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Burkeen v. A.R.E. Accessories, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

July 25, 2017



          Greg N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of General Motors, LLC (“GM”) (DN 21). For the reasons outlined below, the motion is GRANTED.


         Plaintiffs amended the Complaint adding GM as a defendant on October 19, 2016. In GM’s Motion to Dismiss, it argues that Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint is barred by the one-year statute of limitations governing personal injury claims and that the Amended Complaint failed to plead sufficient facts to support the claims of negligence and strict liability. (Def.’s Mot. Dismiss, DN 21). The subject motion has been briefed and is ripe for decision.


         “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and cost, and is between . . . citizens of different States . . . . [A] corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of every State and foreign state by which it has been incorporated and of the State or foreign state where it has its principal place of business . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), (c)(1). Both parties are citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds the minimum jurisdictional limit of this Court. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 15).


         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” and is subject to dismissal if it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss, courts must presume all factual allegations in the complaint to be true and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Great Lakes Steel v. Deggendorf, 716 F.2d 1101, 1105 (6th Cir. 1983)). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Traverse Bay Area Intermediate Sch. Dist. v. Mich. Dep’t of Educ., 615 F.3d 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim becomes plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).


         A. Applicable Statute of Limitations

         The statute of limitations applicable to Burkeen is the extended two-year period provided in the Motor Vehicle Reparations Act (“MVRA”). KRS 304.39-010. Generally, an action for personal injury in Kentucky must be brought within one-year after the action accrued. KRS 412.140(1)(a). However, where the injured party is a motor vehicle accident victim, the MVRA extends the limitations period to two years. See Troxell v. Trammell, 730 S.W.2d 525, 526 (Ky. 1987). In particular, the statute provides that “[a]n action for tort liability not abolished by the KRS 304.39-060 may be commenced not later than two (2) years after the injury, or the death, or the last basic or added reparation payment made by any reparation obligor whichever later occurs.” KRS 304.39-230(6). This extended statute of limitation allows victims of motor vehicle accidents adequate time “to look first to their no-fault benefits and then pursue a tort claim if necessary . . . regardless of whether the tort claim to be pursued is against a motorist or a nonmotorist.” Bailey v. Reeves, 662 S.W.2d 832, 834 (Ky. 1984).

         In applying the statute, three conditions must be met: the liability must sound in tort, the accident must occur within this commonwealth, and the accident must arise out of the use of a motor vehicle. See Cooke v. Bd. of Claims, 743 S.W.2d 32, 33 (Ky. App. 1987). “‘Use of a motor vehicle’ means any utilization of the motor vehicle as a vehicle including occupying, entering into, and alighting from it.” KRS 304.39-020(6). “It is sufficient if the injury is a natural and reasonable incident or consequence of the use of the vehicle . . . .” W. Am. Ins. Co. v. Dickerson, 865 S.W.2d 320 (Ky. 1993). All three conditions are met in the present case. Plaintiffs have brought suit alleging negligence and strict products liability, the accident occurred within this Commonwealth, and the accident arose out of the use of a motor vehicle as a vehicle.

         GM advances three arguments in opposition. First, it argues that the MVRA is inapplicable to “enhanced injury cases,” as recognized in Toyota Motor Corp. v. Gregory, 136 S.W.3d 35, 41 (Ky. 2004).[1] (Def.’s Reply Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 6). To the contrary, in Worldwide Equipment, Inc. v. Mullins, 11 S.W.3d 50 (Ky. App. 1999), the court held that the two-year statute of limitations in the MVRA applied when a product defect led to an enhanced injury. See id. at 59. In Worldwide, Mullins brought a claim against Worldwide for strict liability, claiming that the absence of a rear “underride guard” or bumper on a vehicle enhanced his injuries. Id. The court explained, “[w]e have a duty to accord statutory words their literal meaning, unless a verbatim connotation would lead to a wholly unreasonable or absurd conclusion.” Id. at 59 (citation omitted).

         Prior to the Mullins decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court had reasoned with respect to the MRVA that “[i]t is reasonable to assume that the legislature intended exactly what it said when it made the two year statute for ‘an action for tort liability’ prescribed in KRS 304.39-230(6) part of the Motor Vehicle Reparations Act, that two years applies to all tort actions not abolished by the Act.” Goodin v. Overnight Transp. Co., 701 S.W.2d 131, 133 (Ky. 1985) (addressing the question of law posed by a sister court and concluding that a claim ...

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