United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
Erin W. Hall, Christopher L. Hall, Plaintiffs,
Elmer Lassiter, Parkers Transport Services, Inc., Anthony Harvey, Dennis Earl Hawkins (D.B.A. Heavy D's Trucking), Defendants.
K. MOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action stems from a car accident that occurred on June 7,
2013. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Lassiter's
tractor-trailer struck Defendant Harvey's
tractor-trailer, causing an accident between Harvey's
truck and Plaintiffs' vehicle. Plaintiffs allege personal
injury as a result of the accident. Defendants Parkers
Transportation Service (“Parkers”) and Heavy
D's Trucking (“Hawkins”) were the
employers of Lassiter and Harvey, respectively, and are being
sued under a theory of respondeat superior.
four defendants have filed motions to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6) based on a statute of limitations defense. The
parties agree that Plaintiffs' claims were brought
outside of the applicable two year limitations period, but
there is controversy about whether Virginia Code §
38.2-2206(G) (“Subsection (G)”) tolled the
statute of limitations for all Defendants when Plaintiffs
filed a John Doe complaint in state court within the
limitations period. Additionally, Defendants Lassiter and
Parkers argue that Plaintiffs have failed to adequately state
a claim against them. Harvey asserts his own statute of
limitations theory under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
Court concludes that Subsection (G) tolled the statute of
limitations against all Defendants, and no claims are
facially time barred. Further, Plaintiffs did not fail to
state a claim against Defendants Lassiter and Parkers. Thus,
the motions to dismiss will be denied.
7, 2013, Plaintiffs were travelling south on Interstate 95 in
an automobile operated by Christopher Hall when that vehicle
became involved in an auto accident. (Dkt. 1-1 at 5).
Plaintiffs allege the tractor-trailer operated by Lassiter
struck the tractor-trailer driven by Harvey, causing the
collision between Harvey's vehicle and their car.
(Id. at 6). At the time of the accident, Lassiter
was employed by Parkers, while Harvey was employed by
January 21, 2015, Plaintiff Christopher Hall filed a personal
injury complaint related to the auto accident in the Circuit
Court of the City of Charlottesville styled
“Christopher Hall v. John Doe, ” while
Plaintiff Erin Hall filed a nearly identical complaint on
June 5, 2015 in the same court. (Motion to Dismiss Exhibit 1,
Christopher Hall v. John Doe, 3:16-CV-00060 (W.D.Va.
2015) (No. 4-1) [hereinafter “Csl. Dkt. 4-1 at
1”]; Dkt. 4-1). These complaints (“John Doe
complaints”) were filed within the two-year statute of
limitations for personal injury actions under Virginia Code
§ 8.01-243(A). They both alleged that a single vehicle
operated by John Doe “crashed into the rear of the
plaintiff's vehicle, causing plaintiff's vehicle to
crash into three other vehicles before coming to a
stop.” (Dkt. 4-1 at 1).
7 (Erin) and June 17, 2016 (Christopher), Plaintiffs filed
complaints in the Circuit Court of the City of
Charlottesville naming all four of the current defendants.
(Dkt 1-1; Csl. Dkt. 1-1). In those complaints, the Halls
alleged that their claims were pursuant to Subsection (G),
which reads in relevant part: “The bringing of an
action against an unknown owner or operator as John Doe shall
toll the statute of limitations for purposes of bringing an
action against the owner or operator who caused the injury or
damages until his identity becomes known.” Virginia
Code § 38.2-2206(G); (Dkt 1-1 at 6). The parties do not
contest that these complaints would have been outside of the
limitations period absent the application of Subsection (G).
cases were removed to the Eastern District of Virginia on
July 28, 2016 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Dkt.
1). The Halls are citizens of Virginia, while all four
defendants are citizens of North Carolina. (Dkt. 1-1 at 1).
On August 10, 2016, the cases were transferred to the Western
District of Virginia on the basis that the proper venue for a
case upon removal is the district in which the state court is
located. (Dkt. 14). On August 23, 2016, the two cases were
consolidated. (Dkt. 29).
defendants have filed motions to dismiss on statute of
limitations grounds. (Dkts. 3, 11, 17). Defendants Lassiter
and Parker have also argued that Plaintiffs have failed to
state a claim against them because Plaintiffs did not
adequately alleged that actions of Lassiter caused their
Standard of Review
evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded
allegations. See Vitol, S.A. v. Primerose Shipping
Co., 708 F.3d 527, 539 (4th Cir. 2013); see also
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). “While
a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's
obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to
relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations and quotation marks
omitted). Stated differently, in order 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.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
statute of limitations “is an affirmative defense,
which can be the basis of a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6).” Dickinson v. Univ. of N. Carolina,
91 F.Supp.3d 755, 763 (M.D. N.C. 2015) (citing Dean v.
Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 395 F.3d 471, 474 (4th Cir.
2005)). However, “the burden of proving an affirmative
defense rests with a defendant, ” and in order for a
defendant to succeed on a statute of limitations 12(b)(6)
defense, “all facts necessary to show the time bar must
clearly appear ‘on the face of the
complaint.'” Id. (quoting Goodman v.
Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007).