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Home and Industrial Mechanical Supplies, Inc. v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

July 22, 2019

HOME AND INDUSTRIAL MECHANICAL SUPPLIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. Bryan Harwell Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.'s (“CSXT”) motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 4. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies CSXT's motion to dismiss.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         This case arises out of a flooding incident that occurred in 2018. See, generally, ECF No. 1-2 at 6-11 (“Compl.”). Plaintiff Home and Industrial Mechanical Supplies, Inc. (“HIMS”), a South Carolina corporation, is a hardware store which operates from property it owns in Dillon, South Carolina. Id. ¶¶ 1, 4. CSXT is a Virginia corporation which owns an embankment behind HIMS's property. Id. ¶¶ 2, 5-6.

         Previously, in 2016, during Hurricane Matthew, CSXT's embankment failed, storm water was diverted on to HIMS's property, and HIMS's property flooded causing damages. Id. ¶ 5. Thereafter, CSXT reconstructed the embankment. Id. HIMS alleges CSXT “failed to properly develop and implement a drainage solution to prevent a subsequent collapse of its embankment.” Id. ¶ 7. HIMS further claims CSXT “failed to properly install a culvert, drain pipe, drainage solution, or proper rail drainage system for the embankment following the 2016 events to prevent the subsequent embankment failure and resulting damages . . . .” Id. ¶ 8.

         In September, 2018, Hurricane Florence moved through Dillon, South Carolina. Id. ¶ 6. CSXT's embankment again failed, and HIMS's property was flooded. Id. HIMS's real property, personal property, inventory, and business operations were significantly damaged as a result of the embankment failure and resultant flooding. Id.

         On February 21, 2019, HIMS filed suit against CSXT in the Court of Common Pleas for Dillon County, South Carolina. Compl. HIMS's complaint brought causes of action against CSXT for: 1) nuisance; 2) negligence and gross negligence; 3) negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention; and 4) trespass. Id. On March 28, 2019, CSXT timely removed to this Court. ECF No. 1.

         On April 2, 2019, CSXT filed the instant motion to dismiss. ECF No. 4. On May 7, 2019, HIMS responded, ECF No. 9; CSXT replied on May 22, 2019, ECF No. 13. This matter is thus ripe for decision.

         Legal Standard

         “A motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint . . . considered with the assumption that the facts alleged are true[.]” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). The Court measures legal sufficiency by determining whether the complaint meets the Rule 8 standards for a pleading. Id. Rule 8 requires, in pertinent part, that a claim for relief contain a “statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). “Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1).

         When reviewing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must “accept all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and draw[] all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor[.]” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). However, the Court need not accept as true allegations that are contradicted by exhibits to the complaint. Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563. A complaint need not assert “detailed factual allegations”; however, it must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not suffice. Id. at 555 (citations omitted). Furthermore, “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). A claim has “facial plausibility” where the pleading “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         Discussion

         CSXT moves pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss HIMS's complaint in its entirety. ECF No. 4. In support of its motion, CSXT first argues HIMS's claims against it are preempted by the Interstate Commerce Clause Termination Act (“ICCTA”). ECF Nos. 4 at 1; 4-1 at 2, 4-10; 13 at 1-8. According to CSXT, all HIMS's causes of action also fail because HIMS insufficiently alleges CSXT caused HIMS's damages. ECF Nos. 4 at 2; 4-1 at 2, 4-5, 16-17; 13 at 14-15. CSXT next advances because South Carolina follows the common enemy rule regarding surface water, CSXT had no duty to prevent water from running on to HIMS's property, and thus HIMS's negligence claims[1] fail. ECF Nos. 4 at 1; 4-1 at 1-2, 4, 10-15; 13 at 8-13. In relation to HIMS's nuisance and trespass claims, CSXT avers those claims fail because HIMS failed to show sufficient action to plead those causes of action. ECF No. 4 at 1; 4-1 at 2, 4-5, 15-17; 13 at 11-14. HIMS responds that its claims are not expressly preempted by ICCTA, it is premature to decide at this stage whether ICCTA impliedly preempts HIMS's claims, and its allegations are sufficiently well pled to withstand CSXT's motion to dismiss. ECF No. 9. Accordingly, HIMS argues the Court should deny CSXT's motion to dismiss. Id. The Court will examine each of CSXT's arguments in turn.

         I. Preemption

         CSXT argues the ICCTA preempts all of HIMS's claims, and thus HIMS's complaint is due to be dismissed. ECF Nos. 4 at 1; 4-1 at 2, 4-10; 13 at 1-8. HIMS responds that its claims are not expressly preempted by the ICCTA, and it is too early to decide whether the ICCTA preempts HIMS's causes of action. ECF No. 9 at 1-2, 4-11. The Court agrees with HIMS: it is premature to decide whether ICCTA preempts HIMS's claims.

         The purpose of the ICCTA was to replace the Interstate Commerce Commission with the Surface Transportation Board (“STB”). PCS Phosphate Co., Inc. v. Norkfolk S. Corp., 559 F.3d 212, 218 (4th Cir. 2009). The “general ...


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