Victoria A. Jackson, individually and as surviving wife of Daniel A. Jackson, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Ford Motor Company, Defendant-Appellee.
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Tennessee at Jackson. No. 1:15-cv-01180-J. Daniel
Breen, Chief District Judge.
Bednarz, Jr., BEDNARZ & BEDNARZ, Hendersonville,
Tennessee, for Appellant.
Randolph Bibb, Jr., Ryan N. Clark, LEWIS, THOMASON, KING,
KRIEG & WALDROP, P.C., Nashville, Tennessee, Stephanie A.
Douglas, Jessica R. Vartanian, BUSH SEYFERTH & PAIGE
PLLC, Troy, Michigan, for Appellee.
Before: MOORE and CLAY, Circuit Judges; HOOD, District Judge.
NELSON MOORE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
diversity case, Daniel A. Jackson ("Mr. Jackson"),
the husband of Plaintiff-Appellant Victoria A. Jackson
("Mrs. Jackson" or "Jackson"), died in a
car accident on U.S. Highway 70 after he lost control of his
2012 Ford Focus. Mrs. Jackson, who was a passenger in the
car, was seriously injured. She now alleges that
Defendant-Appellee Ford Motor Company ("Ford"), the
manufacturer of their car, was responsible for the accident
because it equipped the car with a defective "Electronic
Power Assisted Steering" ("EPAS") system that
caused the loss of control. Ford filed a motion to dismiss,
arguing, inter alia, that Jackson did not adequately plead
proximate cause. The district court granted Ford's
motion, and Jackson has appealed. For the reasons stated
below, the district court demanded too much of Jackson under
the familiar Iqbal and Twombly pleading
requirements. Accordingly, we REVERSE the district
court's judgment dismissing the complaint and REMAND the
case for further proceedings.
"[w]e . . . accept all plausible well-pled factual
allegations as true, " see City of Cleveland v.
Ameriquest Mortg. Sec., Inc., 615 F.3d 496, 502 (6th
Cir. 2010), the following is a background of the case as
described in Mrs. Jackson's amended complaint. Mr.
Jackson was driving his 2012 Ford Focus on U.S. Highway 70
when "suddenly and without warning, the Ford Focus
darted left across the center line into oncoming traffic. It
was struck head on by a wrecker." R. 36 (Am. Compl.
¶ 13-14) (Page ID #403). "[A]s a result of the
collision, Mr. Jackson received serious injuries and died.
Mrs. Jackson received serious, permanent and life threatening
injuries and was life flighted to Vanderbilt University
Medical Center." Id. ¶ 15 (Page ID #403).
Mrs. Jackson claims that the EPAS system "was the cause
of the Plaintiff[']s vehicle darting left into oncoming
traffic." Id. ¶ 16 (Page ID #403); see
also id. ¶¶ 104, 107, 110, 118, 121, 124, 129,
135, 139 (Page ID #427-32, 434-35).
EPAS system in the 2012 Ford Focus . . . replaces the
traditional hydraulic-assist power steering pump and
[consists] of a power steering control motor, electronic
control unit, torque sensor and steering wheel position
sensor." Id. ¶ 17 (Page ID #404). Jackson
describes the "systemic defect" in this system as
follows: "(1) seepage of conformal coating into the EPAS
system's ribbon cable, which leads to the loss of
connections within the EPAS system; (2) misalignment of
ribbon cable pins utilized in the EPAS system, which leads to
the breakage of critical wiring and the loss of connections
within the EPAS system; (3) manufacturing defects in the
contact plating used in the EPAS system, which causes
corrosion and an interruption in electrical connections
within the EPAS system; (4) defects in EPAS system's
sensors; and (5) defects in the gear assembly."
Id. ¶ 17 (Page ID #404); see also id.
¶ 47 (Page ID #412-13). Jackson claims that "[t]his
defective EPAS system renders the system prone to sudden and
premature failure during ordinary and foreseeable driving
situations" and that "drivers of the Defective
Vehicles experience significantly increased steering effort
and an increased risk of losing control of their vehicles
when the EPAS system fails." Id. ¶¶
17-18 (Page ID #404). Jackson defined "Defective
Vehicles" as vehicles that "contain the same or
similar EPAS as the Plaintiff's 2012 Ford Focus, "
which include various other Ford models. Id. ¶
37 (Page ID #409).
alleged EPAS defect "can, and has, caused injuries to
occupants of the Defective Vehicles." Id.
¶ 47 (Page ID #413). Jackson points to three instances
where drivers experienced steering failure in their 2012 Ford
Focuses, id. ¶¶ 87-89 (Page ID #424), and
several other instances where other vehicles equipped with
the same or similar EPAS system suffered from steering
failure, id. ¶¶ 69-86, 90-91 (Page ID
#419-25). Jackson's amended complaint alleges that Ford
is strictly liable for manufacturing and design defects;
strictly liable for defective warnings; liable for negligent
manufacture, design, and warning; engaged in
misrepresentations; and breached implied and express
warranties. See id. ¶¶ 105-39 (Page ID
Jackson filed her complaint in state court, Ford removed the
case to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of
Tennessee. R. 1 (Notice of Removal at 10) (Page ID #10). The
district court then dismissed Defendants Golden Circle Ford,
Lincoln, Mercury, Inc. and Steve Marsh Ford, Inc. under the
doctrine of fraudulent joinder. See Jackson v. Ford Motor
Co., No. 15-1180, 2016 WL 270485, at *1 (W.D. Tenn. Jan.
21, 2016). Ford filed a motion to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for a more definite statement pursuant to
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(e), arguing
that Mrs. Jackson "has not pled facts suggesting that a
defect in the 2012 Ford Focus Mr. Jackson was driving at the
time of his crash caused or contributed to the crash."
R. 15-1 (Def.'s Mem. in Support of Its Mot. Dismiss at 1)
(Page ID #280). Following an amended complaint filed by Mrs.
Jackson, R. 36 (Am. Compl.) (Page ID #401), and a
supplemental motion to dismiss filed by Ford, R. 35
(Def.'s Supp. Mem. in Support of Mot. Dismiss) (Page ID
#396),  the district court granted Ford's
motion to dismiss. See Jackson v. Ford Motor Co.,
No. 15-1180, 2016 WL 324383 (W.D. Tenn. Jan. 26, 2016).
Jackson then filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment,
which the district court denied. See Jackson v. Ford
Motor Co., No. 15-1180, 2016 WL 4533028 (W.D. Tenn. Mar.
21, 2016). Jackson has appealed the orders on the motion to
dismiss and motion to alter or amend the judgment.
See R. 59 (Notice of Appeal at 1) (Page ID #526).
The district court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332, and we have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
Standard of Review
review de novo a district court's decision to grant a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule
12(b)(6)." In re Darvocet, Darvon, &
Propoxyphene Prods. Liab. Litig., 756 F.3d 917, 926 (6th
Cir. 2014). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ...