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Hina v. Mattel, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

November 30, 2017

NISHORIA HINA
v.
MATTEL, INC. AND FISHER-PRICE, INC.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendants Mattel, Inc. and Fisher-Price, Inc.'s (collectively “Defendants”) 12(b)(6) Partial Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively 12(e) Motion for More Definite Statement (Dkt. #13). After reviewing the relevant pleadings and motions, the Court finds Defendants' motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises from alleged injuries Plaintiff Nishoria Hina sustained on or about September 26, 2016. Plaintiff alleges such injuries resulted from a Fisher-Price Power Wheels Disney Frozen Jeep (the “Toy Jeep”) she ordered from a retail website. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that as she lifted the Toy Jeep's frame from its packaging, the Toy Jeep's battery fell out of the Toy Jeep and landed on her big toe of her right foot. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants placed the battery inside an unsealed individual cardboard box inside of the hood of the Toy Jeep, unattached to anything, with the hood of the Toy Jeep left unlatched. Additionally, Plaintiff claims the unsealed cardboard box, which held the battery, did not contain visible marks from staples, glue, or tape. As a result, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants for negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, and fraudulent concealment.

         On September 19, 2017, Defendants filed its Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively Motion for More Definite Statement (Dkt. #13). On October 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed her response (Dkt. #15). Defendants filed their reply (Dkt. #16) on October 10, 2017, and Plaintiff filed her sur-reply (Dkt. #17) on October 17, 2017.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. 12(b)(6)

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that each claim in a complaint include a “short and plain statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Each claim must include enough factual allegations “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion allows a party to move for dismissal of an action when the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in plaintiff's complaint and view those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bowlby v. City of Aberdeen, 681 F.3d 215, 219 (5th Cir. 2012). The Court may consider “the complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint.” Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010). The Court must then determine whether the complaint states a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. ‘“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Gonzalez v. Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the [C]ourt to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         In Iqbal, the Supreme Court established a two-step approach for assessing the sufficiency of a complaint in the context of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. First, the Court should identify and disregard conclusory allegations, for they are “not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664. Second, the Court “consider[s] the factual allegations in [the complaint] to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. “This standard ‘simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary claims or elements.'” Morgan v. Hubert, 335 F. App'x 466, 470 (5th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). This evaluation will “be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing [C]ourt to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Thus, “[t]o 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.”' Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         II. 12(e)

         Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to move for a more definite statement of the pleadings when the pleadings are “so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). “If a pleading fails to specify the allegations in a manner that provides sufficient notice, a defendant can move for a more definite statement . . . before responding.” Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002). Motions for a more definite statement are generally disfavored because “in view of the great liberality of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 . . . it is clearly the policy of the Rules that Rule 12(e) should not be used to . . . require a plaintiff to amend his complaint which under Rule 8 is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.” Source Data Acquisition, LP v. Talbot Grp., Inc., 4:07-cv-294, 2008 WL 678645, at *2 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 11, 2008) (citing Mitchell v. E-Z WayTowers, Inc., 269 F.2d 126, 132 (5th Cir. 1959)). In addition, “when a defendant is complaining of matters that can be clarified and developed during discovery, not matters that impede his ability to form a responsive pleading, an order directing the plaintiff to provide a more definite statement is ...


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