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Bowman v. Bowman

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

June 18, 2019

WILLIAM BOWMAN, as titled owner of and for a 37' 2012 Boston Whaler, hull identification No. BWCE0946B212 her engines, tackle, and appurtenances, for exoneration from or limitation of liability, Petitioner,
v.
ADAM BOWMAN, Third Party Defendant. BENJAMIN BAIR, Third Party Plaintiff

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. STEELE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on review of defendant's Motion to Dismiss Claimant's Demand for Punitive Damages (Doc. #66) filed on April 26, 2019. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. #69) on May 24, 2019.

         I.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a Complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This obligation “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). To survive dismissal, the factual allegations must be “plausible” and “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. See also Edwards v. Prime Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010). This requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), but “[l]egal conclusions without adequate factual support are entitled to no assumption of truth, ” Mamani v. Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148, 1153 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).

         II.

         Third-party defendant seeks dismissal of the punitive damages claim in the Third-Party Complaint Against Adam Bowman (Doc. #53) arguing that the factual basis is inadequate. The parties agree that punitive damages are available only in “exceptional circumstances”. In re Amtrak Sunset Ltd. Train Crash in Bayou Canot, Ala. on Sept. 22, 1993, 121 F.3d 1421, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997).

         The Third-Party Complaint presents one count of negligence. The relevant factual allegations are as follows:

10. On or about August 3, 2017, while Petitioner was onboard, his son, Adam Bowman, intentionally, recklessly, carelessly, and/or negligently operated Petitioner's vessel at or near the Mouth of the Caloosahatchee River in Lee County, Florida, in such a manner as to cause it to collide with Claimant's 35-foot 1963 Alberg Sailboat while Claimant and Joseph Lugo were onboard.
11. Specifically, Claimant was operating his vessel in a no-wake zone going approximately 5 miles per hour just west of the “Miserable Mile” when he and Mr. Lugo noticed the vessel Adam Bowman was operating heading towards them at a high rate of speed.
12. The vessel being operated by Adam Bowman struck the midship of Claimant's vessel causing it to sink. Due to the collision, Claimant became pinned between his vessel and Petitioner's before being subsequently trapped upside down under water as his vessel sank. This collision resulted in serious, traumatic bodily and mental injury to Claimant as well as excessive property damage.
13. Immediately following the collision, while Claimant struggled to remove himself from the wreckage, Adam Bowman and the other passengers onboard Petitioner's vessel watched on and did nothing to assist Claimant and/or failed to reasonably mitigate the damages created by their vessel's operation.
14. Despite Claimant's repeated requests for Adam Bowman and/or the other passengers on Petitioner's vessel to call 911 and the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), neither were contacted.
15. Rather than having an ambulance ready for Claimant at the marina as would have happened if the appropriate law enforcement officials were contacted, Adam Bowman and the other passengers on their vessel took their time to clean up their vessel, including alcoholic ...

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