United States District Court, D. Oregon
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
F. BECKERMAN United States Magistrate Judge.
Moutal (“Moutal”) and Andrea Newman
(“Newman”) filed a Complaint against Exel, Inc.
(“Exel”) alleging a state law negligence claim
arising from an incident in which a truck driven by an Exel
employee struck and injured bicyclists Moutal and Newman.
(ECF No. 1.) In addition to other monetary relief, Moutal and
Newman seek punitive damages. (Compl. ¶ 17.)
to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
Exel moves to dismiss Moutal and Newman's punitive
damages claim. (ECF No. 7.) For the reasons that follow, the
Court recommends that the district judge deny Exel's
Motion to Dismiss.
and Newman allege that on August 3, 2016, they were riding in
a bicycle lane on Interstate 84 approximately eight miles
outside of Cascade Locks in Hood River County, Oregon.
(Compl. ¶ 5.) According to Moutal and Newman, the
bicycle lane “doubles as the north shoulder of
Interstate 84 (westbound) along this stretch of
highway.” (Id.) In addition, there is a
highway sign cautioning “drivers that bicyclists are
sharing this stretch of road.” (Id.)
and Newman allege that at approximately 6:32 p.m., a truck
owned by Exel and operated by an Exel employee, acting in the
course and scope of his employment, “drifted across the
right-hand fog line into the bicycle lane” and struck
them while they were bicycling. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Moutal
sustained serious injuries, including “displaced
comminuted fractures of the left tibia and fibula, a left
side rib fracture, multiple displaced fractures of his left
foot, laceration of his nose, abrasion to his lip, and acute
post-hemorrhagic anemia.” (Compl. ¶ 7.) Newman
suffered a “laceration of her right knee and abrasions
to her left knee and both shoulders.” (Compl. ¶
9.) In addition to economic losses, Moutal and Newman allege
that they incurred significant and permanent psychological
injuries as a result of the accident. (Compl. ¶¶ 8,
and Newman allege that Exel, acting through its employee
driver, “exhibited a reckless and outrageous
indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm, ”
by hitting Moutal and Newman and “by attempting to
interfere with the police investigation and witnesses'
statements after the crash . . . .” (Compl. ¶ 17.)
For this alleged conduct, Moutal and Newman seek punitive
well-pleaded complaint requires only “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A federal claimant is
not required to detail all factual allegations; however, the
complaint must provide “more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above a speculative level.” Id. While
the court must assume all facts alleged in a complaint are
true and view them in a light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, it need not accept as true any legal conclusion set
forth in the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009). In addition, a plaintiff must set forth a
plausible claim for relief, a possible claim for relief will
not do. Id. (“Where a complaint pleads facts
that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability,
it stops short of the line between possibility and
plausibility of entitlement to relief.” (quotations and
citation omitted)). “In sum, for a complaint to survive
a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory ‘factual
content, ' and reasonable inferences from that content,
must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the
plaintiff to relief.” Moss v. U.S. Secret
Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
moves to dismiss Moutal and Newman's claim for punitive
damages for failure to state a claim. (Def.'s Mot.
Dismiss 4-5.) Alternatively, Exel argues that punitive
damages are unconstitutional under Oregon law. (Def.'s
Mot. Dismiss 8.) Below, the Court considers each of
Exel's arguments for dismissal of Moutal and Newman's
punitive damages claim.
DEFENDANT'S PLEADING CHALLENGES
argues that the allegations in support of Moutal and
Newman's claim for punitive damages are simply legal
conclusions and as such do not satisfy the Twombly
and Iqbal pleading standard. (Def.'s Mot.
Dismiss. 4; Def.'s Reply 1-2 (arguing that the Complaint
alleges “the usual particulars for an auto case: speed,
lookout, and control”).) Moutal and Newman argue that,
when read as a whole, the Complaint includes sufficient
allegations to state a claim for punitive damages. (Pls.'
Resp. 2 (citing Compl. ¶ 12 (alleging that the driver
failed to maintain his lane of traffic, failed to maintain
adequate lookout, and excessive speed).)
Oregon, punitive damages may be awarded as “a penalty
for conduct that is culpable by reason of motive, intent, or
extraordinary disregard of or indifference to known or highly
probable risks to others.”Andor by Affatigato v.
United Air Lines, Inc.,303 Or. 505, 517 (1987).
However, to be entitled to a punitive damages award, a
plaintiff must show that the defendant's “degree of
culpability” is “greater than inattention or
simple negligence.” Badger v. Paulson Inv. Co.,
Inc.,311 Or. 14, 28 (1991); see also Or. Rev.
Stat. § 31.730(1) (providing that punitive damages
“are not recoverable in a civil action unless it is
proven by clear and convincing evidence that the party
against whom punitive damages are sought has acted with
malice or has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to
a highly unreasonable risk of harm and has acted with a
conscious indifference to the health, safety and ...