United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
Robert Hinkle, Brenda Hinkle, John Michael Skinner, and Dawn Skinner, Plaintiffs,
Continental Motors, Inc., d/b/a Continental Motors Group; Continental Motors Services, Inc.; Cirrus Design Corporation d/b/a Cirrus Aircraft; Cirrus Industries, Inc.; and Kavlico Corp., Defendants.
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Court Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Kavlico
Corporation's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 27). For the
reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies
in part the motion to dismiss.
November 28, 2014, Plaintiffs Robert Hinkle, Brenda Hinkle,
Dawn Skinner and Michael Skinner, departed from
Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport in a nearly new
Cirrus S22T aircraft, bearing registration number N227RR,
piloted by Mr. Hinkle. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 20-21, 40.)
The intended destination was Orangeburg, South Carolina.
(Id. ¶ 22.) While flying near Hampton, South
Carolina, the aircraft experienced a sudden loss of oil
pressure, which caused the aircraft to lose engine power.
(Id. ¶¶ 25-27.) Because the aircraft would
not be able to glide to the nearest airport, Mr. Hinkle
activated the aircraft's ballistic parachute system.
(Id. ¶¶ 35-37.) The parachute did not
fully deploy, and the aircraft crash-landed in a wooded area.
(Id. ¶¶ 36-39.) All passengers were
injured. (M¶39.) Mrs. Hinkle's injuries were
testing showed that the oil pressure transducer was faulty
and that the engine did not produce the required power to
function properly. (Id. ¶¶ 41-44.)
Plaintiffs filed suit against the Defendants Cirrus Design
Corporation and Cirrus Designs, Inc. (collectively
"Cirrus"), Continental Motors, Inc. and Continental
Motors Services, Inc. (collectively, "Continental")
and Kavlico Corporation, Inc. ("Kavlico").
Plaintiffs allege generally that Kavlico manufactured a
defective oil pressure sensor in the aircraft, Continental
manufactured an engine with defects in the fuel delivery
system and turbocharger, and Cirrus manufactured a defective
aircraft and misrepresented its airworthiness. (Id.
first filed suit in the Middle District of Florida, but that
court dismissed the complaint sua sponte as a
shotgun pleading. Hinkle v. Cont'l Motors,
Inc., No. 8:16-CV-2966-T-36MAP, 2016 WL 6518450, at * 1
(M.D. Fla. Oct. 26, 2016). Plaintiffs filed an amended
complaint on November 7, 2016. On November 22, 2016,
Plaintiffs filed the present action, which is an identical
action against the same Defendants. Meanwhile, in the Florida
action, Cirrus and Kavlico moved to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction in Florida, and Continental moved to
dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing the amended
complaint was still a defective pleading. This Court stayed
the instant case, pending disposition of those motions. In
July 2017, the Middle District of Florida granted both
motions. Hinkle v. Cont'l Motors, Inc., No.
8:16-CV-2966-T-36MAP, 2017 WL 3333120 (M.D. Fla. July 21,
2017) (against Cirrus and Kavlico); Hinkle v. Cont'l
Motors, Inc., No. 8.T6-CV-2966-T-36MAP, 2017 WL 3131465
(M.D. Fla. July 24, 2017) (against Continental). The Florida
court granted leave to file a second amended complaint
against Continental, which was filed on August 7, 2017. A
motion to dismiss the second amended complaint is currently
pending in the Middle District of Florida. The dismissal of
Cirrus and Kavlico for lack of personal jurisdiction is
currently pending on appeal in the Eleventh Circuit.
stay of this case was lifted on August 8, 2017. Shortly
thereafter, Kavlico moved to dismiss, arguing the complaint
fails to comply with federal pleading standards.
Specifically, Kavlico argues (1) Plaintiffs have not pleaded
a proper breach of contract claim, because they have not
alleged the existence of any contract between Kavlico and
Plaintiffs; (2) Plaintiffs have not pleaded a proper breach
of warranty claim, because they have not alleged where or to
whom any express or implied warranty was provided; (3)
Plaintiffs have not alleged fraud with the particularity Rule
9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires; (4)
Plaintiffs' asserted cause of action for
"recklessness, outrageousness, willful and wanton
conduct" is not a cognizable claim; and (5)
Plaintiffs' prayer for attorney's fees fails to
identify any statute or contract allowing recovery of fees.
also complains that many of the factual allegations against
Kavlico are identical to allegations against other
Defendants, including allegations that are irrelevant to
Kavlico. Beyond that general objection to the complaint,
Kavlico has not challenged Plaintiffs' claims for strict
liability and negligence. Kavlico has not challenged
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the
dismissal of an action if the complaint fails "to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion
tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and "does
not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of the
claim, or the applicability of defenses. . . . Our inquiry
then is limited to whether the allegations constitute 'a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief" Republican Party of
N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992)
(quotation marks and citation omitted). In a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion, the Court is obligated to "assume the truth of
all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any
fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's
allegations." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs.
Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).
However, while the Court must accept the facts in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party, it "need not
accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable
conclusions, or arguments." Id.
survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the
requirement of plausibility does not impose a probability
requirement at this stage, the complaint must show more than
a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). A complaint has "facial plausibility"
where the pleading "allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Id.
Breach of Contract
assert a breach of contract claim against Kavlico, alleging
they were the intended beneficiaries of a contract between
Kavlico and Cirrus or Continental (the alleged counter party
is unclear), which Kavlico allegedly breached, causing the
crash at issue. It is unclear what state's substantive
law would apply to this claim, because the unidentified
contract likely has a choice of law provision. South
Carolina's choice of law rule for contract actions
applies the substantive law of the lex loci
contratus for issues regarding formation,
interpretation, or validity, and the substantive law of the
place of performance for issues regarding performance.
Witt v. American Trucking Associations, Inc., 860
F.Supp. 295, 300 (D.S.C. 1994). Plaintiffs allege Kavlico
failed to perform as required under the (unidentified)
contract. Presumably, the allegedly defective oil pressure
sensor was delivered to the manufacturer in Minnesota (though
it may have been delivered instead to another component
manufacturer in another state). Under Minnesota law, a claim
of breach of contract has four elements: (1) formation of the
contract; (2) performance of conditions precedent by the
plaintiffs; (3) a material breach of the contract by the
defendant; and (4) damages. Parkhill v. Minn. Mut. Life
Ins. Co.,174 F.Supp.2d 951, 961 (D. Minn. 2000).
Plaintiffs allege Kavlico entered ...