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Hale v. Pan Am Railways, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 30, 2018

MICHAEL HALE and ALLA HALE, Plaintiffs,
v.
PAN AM RAILWAYS, INC., AMERICOLD LOGISTICS LLC and CRYO-TRANS, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         This case arises from an accident that occurred during the unloading of a railcar in February, 2015. Plaintiffs Michael and Alla Hale (“plaintiffs” or “the Hales”) bring this action against Pan Am Railways, Inc. (“Pan Am”), Americold Logistics LLC (“Americold”) and Cryo-Trans, Inc. (“Cryo-Trans”) (collectively “defendants”), alleging that defendants were negligent in their operation of Railcar CRYX 5017 which caused Mr. Hale's injuries.

         Pending before the Court are the motions to dismiss of defendants Pan Am and Cryo-Trans (Docket No. 18 and 20). For the following reasons, Pan Am's motion to dismiss will be denied but Cryo-Trans's motion to dismiss will be allowed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs are Connecticut residents and Mr. Hale was an employee of C&S Wholesale Grocers (“C&S”) at its facility in Hatfield, Massachusetts from 1996 until the time of the accident. C&S operates regional distribution centers where it receives food products and ships them to supermarkets and other retail stores.

         Mr. Hale alleges that on February 3, 2015, he was instructed to unload Railcar CRYX 5017 which was loaded with pallets containing frozen tater tots shipped from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mr. Hale states that the railcar arrived and was rejected by C&S due to weight distribution issues. Because the car was unbalanced, it could not be moved and Mr. Hale and other employees of C&S were instructed to unload the railcar. During the process of unloading, several packages of frozen tater tots, weighing approximately 80 pounds, fell on Mr. Hale.

         In the complaint, Mr. Hale details the injuries he suffered as a result of the incident, including injuries to both feet, requiring surgery, and injuries to his ankles, knees, neck and back. Mr. Hale also notes that he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, has been unable to return to work and has been determined to be partially disabled.

         Defendants Americold and Pan Am are Delaware corporations with their principal places of business in Atlanta, Georgia and Billerica, Massachusetts, respectively. Defendant Cryo-Trans is a Maryland corporation with its principal place of business in Maryland.

         Plaintiffs filed this action in May, 2017, alleging that defendants were negligent in the operation of the railcar. Ms. Hale brings a claim for loss of consortium against all defendants. Defendant Americold filed its answer and cross-claims for contribution against Cryo-Trans and Pan Am in June, 2017. Cryo-Trans and Pan Am separately moved to dismiss the complaint in July, 2017. Americold and the Hales separately opposed those motions which are the subject of this memorandum.

         II. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standard

         To 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.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In considering the merits of a motion to dismiss, the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint and matters of which judicial notice can be taken. Nollet v. Justices of Trial Court of Mass., 83 F.Supp.2d 204, 208 (D. Mass. 2000), aff'd, 248 F.3d 1127 (1st Cir. 2000). Furthermore, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Langadinos v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 199 F.3d 68, 69 (1st Cir. 2000). If the facts in the complaint are sufficient to state a cause of action, a motion to dismiss the complaint must be denied. See Nollet, 83 F.Supp.2d at 208.

         Although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that doctrine is not applicable to legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Threadbare recitals of the legal elements which are supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice to state a cause of action. Id. Accordingly, a complaint does not state a claim for relief where the well-pled facts fail to warrant an inference of any more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Id. at 1950.

         B. ...


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