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A defendant may not use Rule 14 to implead a third-party defendant on the basis that the third-party defendant is directly and wholly liable to the plaintiff.
Plaintiffs, Jon and Carol Toberman, filed a complaint against the captioned defendants. The complaint detailed counts of negligence and loss of consortium against each defendant, arising out of a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiffs' complaint cited various injuries resulting from the accident, and provided some detail regarding the order of the events involved in the accident, the part played by each of the defendants, and specific conduct that was alleged to be negligent. One of the captioned defendants was Richard Menendez. Defendant filed a Third-Party Complaint against third party defendants, Timothy Swarthout and St. Johnsbury Trucking Company under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 14. This third-party complaint is the subject of the current motion. Third-party defendants filed a motion to dismiss, they argued that the third-party complaint does not fall within the court’s ancillary jurisdiction and does not comport with the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.
1. Was the third-party complaint a proper application of Rule 14?
2. Was the third-party complaint met the proper federal standard?
1. The court found that this claim of sole and direct liability to Plaintiffs does not comprise a proper third-party claim under Rule 14. The third-party complaint can only assert a theory of derivative liability to defendant if he is found liable. Thus, this is not an acceptable theory for third-party liability under Rule 14. The Court then gave the defendant an opportunity to submit his amended third-party complaint.
2. The court agreed with the third-party defendants claim that the present third-party complaint failed to state a claim. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, a complaint need not be very detailed. However, the third-party complaint before the court contains no factual allegations at all. It clearly does not meet even the liberal standard of Rule 8. Furthermore, the third-party complaint failed to give Third-Party Defendants fair notice of the grounds upon which the complaint rests. At present, the complaint is hardly more than a bare averment of liability; nowhere do any allegations appear to indicate just what Third-Party Defendants did, or how Third-Party Defendants fit in with Plaintiffs' complaint in the case-in-chief, which does not mention them. And should the defendant choose to submit an amended complaint, he should meet the Rule 8 standards cited.