United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER AND OPINION DENYING DEFENDANT THE FRESH MARKET.
INC.'S MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT OR
ALTERNATIVELY FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT
M. MIDDLEBROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant The Fresh Market,
Inc.'s ("Fresh Market") Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiffs Amended Complaint or Alternatively, for a More
Definite Statement ("Motion"), filed on October 27,
2016. (DE 10). Plaintiff Paula Marshon ("Marshon")
filed a Response in opposition on November 14, 2016 (DE 15),
to which Fresh Market replied the next day, November 15, 2016
(DE 16). For the reasons stated below, the Motion is denied.
claim arises out of a slip-and-fall that occurred on Fresh
Market's premises. Marshon is an individual citizen of
Florida. (Amended Complaint, hereinafter
"Complaint" or "Compl." at ¶ 5).
Fresh Market is a corporation, and allegedly a citizen of
Delaware,  that does business in Florida.
(Id. at ¶¶ 3, 5). Marshon's Complaint
alleges that on November 17, 2014, she was a business invitee
at a Fresh Market store located at 1727 South Federal Highway
in Delray Beach, Florida. (Id. at ¶ 8). While
she was near the shopping carts at the store's entrance,
Marshon allegedly "slipped on a liquid, water-like
substance, " causing her to "fall to the ground and
sustain severe and permanent personal injuries."
(Id. at ¶ 9). Marshon avers further that the
substance was "not readily apparent to business
invitees" because it was "located on the ground and
blended in with characteristics of the floor."
(Id. at ¶ 11). She thus characterizes the
substance as a "dangerous and hazardous condition."
(Id.). In addition, Marshon states that this
condition existed for long enough that Fresh Market knew or
should have known of its existence. (Id. at ¶
Complaint sets forth a single cause of action against Fresh
Market for negligence. Tracking the elements of a common law
negligence claim, Marshon alleges that Fresh Market owed her
a duty of care, both to "maintain the [p]remises in a
reasonably safe condition and to warn [her] of concealed
perils" of which it knew or should have known.
(Id. at ¶ 12). Fresh Market supposedly breached
this duty by a) allowing the liquid substance to accumulate
on the floor; b) failing "to instruct its employees to
maintain a clear and safe area" for customers; c)
failing to protect customers by taking remedial steps such as
putting down mats, creating warning signs, or cleaning up the
liquid; and d) failing to warn customers about the hazard.
(Id. at ¶ 13)- Marshon claims that by virtue of
this breach, Fresh Market directly and proximately caused her
injuries. (Id. at ¶ 15).
initially filed a complaint against Fresh Market in Florida
state court on September 12, 2016. (DE 1-2 at
5-8). Fresh Market filed a timely notice of
removal to this Court on September 20, 2016. (DE 1). In its
notice, Fresh Market stated that subject matter jurisdiction
existed because of diversity of citizenship between the
Parties. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Specifically,
Fresh Market contended that it, the corporation, was
incorporated in Delaware and had its principal place of
business in North Carolina, making it a citizen of the
latter. (DE 1 at 5). Marshon, on the other hand,
is a citizen of Florida, and so Fresh Market claimed that the
two parties were diverse. (Id.). In addition, Fresh
Market maintains that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,
000.00, based on a comparison between the nature of
Marshon's alleged injuries and jury verdicts awarded for
similar injuries in previous tort cases. (Id. at
4-5). The instant Motion is based on Marshon's failure to
state a claim for relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (DE 10
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal
sufficiency of a complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6). In assessing the legal sufficiency of a
complaint's allegations, the Court is bound to apply the
pleading standard articulated in Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, the complaint
"must.. . contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'" Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna
Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1289 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "Dismissal is
therefore permitted when on the basis of a dispositive issue
of law, no construction of the factual allegations will
support the cause of action." Glover v. Liggett
Grp., Inc., 459 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2006)
(internal quotations omitted) (citing Marshall Cty. Bd of
Educ. v. Marshall Cty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174
(11th Cir. 1993)).
reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court must construe
plaintiffs complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff
and take the factual allegations stated therein as true.
See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007);
Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 406 (2002);
Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla.,
Inc., 116 F.3d 1364, 1369 (11th Cir. 1997). However,
pleadings that "are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions
can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be
supported by factual allegations." Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678; see also Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co.,
578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (stating that an
unwarranted deduction of fact is not considered true for
purpose of determining whether a claim is legally
a plaintiff is not required to detail all the facts upon
which he bases his claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rather, Rule
8(a)(2) requires a short and plain statement of the claim
that fairly notifies the defendant of both the claim and the
supporting grounds. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56.
However, "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a 'showing,
' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to
relief." Id. at 556 n.3. Plaintiffs
"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." Id. at 555
(citation omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough
to raise [plaintiffs] right to relief above the speculative
level, on the assumption that all of the allegations in the
complaint are true." Id.
Market primarily argues that Marshon's allegations do not
meet the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It
cites to several "key deficiencies" in the
Complaint. (DE 10 at 6). First, Fresh Market insists that
Marshon's description of the liquid substance and the
circumstances of her fall were not sufficiently precise.
Second, it faults Marshon for not labeling the substance
"concealed" or "hidden." Third, it claims
that Marshon cannot adequately allege Fresh Market's
constructive knowledge of the substance without offering some
supporting factual assertions about how it would have been on
notice, such as by specifying the amount of time the
dangerous condition existed before Marshon slipped on it.
Marshon responds that her factual allegations suffice to
raise a reasonable inference that Fresh Market is liable for
negligence under Florida law. She also advances the theory
that where a complaint's supporting facts are at least as
detailed as the form allegations provided in the Florida
Rules of Civil Procedure, see Fla. R. Civ. P. Form
1. 951 ("Fall-Down Negligence Complaint"), the
complaint's allegations are enough to provide adequate
notice of the claim.
ancillary argument relating to Florida procedural rules is
inconsistent with the standard governing the relationship
between federal and state law in diversity cases. It is
elementary that when federal jurisdiction arises through the
parties' diversity of citizenship, substantive issues are
controlled by state law and procedural issues by federal law.
Brown v. Nichols,8 F.3d 770, 773 (11th Cir. 1993);
see generally Hanna v. Plumer,380 U.S. 460 (1965).
Pleading requirements are procedural in nature and so are
determined by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, not by
the rules of the state where the federal court sits.
Brown, 8 F.3d at 773 ("federal law governs
pleading requirements"); accord. F.D.LC. v.
Dawson,4 F.3d 1303, 1308 (5th Cir. 1993) ("the
pleading requirements in federal court are governed by
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 rather than by state
law"); Muzikowski v. Paramount Pictures Corp.,322 F.3d 918, 926 (7th Cir. 2003) (Illinois pleading rule
"of course does not apply in federal court");
Ridgway v. Ford Dealer Comput. Serv., Inc., 114 F.3d
94, 98, n.5 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing Dawson). Thus,
just as "a state's heightened pleading standards do
not apply to [a] [p]laintiff s state law claims",
Palm Beach Golf Ctr.-Boca, Inc. v. John G. Sarris,
D.D.S., P.A.,781 F.3d 1245, 1250, n.4 (11th Cir. 2015);
see also Caster v. Hennessey,781 F.2d 1569, 1570
(11th Cir. 1986), so too would a state's more permissive
pleading standard - incorporated through a model form - not
usurp the pleading ...