Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Clemons v. E.S.A. Management

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

April 2, 2018

RICHARD CLEMONS, Plaintiff,
v.
E.S.A. MANAGEMENT, d/b/a EXTENDED STAY AMERICA, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, to Transfer Venue (Doc. No. 5). Because Plaintiff appears pro se, the Court issued a Roseboro notice (Doc. No. 13) advising Plaintiff of his right to respond to Defendant's motions. The motions have been fully briefed by the parties (Docs. Nos. 6, 16, 18) and are now ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and Defendant's Motion to Transfer is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Richard Clemons, who is proceeding pro se, filed this action on January 9, 2018, following his stay at an Extended Stay America hotel (the “Hotel”) in Manassas, Virginia. In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendant for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violations of N.C. Gen. Stat §§ 42-40(2) and 72-1, and violations of North Carolina's and Virginia's consumer protection and landlord-tenant laws.

         On October 14, 2017, Plaintiff began his stay at the Hotel made possible by an agreement between Defendant, Extended Stay America (“ESA”) and the Artemis House, an organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence. (Doc. No. 1, p. 2). Plaintiff alleges that on or about October 29 or 30, 2017, “intruder(s)” broke into his room and stole several items. Id. Upon discovering the theft, Plaintiff notified the police. Id. Soon thereafter, Plaintiff allegedly asked the Hotel manager to perform a “maintenance check on the lock and room.” Id. The manager agreed. Id. However, no security check occurred, according to the Complaint, and no damage to Plaintiff's door from the break-in was fixed. Id. at 3. On November 4, 2017, Plaintiff alleges the “intruder(s)” returned to his room, drugged him while asleep, and sexually assaulted him. Id. Plaintiff again notified the police who arrived at the scene and allegedly “recorded into evidence a point of entry in the ceiling bathroom where an unsecured shaft space had been pried open.” Id. On or about four days following this incident, Plaintiff confronted the alleged “intruder” and placed him under “citizen's arrest.” Id. The Complaint then states the Hotel manager notified the Artemis House of Plaintiff's conduct, falsely “stating that plaintiff had assaulted the suspect placed under arrest by him.” Id. As a result, Plaintiff was suspended from the housing assistance program. Id. at 4.

         Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss or in the alternative Transfer Venue (Doc. No. 5) on February 9, 2018. In the motion, Defendant seeks to dismiss all Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or in the alternative to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. On February 27, 2018, the Court sua sponte issued a Roseboro notice (Doc. No. 13) advising Plaintiff of his right to respond to Defendant's motions. Plaintiff filed his Response (Doc. No. 16) on March 16, 2018, to which Defendant filed a Reply (Doc. No. 18) on March 22, 2018.[1]As this matter is now ripe for review, the Court addresses each motion in turn.

         II. ANALYSIS

          A. Motion to Dismiss

          A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the “legal sufficiency of the complaint” but “does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992); Eastern Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D. Assoc. Ltd. Partnership, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss will survive if it contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 697 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Robinson v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 551 F.3d 218, 222 (4th Cir. 2009). “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. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. The Supreme Court has also opined that

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” In addition, when ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.

Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56) (internal citations omitted). Conclusory allegations are "not entitled to be assumed true." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. Rule 8(a) requires that a plaintiff's complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). While a high level of factual detail is not required, a complaint needs more than "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Courts apply a more liberal standard to pro se complaints, even holding complaints written by pro se plaintiffs to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, " but nevertheless they are not bound by a plaintiff's legal conclusions. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Randall v. United States, 30 F.3d 518, 521; Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         The Court gleans from the Complaint that Plaintiff purports to bring claims against Defendant for (1) negligence, (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (3) violations of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-40(2) and § 72-1, (4) violations of North Carolina's consumer protection laws, (5) violations of Virginia's consumer protection laws, (6) retaliation in violation of North Carolina's landlord-tenant laws, and (7) retaliation in violation of Virginia's landlord-tenant laws. (Doc. No. 1, p. 4).[2] For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's claims for violations of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-40(2) and § 72-1, violations of North Carolina's consumer protection laws, and retaliation in violation of North Carolina's and Virginia's landlord tenant laws are dismissed without prejudice.

         Plaintiff's claims for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of Virginia's consumer protection laws survive.

         i. Negligence

          As a threshold matter, it is important to distinguish which state's law governs Plaintiff's negligence claim. North Carolina courts have consistently adhered to the lex loci rule for matters affecting substantial rights of the parties and the lex fori rule for remedial or procedural rights. Boudreau v. Baughman, 322 N.C. 331, 335 (1988) (citations omitted). For actions sounding in tort, the state where the injury occurred is considered the situs of the claim, because an act has legal significance only if the jurisdiction where it occurs recognizes that legal rights and obligations ensue from it. White v. Penske Truck Leasing Corp., 256 F.Supp.2d 440, 445 (M.D. N.C. 2003); Boudreau v. Baughman, 322 N.C. 331, 335 (1988); Terry v. Pullman Trailmobile, a Div. of Pullman, Inc., 92 N.C.App. 687, 693 (1989). Thus, under North Carolina law, the law of the state where the injury to Plaintiff occurs governs the resolution of the substantive issues in controversy. Boudreau 322 N.C. at 335. Accordingly, in the case at bar, the law of Virginia, the place Plaintiff's alleged injury occurred, governs Plaintiff's negligence claim.

         Under Virginia law, a plaintiff who seeks to establish a prima facie showing of negligence must plead (1) the existence of a legal duty, (2) a violation of that duty, and (3) proximate causation which results in (4) injury. Didato v. Strehler, 262 Va. 617, 627 (2001). Defendant contends that Plaintiff fails to allege facts sufficient to establish that any act or omission by Defendant proximately caused Plaintiff's injury. (Doc. No. 6, p. 5). Defendant's argument, however, is overly dismissive of Plaintiff's Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that his sexual assault was attributable to insufficient security measures taken by Defendant to make safe Plaintiff's room. See (Doc. No. 1, 2-3). The Supreme Court of Virginia has recognized that the common law imposes a duty upon hotels to protect guests against reasonably foreseeable injury from criminal conduct. Taboada v. Daly Seven, Inc., 271 Va. 313, 326 (2006), on reh'g, 273 Va. 269 (2007) (“Given the nature of the special relationship between an innkeeper and a guest, we hold that it imposes on the innkeeper the same potential elevated duty of ‘utmost care and diligence' to protect a guest from the danger of injury caused by the criminal conduct of a third person on the innkeeper's property.”). Given that prior to the sexual assault Plaintiff had already fallen victim to criminal conduct in his Hotel room, it was reasonably foreseeable that similar criminal conduct might occur in the future; accordingly, Plaintiff's allegations allow the Court to draw the inference that Defendant's failure to take adequate safety measures to secure Plaintiff's room was the proximate cause of Plaintiff's injury. Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for negligence is accordingly denied.

         ii. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

          Similarly, pursuant to the lex loci rule Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) is also governed by Virginia law. To succeed on a claim for IIED under Virginia law, four elements must be proven: (1) the conduct was intentional or reckless; (2) the behavior was outrageous and intolerable; (3) the distress is casually linked to the defendant's actions; and (4) the distress suffered was severe. Magallon v. Wireless Unlimited Inc., 85 Va. Cir. 460 (2012).

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to allege any element of IIED. (Doc. 6, p. 7). Again the Court disagrees. Plaintiff alleges that following the sexual assault the manager of the Hotel “failed to move plaintiff to a new hotel room to protect his identity and person from further harassment.” (Doc. No. 1, p. 3-4). Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges the Hotel manager falsely accused Plaintiff of assaulting the alleged perpetrator of the theft and sexual assault, which resulted in Plaintiff's suspension from his housing assistance program. Id. Applying a liberal standard and viewing the facts in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court determines that Plaintiff alleges sufficient facts to support a plausible claim for IIED. Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for IIED is denied.

         iii. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-40(2) and § 72-1

          In his Complaint, Plaintiff purports to sue Defendant for violations of N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 42-40(2) and 72-1 (Doc. No. 1, p. 4); however, no cause of action exists under either statute. Section 42-40 provides the definitions section of the Residential Rental Agreements Act, codified at Chapter 42, Article 5 of the North Carolina General Statutes. Section 42-40(2) defines the term “premises.” It is not readily apparent to the Court how Plaintiff can state a claim for a violation of Section 42-40(2) as this section does not provide a cause of action. Similarly, Section 72-1 merely states the common law duties of an innkeeper. See Urbano v. Days Inn of America, Inc., 58 N.C.App. 795, 799 (1982) (“G.S. 72-1(a) does no more than state the common law duty of an innkeeper to provide suitable lodging to guests, and carries with it no warranty of personal ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.