now moved to dismiss Grange as a party defendant, when Grange has been named as a party to this lawsuit from its inception in February 2016 and Defendants have contested that joinder from the very beginning. (Dkt. 8 at 3.) Regardless, ...

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