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Manchanda v. Hays Worldwide, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

December 17, 2014

MONA MANCHANDA, Plaintiff,
v.
HAYS WORLDWIDE, LLC, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES C. CACHERIS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Hays Worldwide LLC and David Hays' ("Defendants") Motion to Dismiss. [Dkt. 13.] Plaintiff Mona Manchanda ("Plaintiff" or "Manchanda"), acting as personal representative for the estate of Eena Singh Karras, has brought this wrongful death action against Defendants. For the following reasons, the Court will deny the motion.

I. Background

At the motion to dismiss stage, the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). On or about May 27, 2012, at approximately mid-day, Eena Karras was engaging in a scuba diving certification class at Lake Rawlings in Brunswick County, Virginia under the direction of David Hays, an agent of Hays Worldwide. (Notice of Removal, Ex. A [Dkt. 1] ¶ 3 [hereinafter "Complaint"].) According to Plaintiff, Hays failed "to act in due care and in a reasonable and prudent fashion considering the safety requirements of Lake Rawlings based upon the dive conditions" on that day. ( Id. ¶ 17.) As a result of Defendants' alleged negligence, Karras drowned and died. ( Id. ¶¶ 10, 13.)

Plaintiff, the administrator of Karras' estate, filed this suit in the Circuit Court for the City of Alexandria on May 27, 2014. ( See Compl.) As best can be determined, she alleges a single count of negligence pursuant to the Virginia Wrongful Death Act, Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-50 et. seq. She states the statutory beneficiaries have and will continue to suffer damages and seeks recovery in the amount of $5, 000, 000.00 for: (1) sorrow, mental anguish, and solace; (2) expenses for Karras' care, treatment, and hospitalization incident to the injury resulting in death; (3) reasonable funeral expenses; and (4) compensation for reasonably expected loss of income, and the "services, protection, care, and assistance" of Karras. (Compl. ¶ 16.)

Defendants timely removed this action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (Notice of Removal ¶ 3.) Soon thereafter, they filed this motion to dismiss [Dkt. 3] and accompanying memorandum in support [Dkt. 4]. Having been fully briefed and argued, this motion is ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard[1]

"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint[.]" Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court has stated that in order "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a [c]omplaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The issue in resolving such a motion is not whether the non-movant will ultimately prevail, but whether the non-movant is entitled to offer evidence to support his or her claims.

"Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citations omitted). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's complaint must demand more than "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are not sufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Hence, a pleading that offers only "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557. Nor will a complaint that tenders mere "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557.

Moreover, the plaintiff does not have to show a likelihood of success on the merits. Rather, the complaint must merely allege - directly or indirectly - each element of a "viable legal theory." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562-63.

III. Analysis

Defendants make three arguments in support of its motion to dismiss. First, they contend Plaintiff's claims are barred by the two liability releases signed by Karras. (Defs.' Mem. in Supp. [Dkt. 4] at 8.) Second, they argue that Karras "expressly and voluntarily assumed the risks of scuba diving." ( Id. ) Finally, they maintain Plaintiff has failed to allege any factual basis to support proximate cause of her negligence claim. ( Id. ) In response, Plaintiff urges the Court not to consider the "unsupported facts'" related to the liability agreements that she did not allege in her complaint. (Pl.'s Opp. [Dkt. 10] at 3.) Furthermore, Plaintiff argues that pre-injury liability waivers are not enforceable under Virginia law. ( Id. at 4.) While Plaintiff maintains that Defendants' arguments about assumption of the risk are unavailing, she argues it is premature to consider the merits at the motion to dismiss stage. ( Id. at 5-6.) Finally, Plaintiff maintains she has sufficiently alleged proximate causation. ( Id. at 7-9.)

Each argument will be ...


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