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MCI Communications Services Inc. v. Contractors West Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 1, 2016

MCI Communications Services Incorporated, Plaintiff,
v.
Contractors West Incorporated, Defendant.

ORDER

David G. Campbell United States District Judge.

On December 16, 2015, Plaintiff MCI Communications Services, Inc. (“MCI”) filed a complaint against Defendant Contractors West, Inc. (“CWI”), asserting claims for trespass, negligence, and violation of the Arizona Damage Protection Act (“ADPA”). Doc. 1. The complaint seeks actual and punitive damages. Id. at 4. Defendant moves to dismiss the trespass and ADPA claims, and to strike Plaintiff’s punitive damages allegations.[1] Doc. 14. The motion is fully briefed (Docs. 16, 19) and the Court concludes that oral argument will not aid in its decision.[2] For the reasons set forth below, Defendant’s motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background.

MCI is a telecommunications company that provides some of its services using underground fiber-optic cables. Doc. 1, ¶ 6. MCI has an agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad that allows MCI to install and operate cables on the Railroad’s property. Id., ¶ 7. One of the Railroad-owned properties MCI uses is in Glendale, Arizona. Id.

MCI alleges that CWI conducted an excavation at the Glendale property on December 23, 2013. Id., ¶ 9. Prior to the excavation, MCI erected warning signs near the cable and marked its location on the ground with orange paint. Id., ¶¶ 10-11. Even so, CWI hit and damaged the cable. Id., ¶ 12. MCI contends that it suffered damages in excess of $75, 000 as a result. Id., ¶ 13. It further contends that CWI’s actions “exhibited an evil mind, a willful and wanton disregard of MCI’s rights[, ] and a conscious indifference to the consequences.” Id., ¶ 14.

II. Motion to Dismiss.

A. Legal Standard.

A successful Rule 12(b)(6) motion must show either that the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or fails to allege facts sufficient to support its theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). A complaint that sets forth a cognizable legal theory will survive a motion to dismiss as long as it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

The Court must take the well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Cousins v. Lockyer, 568 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2009). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations do not enjoy a presumption of truth and are not sufficient to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

B. Persuasive Value of Another District Court’s Opinion.

Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for trespass and violation of the ADPA. Defendant’s motion relies on Sprint Communications Co., L.P. v. Western Innovations, Inc., 618 F.Supp.2d 1101 (D. Ariz. 2009). Doc. 14 at 2-3. Plaintiff acknowledges that Western Innovations supports Defendant’s view, but contends that it was wrongly decided. Doc. 16 at 7-8, 11-12.

“The doctrine of stare decisis does not compel one district court judge to follow the decision of another.” Starbuck v. City & Cty. of S.F., 556 F.2d 450, 457 (9th Cir. 1977). District courts “must not treat decisions by other district judges . . . as controlling, unless of course the doctrine of res judicata or of collateral estoppel applies. Such decisions will normally be entitled to no more weight than their intrinsic persuasiveness merits.” Colby v. J.C. Penney Co., 811 F.2d 1119, 1124 (7th Cir. 1987). A district court’s decision is, however, entitled to “the careful and respectful attention of a court confronted with a similar case.” Id. at 1123.

C. ADPA.

The parties agree that Plaintiff initiated this action more than one but less than two years after it discovered its ADPA claim, but disagree on which statute of limitations applies. Defendant argues (Doc. 14 at 2-3) that the claim is governed by A.R.S § 12-541(5), which establishes a one-year limitations period for “liabilit[ies] created by statute.” Plaintiff argues (Doc. 16 at 9) that its claim is governed by A.R.S. § 12-542(3), which ...


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