United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.
Linda Scandul ("Plaintiff or "Ms. Scandul")
brings this diversity action claiming significant injuries
received when her car was rear-ended by a school bus owned by
Defendant Student Transportation of America ("STA")
and driven by STA's employee, Defendant Mary Pryce
("Ms. Pryce") while Plaintiff was stopped in a lane
of traffic waiting to turn left from Post Road onto Field
Road in Greenwich, Connecticut. Plaintiffs First Amended
Complaint [Doc. #21] asserts six counts: (1) common law
negligence against Ms. Pryce; (2) statutory recklessness
under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14 - 295 against Ms. Pryce; (3)
common law recklessness against Ms. Pryce; (4) common law
negligence, negligent hiring, training, supervision, and
retention against STA; (5) vicarious liability against STA
under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-295; and (6) common law
vicarious liability against STA. Defendants seek to dismiss
Counts Two, Three, and Five and to dismiss, or in the
alternative, to strike portions of Count Four. For the
following reasons, Defendant's motion to dismiss is
GRANTED with respect to Count Five and DENIED with respect to
Counts Two and Three. Defendant's motion to strike the
request for punitive damages under Count Four is GRANTED.
Complaint alleges that around 8:30 AM on March 31, 2015 a
school bus driven by Defendant Mary Pryce and owned by
Defendant STA rear-ended Plaintiffs Honda, causing
significant injuries. (Amended Complaint ("Compl.")
[Doc. # 21] at § 25-26.) Plaintiff was traveling east on
Post Road in Greenwich, Connecticut and had come to a
complete stop in the northernmost east-bound lane while
waiting to turn left. (Id. at § 45.) The
collision propelled her car forward nineteen feet.
(Id. at § 27.)
alleges on information and belief that the bus was driving
too fast for the conditions, that the driver, Defendant
Pryce, turned her attention away from the roadway, and that
the bus driver failed either to swerve to avoid the collision
or to honk. (Id. at §§ 47-49.) Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant Pryce admitted she could not see
Plaintiffs car because of "intense sun glare."
(Id. at § 50.)
also alleges a series of fourteen alternative grounds on
which STA should be held liable for failure to properly train
or supervise, including that the bus was not properly
equipped with brakes or steering mechanisms, that STA
permitted Ms. Pryce to drive while impaired, that STA failed
to maintain proper records, that STA failed to ensure that
Ms. Pryce had proper driving skills, that STA failed to
conduct adequate background checks, and other reasons.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face."'
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). Although detailed allegations are not required, a
claim will be found facially plausible only if "the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Id. Conclusory
allegations are not sufficient. Id. at 678-79;
see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
move to dismiss Counts Two and Three on the ground that
Plaintiff has not pled facts sufficient to support a cause of
action for statutory or common law recklessness, as opposed
to mere negligence. Defendants move to strike the request for
punitive relief from Count Four. Defendant moves to dismiss
Count Five because a Plaintiff cannot recover multiple
damages from a defendant who is only vicariously liable under
Count Three: Common Law Recklessness as against Mary
Two and Three are identical except for the caption beneath
the section heading, the second count seeking multiple
damages for "statutory recklessness" pursuant to
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-295, and the third seeking damages
for "common law recklessness." Defendants challenge
the sufficiency of the pleadings to support allegations of
recklessness under either theory. Since statutory
recklessness requires the same level of culpability as common
law recklessness, the analysis will first address Count
Three, common law recklessness. See Deckler v. Olander,
No. 3:12-CV-00277, 2014 WL 359064, at *2 (D. Conn. Feb. 3,
2014) (holding that under Bishop v. Kelly, 206 Conn.
608, 614 (1988), the same level of culpability is required
for common law and statutory recklessness).
Connecticut, "[r]ecklessness is a state of consciousness
with reference to the consequences of one's acts."
Dubay v. Irish, 542 A.2d 711, 718 (Conn. 1988).
Recklessness is "more than negligence, more than gross
negligence." Bordonaro v. Senk, 109 Conn. 428,
429 (1929). "Although the state of mind amounting to
recklessness may be inferred from conduct, to infer the
proper state of mind, there must be something more than a
failure to exercise a reasonable degree of watchfulness to
avoid danger to others or to take reasonable precautions to
avoid injury to them." Lee v. Coss, 201 F.3d
431 (2d Cir. 1999), citing Dubay, 542 A.2d at 718.
In short, recklessness is "highly unreasonable conduct,
involving an extreme departure from ordinary care, in a
situation where a high degree of danger is apparent."
Dubay, 542 A.2d. at 719.
[W]illful, wanton, or reckless conduct tends to take on the
aspect of highly unreasonable conduct, involving an extreme
departure from ordinary care, in a situation where a high
degree of danger is apparent. ... It is at least clear .. .
that such aggravated negligence must be more than any mere
mistake resulting from inexperience, excitement, or
confusion, and more than mere thoughtlessness or
inadvertence, or simply inattention.
Deckler, 2014 WL 359064, at *2 (citing Craig v.
Driscoll, 262 Conn. 312, 342-43 (2003)). As the
Connecticut Supreme Court has pointed out,
"[r]ecklessness requires a conscious choice of a course
of action either with knowledge of the serious danger to
others involved in it or with knowledge of facts which would
disclose this danger to any reasonable man." Bishop
v. Kelly, 206 Conn. 608, 614(1988).
cases dealing with motor vehicle accidents reflect that a
driver's conscious decision to look away from the road or
to continue driving while distracted suffice to support
claims of driver recklessness. See Duquette v.
Daversa, No. CV-15-6059209-S, 2016 WL 1578263 (Conn.
Super. Ct. New Haven, Mar. 29, 2016 (Lager, J.)) (finding
allegations of recklessness sufficient where "[the
driver] knew she was operating a motor vehicle on a heavily
traveled public highway and that it was dangerous to look in
a direction other than that in which she was traveling, but
that she consciously decided to take her eyes off the road.);
see also Titus v. Holcomb, No. LLICV136009681S, 2014
WL 1345322, at *3 (Conn. Super. Ct. Mar. 11, 2014 (Danaher,
J.)) (finding allegations sufficient where the defendant
drove through a stop sign into the path of an approaching
vehicle that was clearly visible because of its headlights:
"the defendant was distracted and, therefore, possessed
the state of mind necessary for a recklessness claim.")
focus on the degree of danger necessary and argue that
recklessness requires much more egregious conduct than mere
distraction, citing a case in which a driver was convicted of
second degree manslaughter for killing a cyclist while
driving more than 80 miles per hour in a forty-five mile per
hour zone on a foggy night and trying to pass a car moving at
the speed limit. State v. Weaving,125 Conn.App. 41
(2010). While the facts in Weaving clearly would
support a jury finding of recklessness, they do not ...