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Gatewood v. Jeffries

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

July 25, 2018




         THIS MATTER is before the court on defendants Jerry Richardson (“Richardson”) and Bonnie Creighton's (“Creighton”) Motion to Dismiss. An Order (#14) was entered February 23, 2018, advising the pro se plaintiff of the pendency of the motion, the possible consequences if the motion were to be granted, and the procedure to be used in responding to the motion. Having considered defendants' motion and reviewed the pleadings, including plaintiff's Response (#15) and the Reply (#16), the court enters the following Order.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed this action on January 11, 2018, contending that he was discriminated against[1] under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) while working for the Carolina Panthers in its Guest Relations Department as an Elevator Operator and Ticket Taker Team Member during the 2011 season. (#12, pgs. 6, 8). Plaintiff alleges that on April 4, 2012, the Panthers terminated his employment due to a bad credit report (based on their hiring criteria and consumer report) and that he thus suffered an adverse employment action. (#12, pg. 6). Plaintiff further alleges that his termination was actually based on race or color. Id.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss this action under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They argue that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, his claims are barred by applicable statutes of limitations, and his claims cannot be asserted against individuals instead of his employer. (#13, p. 9).

         II. Applicable Standard

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

         Rule 12(b)(1) provides for dismissal where the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the lawsuit. Lack of subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time either by a litigant or the court. Mansfield, C. & L.M.R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884). The ability of the court to independently address subject-matter jurisdiction is important to finality inasmuch as a litigant, even one who remains silent on the issue of jurisdiction, may wait until they receive an adverse judgment from a district court and raise the issue of subject-matter jurisdiction for the first time on appeal, thereby voiding the judgment. Capron v. Van Noorden, 2 Cranch 126, 127, 2 L.Ed. 229 (1804). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure anticipate this issue and provide that “[w]henever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         When a court considers subject-matter jurisdiction, plaintiff has the burden of proof. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). In Richmond, Fredricksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765 (4th Cir. 1991) (Ervin, C.J.), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held:

In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the district court is to regard the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment. Id.; Trentacosta v. Frontier Pacific Aircraft Indus., 813 F.2d 1553, 1558 (9th Cir. 1987). The district court should apply the standard applicable to a motion for summary judgment, under which the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts beyond the pleadings to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Trentacosta, supra, 813 F.2d at 1559 (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552-53 (1986)). The moving party should prevail only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law. Trentacosta, supra, 813 F.2d at 1558. A district court order dismissing a case on the grounds that the undisputed facts establish a lack of subject matter jurisdiction is a legal determination subject to de novo appellate review. Revene v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 872 (4th Cir. 1989); Shultz v. Dept. of the Army, 886 F.2d 1157, 1159 (9th Cir. 1989).

Id., at 768-69. Where jurisdictional facts are intertwined with facts central to the substance of a case, a court must find that jurisdiction exists and consider and resolve the jurisdictional objection as a direct attack on the merits of the case. United States v. North Carolina, 180 F.3d 574, 580 (4th Cir. 1999).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). To survive such a motion, “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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, ” as “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements” are insufficient to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Id.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547 (complaints will be dismissed when plaintiffs “have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible”); Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 391 (4th Cir. 2011).

         Only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” is required. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Specific facts are not required; defendants need only “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544). For purposes of the motion, the factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 6266 F.3d 187, 189 (4th Cir. 2010), though the court need not accept “unwarranted inferences” or “unreasonable arguments.” Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). The court also notes that “[a] Rule 12(b)(6) motion ‘does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the ...

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