United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
DALTON JR., United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant Racetrac Petroleum, Inc.'s
(“Racetrac”) Motion to Dismiss
(Doc. 16 (“Motion”)) and
Plaintiff's opposition (Doc. 20). For the following
reasons, the Motion is due to be granted in part.
action arises from injuries that Plaintiff sustained on
February 15, 2017, during her shift at one of Racetrac's
Orlando locations. (Doc. 7, ¶¶ 15, 18, 20.) In her
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that her manager
instructed her to service a defective tea brewing machine.
(Id. ¶¶ 17, 24.) In complying with such
instructions, Plaintiff allegedly suffered burns on her face,
neck, arms, and chest from scalding water when the tea brewer
failed to drain properly. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 28,
seeking to recover damages, asserts negligence and products
liability claims against Defendants. (See Doc. 7.) In
particular, Plaintiff charges Racetrac with failing to warn
her of the dangers associated with servicing the tea brewer
(“Count I”). (Id.
¶¶ 25-27, 30.) Racetrac now moves to dismiss Count
I on the ground that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim.
(Doc. 16.) As the Motion is fully briefed (Doc. 20), it is
ripe for the Court's consideration.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure set forth minimum pleading
requirements. Rules 8 and 10 require plaintiffs to provide
short and plain statements of their claims with simple and
direct allegations set out in numbered paragraphs and
distinct counts. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), (d)
(“Each allegation must be simple, concise, and
direct.”); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b). The
“short and plain statement” must include
“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).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. A claim is not
plausible “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. 2008).
applying notice pleading principles, courts should: “1)
eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely
legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded
factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.'” See Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna
Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290-91 (11th Cir. 2010); see
also Ray v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., 836 F.3d 1340, 1347
(11th Cir. 2016) (accepting truth of “the allegations
in the complaint” and construing “them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiffs”). In doing so,
“courts may infer from the factual allegations in the
complaint obvious alternative explanation[s], which suggest
lawful conduct rather than the unlawful conduct the plaintiff
would ask the court to infer.” Am. Dental
Ass'n, 605 F.3d at 1290. Further, courts may dismiss
any claim that rests only on “conclusory allegations,
unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions
masquerading as facts.” See Oxford Asset Mgmt.,
Ltd. v. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002).
moves to dismiss Count I with prejudice, arguing that
Florida's Workers' Compensation Law
(“WCL”) bars Plaintiff's
negligence claim against it or, alternatively, that Plaintiff
has failed to plead sufficient facts to support this claim.
(Doc. 16.) Florida's WCL sets forth a comprehensive
scheme intended “to assure the quick and efficient
delivery of disability and medical benefits to an injured
worker.” Fla. Stat. § 440.15. This statutory
scheme “is based on a mutual renunciation of common-law
rights and defenses by employer and employees alike.”
Id. To that end, employers in compliance with
Florida's WCL are immune from their employees'
common-law negligence actions for damages arising out of
work-related injuries. Bakerman v. The Bombay Co.,
961 So.2d 259, 262 (Fla. 2007).
this general tort immunity, Plaintiff contends that
Florida's WCL does not provide Racetrac with immunity
here because Racetrac's actions fall under Florida
Statute § 440.11(1)(b)(2), which is an exception to
Florida's WCL for an employer's intentional torts.
(Doc. 20, pp. 4-9.) According to Racetrac, the allegations in
the Amended Complaint do not allege facts to show that the
conditions of the exception are met. (Doc. 16, pp. 6-10.) The
Court agrees with Racetrac.
intentional tort exception to workers' compensation
immunity exists “[w]hen an employer commits an
intentional tort that causes injury or death of the
employee.” Fla. Stat. § 440.11(1)(b). An
employer's actions are deemed an intentional tort where
the employee demonstrates that: (1) “[t]he employer
engaged in conduct that it knew, based on prior similar
accidents or on explicit warnings specifically identifying a
known danger, was virtually certain to result in injury or
death to the employee”; (2) “the employee was not
aware of the danger, because it was not apparent”; and
(3) “the employer deliberately concealed or
misrepresented the danger so as to prevent the employee from
exercising informed judgment as to whether to perform the
work.” Id. § 440.11(1)(b)(2); see
also R.L. Haines Const., LLC v. Santamaria, 161 So.3d
528, 531 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014). Unless all these elements are
met, Plaintiff's negligence claim is precluded by
Florida's WCL. See Locke v. SunTrust Bank, 484
F.3d 1343, 1350 (11th Cir. 2007).
Plaintiff alleges that Racetrac: (1) “had full
knowledge that the tea brewing machine was
malfunctioning”; (2) “knew Plaintiff was unaware
of the malfunction and the dangers posed”; (3)
“knew that [its] instruction to Plaintiff was virtually
certain to result in Plaintiff being injured; (4)
“concealed the dangers of the [tea brewing machine] and
“ignored prior accidents, injuries and/or known safety
hazards.” (Doc. 7, ¶¶ 32-36.) These vague and
conclusory allegations merely recite the elements of the
intentional tort exception without providing facts from which
the Court could draw a favorable inference. See Franklin
v. Curry, 738 F.3d 1246, 1251-52 (11th Cir. 2013). For
instance, Plaintiff does not provide non-conclusory
allegations concerning: (1) any prior similar accidents; or
(2) how Racetrac deliberately concealed the danger to prevent
Plaintiff from exercising informed judgment. See,
e.g., Lagine v. Key West Reach Owner, No.
17-cv-10045-CIV-JLK, 2017 WL 3425911, at *5 (S.D. Fla. Aug.
4, 2017) (dismissing claims for negligent hiring, negligent
supervision, and negligent training with prejudice because
the plaintiff failed to plead facts satisfying the
intentional tort exception).
the “virtually certain” standard is difficult to
overcome. Gorham v. Zachry Industrial, Inc., 105
So.3d 629, 634 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (explaining that the
intentional tort exception is “an extremely
strict” one that “few employees can meet”);
see also R.L Haines Const., 161 So.3d at 532
(finding no authority where an employer had lost its immunity
for its conduct) (citing Gorham, 105 So.3d at 634).
Plaintiff's allegations have failed to allege sufficient
facts show that the conditions of this ...