Williams v. United Parcel Service, Inc. et al
RULING granting in part and denying in part 4 Motion to Dismiss and Alternative Motion for More Definite Statement. Signed by Judge Shelly D. Dick on 3/7/2018. (SGO)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
UNITED PARCEL SERVICES, INC.,
This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss and Alternative Motion for
More Definite Statement1 by Defendant, Southern Tire Mart, LLC (“Southern Tire” or
“Defendant”). Plaintiff, Rockett Williams (“Williams” or “Plaintiff”), has filed an Opposition2
to this motion. For the following reasons, the Court finds that the Defendant’s motion
should be denied at this time.
In her Petition,4 Williams alleges that on June 27, 2016, she experienced “tire
failure” while driving a delivery truck for her employer which caused her to wreck and
sustain injuries.5 As a result of the wreck, Williams filed suit in the 23rd Judicial District
Court against Southern Tire, United Parcel Service, Inc. (“UPS”), and Bridgestone
Bandag, LLC (“Bridgestone”).6 Williams alleges violations of the Louisiana Products
Rec. Doc. No. 4.
Rec. Doc. No. 31.
The facts are derived from Plaintiff’s Petition (Rec. Doc. No. 1-5) and the Parties’ memoranda.
Rec. Doc. No. 1-5.
Rec. Doc. No. 4-1, p. 1.
Rec. Doc. No. 1-5.
Page 1 of 9
Liability Act7 and Louisiana state law negligence.8 In particular, Williams claims that
Southern Tire defectively reconditioned, remanufactured, and/or refurbished a tire from
Bridgestone and installed it on the UPS delivery truck she was driving on the date of the
accident.9 Southern Tire now moves to dismiss Williams’ claims under Rule 12(b)(6), or
in the alternative, moves for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e). This Court has
jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.10 Because subject matter
jurisdiction in this case is based on diversity of citizenship, the substantive law of
Louisiana governs this dispute.11
LAW AND ANALYSIS
A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)
When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “[t]he ‘court accepts all well-
pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.’”12 The
Court may consider “the complaint, its proper attachments, documents incorporated into
the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.”13 “To
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead ‘enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’”14 In Twombly, the United States Supreme
Court set forth the basic criteria necessary for a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does
La. R.S. 9:2800.51, et seq.
Rec. Doc. No. 1-5, p. 4.
Rec. Doc. No. 31, p. 2.
Rec. Doc. No. 1, pp. 2-3.
See Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938).
In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007)(quoting Martin v. Eby Constr.
Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004)).
Randall D. Wolcott, M.D., P.A. v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d 757, 763 (5th Cir. 2011).
In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, at 205 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)).
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not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”15 A complaint is also insufficient if it
merely “tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’”16 However,
“[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads the factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.”17 In order to satisfy the plausibility standard, the plaintiff must show “more than
a sheer possibility that the defendant has acted unlawfully.”18 “Furthermore, while the
court must accept well-pleaded facts as true, it will not ‘strain to find inferences favorable
to the plaintiff.’”19 On a motion to dismiss, courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”20
B. The LPLA – Design Defect Claim
The LPLA establishes the exclusive theory of liability for manufacturers regarding
damages caused by their products. The applicable standard under the LPLA is as follows:
“The manufacturer of a product shall be liable to a claimant for damage proximately
caused by a characteristic of the product that renders the product unreasonably
dangerous when such damage arose from a reasonably anticipated use of the product
by the claimant or another person or entity.”21 Thus, to maintain a successful claim under
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations and brackets omitted).
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(internal citations omitted).
Id. at 678.
Taha v. William Marsh Rice University, 2012 WL 1576099 at *2 (quoting Southland Sec. Corp. v. Inspire
Ins. Solutions, Inc., 365 F.3d 353, 361 (5th Cir. 2004).
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d
La. R.S. 9:2800.54(A).
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the LPLA, a claimant must establish four elements:
(1) that the defendant is a
manufacturer of the product; (2) that the claimant's damage was proximately caused by
a characteristic of the product; (3) that this characteristic made the product “unreasonably
dangerous;” and (4) that the claimant's damage arose from a reasonably anticipated use
of the product by the claimant or someone else.22
A product is “unreasonably dangerous” under the LPLA in one of four ways: (1)
construction or composition; (2) design; (3) inadequate warning; or (4) failure to conform
to an express warranty.23 The “unreasonably dangerous” characteristic must exist at the
time the product left the manufacturer's control or result from a reasonably anticipated
modification or alteration of the product.24 Louisiana law does not permit a factfinder “to
presume an unreasonably dangerous condition solely from the fact that injury occurred.”25
Rather, the claimant has the burden of proving the required elements under the LPLA.26
1. The LPLA is Exclusive
As an initial matter, if Plaintiff is alleging that Southern Tire is a manufacturer, all
of the non-LPLA claims against it must be dismissed. The LPLA establishes the exclusive
theory of liability for manufacturers for damages caused by their products.27 “A claimant
may not recover from a manufacturer for damage caused by a product on the basis of
any theory of liability that is not set forth in” the LPLA.28 Therefore, if Plaintiff’s theory of
Ayo v. Triplex, Inc., 457 F. App'x 382, 385-86 (5th Cir. 2012)(citing Jack v. Alberto–Culver USA, Inc., 949
So.2d 1256, 1258 (La. 2007) (citing La. R.S. 9:2800.54(A)).
La. R.S. § 9:2800.54(B).
Id. § 2800.54(C).
Woodling v. Hubbell Inc., 35 F. App'x 386, *4 (5th Cir. 2002)(citing Krummel v. Bombardier Corp., 206
F.3d 548, 551 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting McCarthy v. Danek Med., Inc., 65 F.Supp.2d 410, 412
La. R.S. 9:2800.54(D).
La. R.S. 9:2800.52.
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liability as to Southern Tire is based upon breach of the LPLA, any claim of state law
negligence is improper. Accordingly, any state law negligence claims are dismissed with
2. Establishing a Design Defect Claim
Under Section 9:2800.56 of the LPLA, a product is unreasonably dangerous in its
design if, when the product left the manufacturer's control: (1) there existed an alternative
design for the product that was capable of preventing the claimant's damage; and (2) the
likelihood that the product's design would cause the claimant's damage and the gravity of
that damage outweighed the burden on the manufacturer of adopting such alternative
design and the adverse effect, if any, of such alternative design on the utility of the
This test requires a plaintiff to prove both “that an alternative design existed” at the
time the product was manufactured and “that the risk avoided by using the alternative
design (magnitude of damage discounted by the likelihood of its occurrence) would have
exceeded the burden of switching to the alternative design (added construction costs and
loss of product utility).”29
Plaintiff’s Petition alleges that Southern Tire “was engaged in the business of
designing, remanufacturing, assembling, and selling remanufactured tires.”30 Specifically,
Plaintiff alleges that Southern Tire remanufactured, reconditioned, refurbished, and/or
retreaded a tire purchased from Bridgestone and resold and installed this tire on the UPS
Roman v. W. Mfg., Inc., 691 F.3d 686, 700-01 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Lawrence v. Gen. Motors Corp., 73
F.3d 587, 590 (5th Cir. 1996)).
Rec. Doc. No. 1-5, p. 2.
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delivery truck driven by Plaintiff on the date of the alleged incident.31 Plaintiff further
alleges that Southern Tire “failed to design or incorporate into their design and
remanufacturing process sufficient safety mechanisms to prevent tires from failure and
Defendant contends these allegations fail to state a claim because Plaintiff does
not allege that there was an alternative design capable of preventing the claimant’s
damage.33 Defendant further contends that Plaintiff fails to state a claim because there
are no allegations as to how the tire was defectively designed, manufactured, or
refurbished, or which safety mechanisms were not incorporated.34 Lastly, the Defendant
argues that Plaintiff’s Petition is absent of any facts that identify the type or size of the
tire, the location where it was purchased, any reasonable window of time of which it was
purchased, or when the tire was refurbished.35 In support of its argument, Defendant
relies on several cases where plaintiffs failed to meet the pleading requirements of claims
under the LPLA.36
After reviewing the Parties’ arguments, Plaintiff’s Petition, and applicable law, the
Court finds that the only facts clearly alleged are that Southern Tire is a manufacturer
under the LPLA and that it is liable under that statute. Additionally, Plaintiff has failed to
allege facts that demonstrate under which LPLA theory Southern Tire is liable. Plaintiff
does allege that Southern Tire’s remanufacturing process is defectively designed,
Id. at pp. 2-3.
Id. at p. 5.
Rec. Doc. No. 4-1, p. 8.
See Lewis v. Baxter International Inc., 2017 WL 661324 No. CV 16-16391, 2017 WL 661324 (E.D. La.
Feb. 17, 2017); Lucas v. City of Visalia, 726 F. Supp. 2d 1149, 1153 (E.D. Cal. 2010); Funk v. Stryker Corp.,
631 F.3d 777 (5th Cir. 2011); and Ayala v. Enerco Grp., Inc., 569 F. App'x 241 (5th Cir. 2014).
Page 6 of 9
although no specific design defect is identified.37 However, the Petition goes on to allege
that the tire was unreasonably dangerous in construction and composition, design,
because of inadequate warnings, and the product did not conform to express warranties
in general.38 Simply stated, Plaintiff has failed to plead more than conclusory allegations
that Southern Tire violated the LPLA. Moreover, Plaintiff’s Opposition to the current
Motion fails to resolve any ambiguity as to the theory of liability under the LPLA. If Plaintiff
is asserting a design defect claim against Southern Tire, she has failed to allege “that an
alternative design existed” at the time the product was manufactured and “that the risk
avoided by using the alternative design (magnitude of damage discounted by the
likelihood of its occurrence) would have exceeded the burden of switching to the
alternative design (added construction costs and loss of product utility).” In accordance
with precedent of this Court39 and others, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not alleged
sufficient facts to state a claim under the LPLA. Nevertheless, the Court finds that Plaintiff
should be given leave to amend her Complaint for the following reasons.
C. Motion for More Definite Statement Under Rule 12(e)
In the alternative, Southern Tire has moved for a more definite statement under
Rule 12(e). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) provides that a motion for more definite
statement may be filed when “... a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted
is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a
responsive pleading...” The standard for evaluating a motion for more definite statement
Rec. Doc. No. 1-5, p. 5; Rec. Doc. No. 31, p. 3.
Rec. Doc. No. 1-5, p. 7.
See Crochet v. Bristol-Myers Squibb, No. CV 16-36-SDD-EWD, 2016 WL 3580670 (M.D. La. June 28,
Page 7 of 9
is whether the complaint “is so excessively vague and ambiguous as to be unintelligible
and as to prejudice the defendant seriously in attempting to answer it.”40
When evaluating a motion for more definite statement, the Court must assess the
complaint in light of the minimal pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, which provides in pertinent part: “A pleading which sets forth a claim for
relief ... shall contain ... a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is
entitled to relief... .” Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(f), which should be read in
conjunction with Rule 8, states that averments of time and place are material for the
purpose of testing the sufficiency of a pleading; specific pleading of these averments,
however, is not required.
Given the liberal pleading standard set forth in Rule 8, Rule 12(e) motions are
disfavored.41 Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has noted that “[i]f a pleading fails to
specify the allegations in a manner that provides sufficient notice,” then a Rule 12(e)
motion may be appropriate.42 In deciding whether to grant a Rule 12(e) motion, the trial
judge is given considerable discretion.43
Defendant argues that it is unclear from Plaintiff’s allegations whether she is
alleging that Defendant is a Manufacturer within the context of the LPLA or a non-
Babcock & Wilcox Co. v. McGriff, Seibels & Williams, Inc., 235 F.R.D. 632, 633 (E.D. La. 2006)(quoting
Advanced Communications Technologies, Inc. v. Li, No. 05 Civ. 4628, 2005 WL 3215222, at *3 (S.D.N.Y.
Nov. 30, 2005) (citing Bower v. Weisman, 639 F.Supp. 532, 538 (S.D.N.Y.1986))(internal quotation marks
See Mitchell, 269 F.2d at 132; Gibson v. Deep Delta Contractors, Inc., No. Civ. A. 97–3791, 2000 WL
28174, *6 (E.D.La. Jan. 14, 2000).
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002).
Newcourt Leasing Corp. v. Regional Bio–Clinical Lab, Inc., No. Civ. A. 99–2626, 2000 WL 134700, *1 (E
.D.La. Feb. 1, 2000).
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manufacturing seller.44 As such, Defendant requests that this Court order the Plaintiff to
provide a more definite statement under Rule 12(e).
In response, Plaintiff requests leave to amend her complaint in order to cure any
potential deficiencies. Courts should ordinarily grant a Plaintiff at least one opportunity to
amend before dismissing a complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim.45
Accordingly, the Court will afford Plaintiff thirty (30) days to amend her Complaint to
address the factual deficiencies discussed herein.
For the reasons set forth above, the Motion to Dismiss and Alternative Motion for
More Definite Statement46 by Defendant, Southern Tire Mart, LLC is DENIED in part and
GRANTED in part. Plaintiff’s state law claims against Southern Tire are DISMISSED with
prejudice as the LPLA is the exclusive remedy for products liability claims. The Motion to
Dismiss the LPLA claim is DENIED. The Alternative Motion for More Definite Statement
is GRANTED. Plaintiff has 30 days to file an Amended Complaint to cure the deficiencies
as to her claims under the LPLA or to assert claims as to a non-manufacturing seller.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on March 7, 2018.
JUDGE SHELLY D. DICK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
Rec. Doc. No. 4-1, p. 11.
Hart v. Bayer Corp., 199 F.3d 239, 247 n.6 (5th Cir. 2000).
Rec. Doc. No. 4.
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