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Starr v. Satya Tiwari, Surya, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

February 27, 2019

JAMIE STARR, Plaintiff,



         Currently before this court is Defendants' joint Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (Doc. 11.) Defendants have also filed a Motion for Protective Order limiting discovery, (Doc. 18), a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) complaint, (Doc. 21), and a Motion for a Prefiling Injunction, (Doc. 40).

         In addition to her original complaint, (Complaint for Employment Discrimination (“Compl.”) (Doc. 2)), Plaintiff has filed the following: three motions to amend the complaint (Docs. 15, 24, 26); an amended complaint, (Doc. 17); a “motion for jury trial”, (Doc. 20); and a “motion for court to grant recovery”, (Doc. 31). Plaintiff has also moved to add Julie Watkins, (Doc. 34), and Carrie Ingalls, (Doc. 36), as defendants in this matter. Finally, Plaintiff has filed the following discovery- related motions: a motion to compel with sanctions, (Doc. 25); a motion for a court-ordered medical examination of Defendant Parker, (Doc. 30); and a motion to subpoena, (Doc. 38).

         Because this court finds that none of Plaintiff's timely pleadings plausibly allege any unlawful activity by Defendants, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted and Plaintiff's various motions will be denied.

         Further, this court believes that Plaintiff's voluminous filing record in this case represents an attempt to use the federal judiciary as an outlet for petty personal grievances. To deter Plaintiff from again using federal resources to reexamine petty slights and negative social interactions, this court will dismiss Plaintiff's claims with prejudice.


         Plaintiff Jamie Starr is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff was employed by Defendant Surya, Inc. (“Surya”) as a Sales Specialist responsible for accounts in the state of Florida. (Pl.'s Mot. to Am. Compl. (“Am. Compl.”), Ex. SS (Doc. 15-11) at 1.) Plaintiff began employment with Surya on August 7, 2017. (Id.) Plaintiff reported to Allen Parker, Sales Manager. (Id.) Surya terminated Plaintiff's employment on October 20, 2017. (Am. Compl. (Doc. 15) at 10.)

         In her original complaint, Plaintiff alleges employment discrimination[1] by Defendants due to her gender, religion and age in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-5, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634. (Compl. (Doc. 2) at 3.) As far as this court can discern, Plaintiff has also alleged the following state law claims in her various subsequent pleadings: breach of contract, (Am. Compl. (Doc. 15) at 3); (Pl.'s Mot. to Am. Breach of Contract (“Pl.'s Mot. to Am.”) (Doc. 24) at 1-2); defamation, (Am. Compl. (Doc. 15) at 1); negligence, (Pl.'s Am. Compl. (“IIED Compl.”) (Doc. 17) at 5); IIED, (IIED Compl. (Doc. 17) at 1); and negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”), (Pl.'s Mot. to Am. (Doc. 24-1) at 3.) Plaintiff claims damages of over $2 million. (Doc. 31 at 2.)

         Plaintiff initially named Surya, Inc., Satya Tiwari (CEO), and Allen Parker (Sales Manager) as Defendants. (Compl. (Doc. 2).) Plaintiff has since moved to add two additional individuals, Julie Watkins and Carrie Ingalls, as defendants (Docs. 34, 36.)

         This court will first consider which of Plaintiff's numerous pleadings it may properly consider under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This court will next turn to the original Defendants' joint motion to dismiss Plaintiff's original federal claims. This court will then proceed to evaluate any remaining valid state law claims. Finally, if any claims remain after this analysis, this court will proceed to evaluate Plaintiff's discovery motions, (Docs. 25, 30, 38.)


         A. Sufficiency of the Complaint

         This court will not, as Defendants urge at various points, (see Doc. 12 at 6-9), dismiss Plaintiff's claims outright as violative of the pleading standards set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. Rules 8 and 10(b). Plaintiff's pleading approach clearly runs afoul of the Federal Rules. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim”) (emphasis added); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b) (stating that pleadings should be organized in numbered paragraphs and should identify the specific facts on which each claim is based).

         The pleading standards are relaxed for pro se plaintiffs. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (stating that pro se complaints must be “liberally construed”); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). However, these plaintiffs are still required to plead facts that fairly put the defendant on notice of the nature of the claims and “contain more than labels and conclusions.” Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 304 & n.5 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         This court finds it odd that Plaintiff, who apparently is well-educated, was able to secure a relatively high-paying sales job, has navigated the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filing process, has resorted to nearly indecipherable stream-of-consciousness narratives in her various pleadings. Plaintiff's decision to devote space in her pleadings to compare certain Defendants to Nazi leaders and to criticize unrelated content posted on the website of Defendants' legal counsel is also deeply mystifying and frankly bizarre. (See Am. Compl. (Doc. 15) at 18; Ex. EN (Doc. 15-12) at 1.)

         However, this court notes that Defendants have not moved for a more definite statement of the claims, which would certainly be warranted here, and have instead proceeded to address the substance of Plaintiff's allegations. Especially in the pro se context, this court finds it preferable to address Plaintiff's claims under Rule 12(b)(6) rather than dismissing them for failure to comply with federal pleading standards.

         B. Amendments to the Complaint

         A party may amend any pleading as a matter of course, if that pleading “is one to which a responsive pleading is required, ” within twenty-one days after service of the responsive pleading or motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Defendants filed their original motion to dismiss on May 9, 2018, and Plaintiff filed her first motion to amend exactly twenty-one days later on May 30, 2018. Therefore, this court construes Plaintiff's initial motion to amend, (Am. Compl. (Doc. 15)), as an amendment to the original complaint which is permitted as a matter of course.

         Outside of the twenty-one-day window, pleadings may be amended “only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Defendants responded to Plaintiff's initial motion to amend on June 25, 2018. (Doc. 16.) Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint on July 23, 2018, (IIED Compl. (Doc. 17)); a “Motion for Jury Trial” on July 30, 2018, which this court construes as an additional motion to amend the complaint, (Doc. 20); a “Motion to Amend Breech [sic] of Contract” on August 23, 2018, (Pl.'s Mot. to Am. (Doc. 24)); an additional motion to amend the complaint on August 23, 2018, (Doc. 26); and a “Motion for the Court to Grant Recovery” on October 1, 2018, (Doc. 31). Plaintiff did not seek leave of the court to file any of these pleadings, nor did Defendants consent to these pleadings.

         To the extent that any of the pleadings identified above other than Plaintiff's initial motion to amend, (Am. Compl. (Doc. 15)), allege new claims or facts or otherwise seek to amend Plaintiff's original complaint, these pleadings do not comply with the time restrictions in Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Plaintiff has also neglected to seek leave of the court to amend. Plaintiff's shotgun pleading approach is both prejudicial to Defendants and wasteful of judicial time and resources. See, e.g., Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 510 (4th Cir. 1986) (stating that prejudice can result when a defendant is forced to respond to new legal theories or gather new evidence). Although the proposed amendments here were filed shortly after the initial complaint, this court further finds that Plaintiff has acted in bad faith by filing numerous amendments over a short period of time without seeking permission. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (listing “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive” as grounds for denying leave to amend). Therefore, this court will not consider these subsequent pleadings.[2]

         As best as this court can discern, Plaintiff's initial motion to amend alleges breach of contract and defamation claims. In the interest of liberal construction, see Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106, this court will consider the breach of contract and defamation claims asserted in Plaintiff's initial motion to amend as well as the federal claims asserted in Plaintiff's original complaint. However, this court will construe Plaintiff's pleadings containing claims for negligence, IIED and NIED as additional motions to amend and will deny those motions as untimely and prejudicial.

         C. Additional Defendants

         Plaintiff has moved to add Julie Watkins, (Pl.'s Mot. to Add Julie Watkins (“First Mot. to Add Def.”) (Doc. 34)), and Carrie Ingalls, (Pl.'s Mot. to Add Party (“Sec. Mot. to Add Def.”) (Doc. 36)), as defendants in this case. As an initial matter, this court determines that neither Watkins nor Ingalls is a required party, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(1), to any of Plaintiff's timely and authorized claims. Neither Watkins nor Ingalls appear to assert any interest in this action, and this court can “accord complete relief” on Plaintiff's Title VII, ADEA, breach of contract and defamation claims with the original Defendants. Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(1)(A).

         The Federal Rules alternatively permit joinder of parties as defendants when plaintiff's “right to relief is asserted against them jointly [or] severally, ” when the right to relief against all parties arises out of the same series of transactions, or when “any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2); see also Saval v. BL Ltd., 710 F.2d 1027, 1031 (4th Cir. 1983) (stating that claims must be “reasonably related” for parties to be joined under Rule 20); Stephens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan of the Mid-Atl. States, Inc., 807 F.Supp.2d 375, 382 (D. Md. 2011) (finding that claims must have “a logical relationship to one another”).

         The claims against Watkins and Ingalls appear completely unrelated to Plaintiff's original properly-pleaded claims. Plaintiff's claim against Watkins is styled as a breach of contract claim but appears to allege breach of a contractual agreement between Watkins and Defendant Surya regarding a third party, Kristine El Kouri. (First Mot. to Add Def. (Doc. 34) at 4.) The breach of contract claim alleged in Plaintiff's first amended complaint, however, relates to provisions of the Surya employee handbook that may have formed part of Plaintiff's employment contract with Defendant Surya. (See Am. Compl. (Doc. 15) at 3.) The claim against Watkins is not in any way relevant to that breach of contract claim, and Plaintiff's motion to add Watkins as a defendant will be denied.

         Plaintiff's claim against Carrie Ingalls is even more puzzling, as Ingalls appears to be a third-party guest who attended an event at one of Surya's facilities and allegedly mistreated Plaintiff at this event. (Sec. Mot to Add. Def. (Doc. 36) at 1-2.) While Plaintiff attempts to connect Ingalls' alleged behavior to Surya's negligent over-serving of alcohol at the event, (id. at 3), this claim is simply in no way relevant to the employment discrimination claims in Plaintiff's original complaint or to the breach of contract and defamation claims in Plaintiff's first amended complaint. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion to add Ingalls as a defendant will also be denied.[3]

         D. Defendant- ...

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