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Thomas v. The Salvation Army Southern Territory

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

February 20, 2019

SHARON T. THOMAS, Plaintiff,


          Frank D. V\/hitncy Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes now before the Court on Defendants The Salvation Army Southern Territory, F. Bradford Bailey, The Salvation Army, and Deronda Metz's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 21); Defendants Bobby Lancaster and Barbara Green's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 33), and Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendants Victory Christian Center, Incorporated (“Victory Christian”), Church in the City Ministries (“Church in the City”), Cathy LNU, Lancaster, and Green (Doc. No. 28). Upon review by the Court and for the reasons stated below, Defendants Salvation Army Southern Territory, Bailey, Salvation Army, and Metz's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 21) is GRANTED, Defendants Lancaster and Green's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART (Doc. No. 33), and Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. No. 28) is DENIED.


         According to the Complaint (Doc. No. 1), [1] Plaintiff, who appears pro se, is a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina. Id. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff was referred to Monarch Mental Health Care (“Monarch”), a non-profit organization, to receive treatment. Id. at ¶ 3; see also Thomas v. The Salvation Army S. Territory, 841 F.3d 632, 635 (4th Cir. 2016). After becoming homeless early in 2012, Plaintiff arrived at the Salvation Army Center of Hope in Charlotte on July 12, 2012, where she completed paperwork and signed an agreement whereby she agreed to follow all policies, rules, and procedures (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 14). Due to overcrowding at the Salvation Army, Plaintiff was transferred to Church in the City, run by Victory Christian. Id. at ¶ 17. During an intake interview at Church in the City, Plaintiff disclosed her mental and physical disabilities, services from Monarch, and medications. Id. at ¶ 21. Plaintiff contends while Church in the City was strict, it was clean and quiet; they also accommodated Plaintiff's physical ailments when assigning chores and sleeping arrangements. Id. at ¶ 21-22. Plaintiff further contends she followed Church in the City's requirements and “did not receive any write up, reprimands, or corrective action” from the entity. Id. at ¶ 22.

         During her stay at Church in the City, Plaintiff visited the Salvation Army Center of Hope on July 19, 2012, for an official intake assessment, where she again disclosed her treatment from Monarch and authorized Monarch to release information to the Salvation Army. Id. at ¶ 23. During the week of July 31, 2012, Plaintiff returned to the Salvation Army to meet with a doctor. Id. at ¶ 24. Plaintiff's purpose for this visit was to obtain a refill prescription for her anti-depressant; the doctor referred Plaintiff to Carolinas Medical Center Behavioral Health (“CMC”) to receive medication and prescriptions, although the treating psychiatrist recorded no concerns. Id. at ¶ 24. The same week, Plaintiff met with her assigned case manager and reviewed her housing and mental health needs. Id. at ¶ 25.

         Plaintiff's alleged difficulties with the shelters began August 12, 2012, when she was informed she would be evicted from Church in the City. Id. at ¶ 30. Once she had been evicted, Plaintiff was then informed the reason for her eviction was that she missed curfew. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff subsequently attempted to return to the Salvation Army Center of Hope but was instructed she could not return because she had been evicted from Church in the City. Id. at ¶ 31.

         The following day, Plaintiff returned to Monarch, who advised Plaintiff to contact Salvation Army to see if she could return. Id. at ¶ 34. Upon calling Salvation Army, Plaintiff spoke to her prior case manager and was again told the reason for her eviction was missing curfew, an accusation Plaintiff denied and continues to deny. Id. at ¶ 34. While on the phone call, Plaintiff responded by accusing the manager of acting in concert with Church in the City and further accused her of unethical conduct. Id. at ¶ 34. Later that day, Plaintiff called Metz, a director at Salvation Army, about her eviction. Id. at ¶ 34. Metz did not give Plaintiff a specific reason for her eviction, but instead told Plaintiff she was not a good fit for the shelter. Id. at ¶ 34.

         The next day, Plaintiff went to Monarch to attempt to find housing but was unsuccessful. Id. at ¶ 36. She then went to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (“CMPD”), whereupon two CMPD officers transported her to the Salvation Army Center of Hope where she was denied entry. Id. at ¶ 36. The staff member who spoke to Plaintiff told her she was instructed by the director (the Complaint is unclear whether the director was Metz in this context) not to allow Plaintiff to stay there. Id. at ¶ 36. When asked why, the staff member indicated “she believed it was due to mental health reasons and stated that if Plaintiff submitted to a psychiatric/psychological evaluation she would be admitted back to the program.” Id. at ¶ 36. The CMPD officers then transported Plaintiff to CMC and informed the Emergency Room staff Plaintiff needed to be evaluated to continue her residency at the Salvation Army Center of Hope. Id. at ¶ 37. Plaintiff underwent evaluation from a psychiatrist, who allegedly determined Plaintiff had no mental health problems and advised her to “continue taking [her] medication.” Id. at ¶ 37. After receiving her discharge materials, Plaintiff sought to return to the Salvation Army Center of Hope, but was refused admission, allegedly without being given a reason or explanation. Id. at ¶ 38.

         Around September 1, 2012, Plaintiff received a letter from Lancaster indicating the decision to evict Plaintiff was based on some of her actions that were disrespectful and hostile to staff members attempting to assist her. Id. at ¶ 40. Plaintiff denies this allegation, suggesting she never received any communication regarding her actions. Id. at ¶ 40. The letter from Lancaster further stated the Salvation Army Center for Hope would be willing to accept Plaintiff back if she agreed to a mental health evaluation and stabilization services. Id. at ¶ 40. Plaintiff then proceeded to file her original suit in July 2014. Thomas, 841 F.3d at 636.


         In a previous case, the district court dismissed with prejudice all of Plaintiff's original claims for failure to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Id.; see also Thomas v. The Salvation Army S. Territory, 3:14-cv-403-RJC-DCK, 2014 WL 12639858 (W.D. N.C. Oct. 8, 2014). The Fourth Circuit subsequently affirmed the district court's ruling, remarking that dismissal of the complaint was warranted “given its multiple deficiencies, namely the omission of the nature of any illness much less the presence of such illness as a causative agent of the Salvation Army's decision.” Thomas, 841 F.3d at 642. The Fourth Circuit, did, however modify the district court's ruling to dismiss the claims “without prejudice, ” noting Plaintiff did not have an opportunity to respond or amend her complaint prior to its dismissal. Id. at 642. Plaintiff then filed the instant case before the Court. The claims survived initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), this Court granted equitable tolling to Plaintiff (Doc. No. 8), and the case has progressed to the current point.

         In the case at bar, Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated her rights under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., the North Carolina Fair Housing Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 41A-1 et seq., the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and unlawfully conspired to interfere with Plaintiff's civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Doc. No. 1, p. 17-21). Defendants Bailey, Metz, Salvation Army, and Salvation Army Southern Territory filed their motion to dismiss on June 5, 2018 (Doc. No. 21). On June 19, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time, advising Plaintiff of the burden she carried in responding and cautioning the Defendants, and that failure to respond may result in dismissal of the complaint with prejudice (Doc. No. 27). On July 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment as to defendants Victory Christian, Church in The City, Cathy, Lancaster, and Green (Doc. No. 28). The Court notes that no entry of default was recorded by the clerk prior to this Motion. Defendants Green and Lancaster filed a response (Doc. No. 32) and accompanying motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 33) one week later asserting Plaintiff failed to properly serve them. On July 24, 2018, Plaintiff received an additional extension of time by the Court and was again advised that in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), she has a right to respond to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and that failure to do so may result in dismissal of the complaint with prejudice. Roseboro, 528 F.2d at 310.


         Each of Defendants' motions are based on the 12(b)(6) standard of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure while applying a pro se/liberal interpretation of the pleadings. The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not to resolve conflicts of fact or to decide the merits of the action. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir. 1999). The court may grant a motion to dismiss only if “it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). In considering a motion to dismiss, the court must “assume the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's allegations.” Eastern Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). Nevertheless, “while [the court] must take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, [the court] need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from ...

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