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Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Co. v. United Rail Service, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

April 17, 2018

INDIANA HARBOR BELT RAILROAD COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED RAIL SERVICE, INC. And UNITED TRANSPORTATION GROUP, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Counter-Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or for a More Definite Statement Pursuant to Rule 12(E) and to Strike Pursuant to Rule 12(F), filed by Counter-Defendant, Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company, on December 14, 2017 (DE #21). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion (DE #21) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. The Motion is GRANTED as to the Motion for a More Definite Statement Pursuant to Rule 12(e) and United Rail is ORDERED to file an amended counterclaim within 14 days from the date of this Order that adequately pleads sufficient factual matter to state claims that are plausible on their face, provides notice to Indiana Harbor of its claims, and satisfies Rule 10(b) by setting forth each claim in a separate count. The Motion is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to refiling at a later time as to the Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and the Motion to Strike pursuant to Rule 12(f).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad (hereinafter “Indiana Harbor”), filed a complaint in this case on July 3, 2017 (DE #1), pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 10101 et seq., to collect certain freight, demurrage and storage charges for railcars delivered to Defendants, United Rail Service, Inc. and United Transportation Group, Inc. (hereinafter “United”). The deliveries in question were made to defendants at their facility in East Chicago between July 2014 and October 2016. (Id. ¶ 6.)

         United filed an answer and counterclaim on October 26, 2017. (DE #13.) The counterclaim does not specify the damages requested, and seems to invoke a number of legal theories (including breach of contract, negligence, trespass, and monopoly), but without setting forth separate counts.

         Indiana Harbor seeks dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or alternatively, a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e), and to strike pursuant to Rule 12(f). In response, United argues that it has set forth the specific elements and factual support to defeat any challenge under Rule 12(b)(6) for negligence, breach of contract, damages, trespass, monopoly, and estoppel. (DE #25.) Indiana Harbor filed a reply on January 3, 2018 (DE #26). Therefore, this motion is fully briefed and ready for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         The sufficiency of a complaint can be tested in several ways under Rule 12, including a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6); a motion for a more definite statement of a vague or ambiguous complaint pursuant to Rule 12(e), or a motion to strike redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter in a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(f). In this case, Indiana Harbor has invoked all three of these avenues in the same motion. However, Indiana Harbor largely argues that the counterclaim does not contain sufficient factual allegations to put it on notice of any plausible claims.

         Rule 12(b)(6)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a complaint to be dismissed if it fails to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Allegations other than fraud and mistake are governed by the pleading standard outlined in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement” that the pleader is entitled to relief. Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011).

         In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). All well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences from those facts must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2008). However, pleadings consisting of no more than mere conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. This includes legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, as well as “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         United Rail points to the following material facts in the counterclaim (actually, they point to all of the allegations in the counterclaim in its entirety), contending they have sufficiently complied with Rule 8, and sufficiently stated claims:

1.IHB delivered rail cars to URS under an agreement among URS and IHB from 1986 through June 2014.
2. URS and UTG never had the ability to call in particular rail cars or groups of rail ...

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