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Nassar v. Six Flags Great Adventure

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 13, 2017



          KEVIN MCNULTY. U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss part of the Complaint, in particular the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"), for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the Complaint, assumed to be true for purposes of this motion (see Section II.A, infra), may be summarized as follows.

         On August 19, 2016, the plaintiff, Sabreen Nassar, was a paying customer on the premises of Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, New Jersey. She rode on a roller coaster called "El Toro." While doing so, she was "caused to sustain serious injuries to her head, face and mouth due to having been viciously struck about the face, head and mouth by a part of the ride (or other flying object) . . . ." (Complaint, ECF no. 1-1 ("Cplt") ¶ 5) The defendants and their agents are alleged to have committed negligent acts or omissions, including failure to maintain the ride properly, failure to warn of a dangerous condition, failure to inspect the ride properly, and maintaining a dangerous condition for an unreasonable period of time. (Cplt. ¶ 9) Defendants are also alleged to have failed to care for Ms. Nassar when she was injured. (Cplt. ¶ 11) Ms. Nassar alleges that she has maintained permanent injury, requiring medical attention. It is alleged that the defendant's actions "constitute the intentional infliction of emotional distress" as well as a breach of the "duty of care." (Cplt. ¶¶ 13, 14)

         Ms. Nassar, through counsel, filed her complaint in New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division, Sussex County. The defendants filed a notice of removal, based on this court's diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (ECF no. 1) The notice of removal states that Ms. Nassar is a citizen of the State of New Jersey. It implies that the defendants are incorrectly named in the complaint, and that the relevant entities are Six Flags Great Adventure, LLC, and Six Flags Theme Parks, Inc., which are alleged to be citizens of states other tiian New Jersey. (I will refer to defendants collectively as "Six Flags.") Although this New Jersey civil complaint does not contain an ad damnum clause, the nature of the injuries alleged gives rise to a plausible inference that the damages claimed are in excess of $75, 000.

         Facially, then, die notice sets forth a basis for this Court's jurisdiction, and the plaintiff has not moved to remand. Of course, a defect in the Court's subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, should such an issue emerge in discovery.


         A. Standard on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss, a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) ("reasonable inferences" principle not undermined by later Supreme Court Twombly case, infra).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) does not require that a complaint contain detailed factual allegations. Nevertheless, "a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiffs right to relief above a speculative level, such that it is "plausible on its face." See Id. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement'... it asks for more than a sheer possibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009).

         B. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

         Six Flags asserts that the IIED claim must be dismissed because the Complaint fails to allege (a) an "intentional" state of mind; (b) "extreme and outrageous" conduct; and (c) sufficiently "severe" emotional distress.

         To state a prima facie case for IIED, a plaintiff must plausibly assert that: 1) The defendant acted either intentionally to do the act and to produce emotional distress or acted "recklessly in deliberate disregard of a high degree of probability that emotional distress will follow"; 2) The defendant's conduct is so "extreme and outrageous ... as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community"; 3) The defendant's intentional or reckless conduct proximately caused the plaintiffs emotional distress; and 4) The plaintiff suffered emotional distress that is "so severe that no reasonable [person] could be expected to endure it." Juzwiak v. Doe, 415 N.J.Super. 442, 451, 2 A.3d 428, 433 (App. Div. 2010) (citing and quoting Buckley v. Trenton Saving Fund Socy., Ill N.J. 355, 54 ...

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