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Kobilan v. Colter

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 26, 2017

MATTHEW KOBILAN and DIANA KOBILAN, individually, heir-at-law and administrator of the ESTATE OF ABRAHAM KOBILAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
DEREK A. COLTER AND YRC, Inc., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Matthew Kobilan and Diana Kobilan filed this action against Defendants under theories of negligence and negligence per se. The Koblians allege that Defendant Derek Colter injured them while operating his semi-trailer truck under the employment of Defendant YRC, Inc. (“YRC”). Plaintiffs also make a claim for attorneys' fees pursuant to K.S.A. § 66-176. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims of negligent hiring, retention, qualification, supervision, and training against YRC, Plaintiffs' claims under 49 U.S.C. § 14704(a)(2) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”), and Plaintiffs' claim for attorneys' fees under K.S.A. § 66-176. For reasons explained below, the Court grants Defendant YRC's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 5) and Defendant Derek A. Colter's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11) and dismisses these claims.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         On February 10, 2016, Plaintiffs were passengers traveling in a vehicle headed westbound on East Mary St. in Garden City, Kansas, attempting to turn north onto U.S. 400. Defendant Colter was operating a semi-trailer truck in the course and scope of his employment for Defendant YRC and was traveling northbound on U.S. 400. Defendant Colter failed to obey the traffic signal at the intersection at ¶ 400 and Mary St. and caused a collision with the vehicle carrying Plaintiffs.

         Plaintiffs filed suit on March 30, 2017. While Plaintiffs fail to specifically label any causes of action in the complaint, Plaintiffs state claims for negligent hiring, retention, qualification, and training against Defendant YRC and a claim for common-law negligence against Defendant Colter. Plaintiffs also appear to state a negligence per se claim against Defendants YRC and Colter. Plaintiffs list multiple regulations under the FMCSR relating to minimum duties and standards of care, and claim that Defendants Colter and YRC were negligent and negligent per se in violating them. Plaintiffs also recite a portion of the Motor Carrier Act (“MCA”) stating that carriers are liable for damages sustained as a result of an act that violates the MCA. Plaintiffs further allege that Defendant YRC is liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior and vicarious liability, and seek attorneys' fees against YRC pursuant to K.S.A. § 66-176.

         On April 27, 2017, Defendant YRC filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims of negligent hiring, retention, qualification, supervision, and training, Plaintiffs' negligence per se claims under the FMCSR and MCA, and Plaintiffs' claim for attorneys' fees. On May 15, 2017, Defendant Colter moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' negligence per se claims under the FMCSR and the MCA, and Plaintiffs' claim for attorneys' fees.[2] Defendant Colter did not challenge Plaintiffs' common-law negligence claim against him, and Defendant YRC did not challenge Plaintiffs' claim for negligence through respondeat superior or vicarious liability, so these claims remain.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss a claim for which a plaintiff “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”[3] A complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim of relief that is plausible on its face.' ”[4] A claim is facially plausible if the Court can reasonably infer the defendant is liable from the facts pleaded.[5]The plausibility standard reflects the Rule 8 requirement that pleadings must provide defendants with fair notice of the claims, as well as the grounds upon which the claims rest.[6] The Court accepts all factual allegations in the complaint as true and views them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.[7] The Court, however, does not apply the same standard to conclusory allegations or legal conclusions.[8]

         III. Analysis

         A. Claims of Negligent Hiring, Retention, Qualification, Supervision, and Training

         Defendant YRC moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims of negligent hiring, retention, qualification, supervision, and training. The doctrine of negligent hiring and retention arises from an employer's duty to use reasonable care in the selection and retention of employees.[9] An employer breaches that duty if the employer knew or should have known that the employee was incompetent or unfit for the position.[10] To survive a motion to dismiss a negligent hiring claim, Plaintiffs must allege both the employee's incompetence or unfitness and the employer's actual or constructive knowledge of such incompetence or unfitness.[11]

         Negligent supervision and negligent training are distinct from negligent hiring and retention in Kansas.[12] An employer may be liable for failure to supervise its employees if the employer had “reason to believe that the employment of the employee would result in an undue risk of harm to others.”[13] An employer may also be liable if the harm caused by the employee could have been prevented with more, or better, training.[14]

         In the complaint, Plaintiffs do not provide any factual basis for their assertion that YRC was negligent in its hiring, retention, supervision, qualification, or training of Colter. Plaintiffs merely assert the legal conclusion that because Colter was in a collision in which he failed to obey a traffic signal, Colter was not a safe employee, and therefore, YRC was negligent in hiring, retaining, training, qualifying, and supervising him. Iqbal requires “more than a sheer possibility” that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.[15] Even assuming that Colter was incompetent and unfit for his position, Plaintiffs failed to allege that YRC knew, or had reason to know, that Colter was unfit, that he presented an undue risk of harm to others, or that additional training could have prevented the collision. Without factual support, Plaintiffs' claims of negligence in hiring, retention, qualification, supervision, and training must be dismissed.[16]

         B. Negligence per se claims under 49 U.S.C. ยง ...


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