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MB Realty Group, Inc. v. Gaston County Board of Education

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

July 11, 2018

MB REALTY GROUP, INC., and MATT BECKHAM Plaintiffs,
v.
THE GASTON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, GASTON COUNTY, W. JEFFREY BOOKER, in his capacity as Superintendent of the Gaston County Board of Education and individually, CARSTAPHEN FAMILY FOUNDATION, THE STOWE FOUNDATION, INC., CATHERINE ROBERTS, and TRACY PHILBECK, Defendants.

          ORDER

          FRANK D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on several Motions to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and for judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). (Docs. Nos. 39, 45, 48, 51, 57, & 61). Upon review by the Court, for the reasons below, the Motions to Dismiss the Complaint (Docs. Nos. 21, 23, 26, & 30) are DENIED AS MOOT, and the Motions to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (Docs. Nos. 39, 45, 48, 51, 57, & 61) are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         According to the Amended Complaint, [1] Plaintiffs and Defendants are all residents of North Carolina and, in the case of parties that are corporate or government entities, have their principal places of business in North Carolina. (Doc. No. 32, pp. 2-3). Defendants Gaston County, Gaston County Board of Education (“GCBOE”), and Booker are collectively referred to as “Purchasing Defendants.” Defendants Carstarphen Family Foundation and Stowe Foundation, Inc., are collectively referred to as “Selling Defendants.” Defendants Roberts and Philbeck are collectively referred to as “Publishing Defendants.” (Doc. No. 32, pp. 2-3).

         Plaintiffs allege they entered into a series of contracts and agreements with Selling Defendants and Purchasing Defendants concerning a parcel of land in Gaston County, North Carolina. (Doc. No. 32). Plaintiffs further allege that Selling Defendants and Purchasing Defendants conspired to dishonor Plaintiffs' contracts with Defendants, causing damage to Plaintiffs' business. (Doc. No. 32, pp. 4-8). Plaintiffs also allege Publishing Defendants publicized or circulated emails containing false or defamatory statements about Plaintiffs. (Doc. No. 32, pp. 5-6).

         The Amended Complaint asserts ten separate Counts: (1) fraud against Purchasing Defendants; (2) breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing against Selling Defendants; (3) violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act (15 U.S.C. § 1) against Purchasing and Selling Defendants; (4) unjust enrichment against Selling Defendants; (5) relief in quantum meruit against Selling Defendants; (6) libel against Publishing Defendants; (7) punitive damages for willful and wanton conduct against all Defendants; (8) violations of North Carolina's unfair and deceptive trade practices statutes ( N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-1 et seq.) against all Defendants; (9) tortious interference with contract right against Defendant Gaston County; and (10) tortious interference with prospective economic advantage against Defendants Gaston County and GCBOE. (Doc. No. 32, pp. 8-16).

         Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' original Complaint. (Docs. Nos. 21, 23, 26, & 30). Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint superseding the original Complaint, thereby rendering the above-referenced Motions to Dismiss moot. Defendants again filed Motions to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim entitled to relief pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and 12(c). (Docs. Nos. 39, 45, 48, 51, 57, & 61).

         APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARD

         When a court considers a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). The motion shall be granted “if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). If the plaintiff merely fails to properly plead the elements of a federal claim, it is not a truly threshold jurisdictional question, and it is analyzed as a Rule 12(b)(6) question. Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514-15 (2006) (explaining that “jurisdictional” elements of federal claims must be explicitly identified as such by statute). In this event, the district court retains the discretion to extend supplemental jurisdiction over pendent state-law claims. See id.

         “A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a 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); E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 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. Am. 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:

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).

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings applies much the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). The district court considers both the complaint and the answer and accepts all allegations as true for the purpose of the motion. Id. at 244. The Court will not grant the motion if the complaint and the answer dispute an issue of material fact.

         Upon the filing of an amended complaint, the original complaint is superseded, and motions to dismiss the original complaint are rendered moot. Young v. City of ...


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