United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DISMISS
Charles S. Haight, Jr. Senior United States District Judge
Anderson Trucking Service, Inc., ("Plaintiff")
brings this action against Defendants Eagle Underwriting
Group, Inc., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Ridgeway
International USA, Inc., and the Australian National Maritime
Museum, seeking a declaratory judgment. The matter involves
the interrupted journey of a submarine from Woods Hole,
Massachusetts, destined for Australia. While in transit with
the submarine in tow, Plaintiff's vehicle caught fire,
resulting in damage. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that it is
not liable for any damage incurred by the submarine, or, in
the event it is found liable for such damage, its liability
is limited. Defendant Ridgeway International USA, Inc.
("Ridgeway") has answered Plaintiff's
Complaint, and has asserted counterclaims against Plaintiff,
alleging, inter alia, that is entitled to be
indemnified by Plaintiff. Plaintiff has moved to dismiss
Ridgeway's counterclaims. This Ruling resolves that
alleges that Ridgeway, a freight forwarder, or a Non-Vessel
Operating Common Carrier ("NVOCC"), was hired by
Defendant Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
("WHOI") and/or Defendant Australian National
Maritime Museum ("ANMM") to arrange for the
transport of a "used submarine" from Woods Hole,
Massachusetts to the Commonwealth of Australia. Complaint for
Declaratory Judgment, Doc. 1 ¶ 13. The submarine was to
be provided without charge to ANMM by WHOI. Id.
¶ 14. According to Plaintiff, the transport of the
submarine was to be one continuous movement "on a
through, ocean, or combined transport bill of lading or
waybill, subject to Ridgeway's terms of service."
Id. ¶ 15-16. Ridgeway notified Plaintiff that
the value of the submarine was five million dollars.
Id. ¶ 23. Plaintiff informed Ridgeway that at
the quoted price to transport the submarine, $1600, it would
not accept liability for the full value of the vessel.
Id. Plaintiff told Ridgeway that its customers
should purchase insurance, and such insurance was indeed
purchased from Defendant Eagle Underwriting Group, Inc.
("Eagle"). Id. ¶ 24-5.
alleges that Ridgeway arranged for the transportation of the
submarine. Id. ¶ 20. With the authority to act
as an agent for WHOI and/or ANMM, Ridgeway contracted with
Plaintiff, a motor carrier, to transport the submarine on its
first leg of the journey, from Woods Hole to Baltimore.
Id. ¶ 21-22. The submarine was to then travel
by ocean carrier from Baltimore, Maryland to Australia.
Id. ¶ 20. On July 23, 2015, according
to Plaintiff, Plaintiff and Ridgeway took possession of the
submarine in Woods Hole. Id. ¶ 25. While en
route on I-95 in Connecticut, Plaintiff's trailer caught
fire, allegedly damaging the submarine. Id. ¶
April 1, 2016, Defendants Eagle and WHOI filed a claim with
Plaintiff for damage to the submarine, in the amount of $8,
307, 101. Id. ¶ 27. "Upon information and
belief, " Eagle has at least partially indemnified WHOI
and/or ANMM for the loss, "and is fully or partially
subrogated to Woods Hole's and/or ANMM's claim
against [Plaintiff] to the extent of this
indemnification." Id. ¶ 28.
denies most factual allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint,
and counter-claims that any damage to the submarine was
caused solely by Plaintiff's fault, neglect, or omission,
and thus, to the extent any liability is imposed on Ridgeway
for loss or damage to the cargo, Ridgeway claims that it is
entitled to indemnity from Plaintiff, plus attorney's
fees, costs, and interest. Ridgeway's Answer to Complaint
and Counterclaims, Doc. 11 ¶ 31-2.
also claims that shortly following the fire, Ridgeway placed
Plaintiff's counsel on notice of Plaintiff's duty to
preserve evidence. Id. ¶ 34. However, when
Plaintiff made the trailer available for inspection several
months following the incident, Plaintiff had already
destroyed relevant evidence that Ridgeway had requested to be
preserved, including "driver's logs, on-board
computer records, daily inspection reports and other
maintenance records." Id. ¶ 34. Further,
on October 19, 2016, during the inspection of the trailer,
Plaintiff's employee "prematurely and without the
consent and knowledge of all parties in attendance, backed
off the trailer's slack adjustors in anticipation of
removing the brakes." Id. ¶ 35. This
caused the length of the stroke to change, destroying
information crucial to assessing the cause of the fire.
Id. Such loss of evidence has prejudiced Ridgeway in
its ability to investigate the cause of the incident and has
precluded it from mounting a full and complete defense to
Plaintiff's claims, according to Ridgeway's
filed the instant motion to dismiss Ridgeway's
counterclaims, with an accompanying memorandum of law in
support of the motion ("Pl. Br."). Doc. 15.
Ridgeway responded, opposing the motion ("Def.
Br."). Doc. 20. Plaintiff did not file a reply brief.
Standard of Review
a motion to dismiss, the issue is 'whether the claimant
is entitled to offer evidence to support the
claims.'" Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106,
111 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416
U.S. 232, 236 (1984)). "To survive a motion to dismiss,
a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its
face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) ("Iqbal") (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)
("Twombly")). This pleading standard
creates a "two-pronged approach, " Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679, based on "[t]wo working
principles". Id. at 678.
all factual allegations in the complaint must be accepted as
true and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the favor
of the non-moving party. See id.; see also Gorman v.
Consolidated Edison Corp., 488 F.3d 586, 591-92 (2d Cir.
2007) (citation omitted). The presumption of truth does not
extend, however, to "legal conclusions" or
"[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action supported by mere conclusory statements[.]"
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Second, "a complaint
that states a plausible claim for relief" will survive a
motion to dismiss and "[d]etermining whether a complaint
states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense."
Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679) (internal quotation
marks omitted). "Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) is appropriate when 'it is clear from
the face of the complaint, and matters of which the court may
take judicial notice, that the plaintiff's claims are
barred as a matter of law.'" Associated Fin.
Corp. v. Kleckner, 480 Fed.Appx. 89, 90 (2d Cir. 2012)
(quoting Conopco, Inc. v. Roll Int'l, 231 F.3d
82, 86 (2d Cir. 2000)).
principles apply equally to a motion to dismiss the
counterclaims of a defendant. See Kaltman-Glasel v.
Dooley, 156 F.Supp.2d 225, 225 (D. Conn. 2001) ("In
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), the Court must accept all allegations of the
counterclaims as true and construe all reasonable inferences
in favor of the defendants." (citing Connell v.
Signoracci, 153 F.3d 74, 80 (2d Cir. 1998))). Indeed,
"the issue on a motion to dismiss a counterclaim is not
whether the defendant will prevail, but whether defendant is
entitled to offer evidence to support [its] claims."
Id. at 226 (citing Sims v. Artuz, 230 F.3d
14, 20 (2d Cir. 2000)).