United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on defendant's motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (DE 5). The issues raised have
been fully briefed, and in this posture are ripe for
disposition. For the reasons that follow, defendant's
motion is granted in part and denied in part.
OF THE CASE
initiated this action on August 17, 2018, in Onslow County
Superior Court. Plaintiff alleges defendant violated
plaintiff's rights by unlawfully restraining her against
her will after wrongfully accusing her of stealing
merchandise. On January 21, 2019, defendant removed the case
to this court. Two weeks later, defendant filed the instant
motion to dismiss, arguing that plaintiff was not falsely
imprisoned, she did not suffer intentional infliction of
emotional distress, and punitive damages are not available.
After resolving several issues regarding plaintiff's
representation, the court granted plaintiff leave to respond
to the motion to dismiss. Plaintiff timely responded,
opposing defendant's motion to dismiss her false
facts in the complaint may be summarized as follows. On or
about August 20, 2015, plaintiff was shopping at Kohl's
in Jacksonville, North Carolina. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-4).
During her trip, she admired certain perfume and items of
jewelry, and was deciding whether to purchase those items.
(Id. ¶ 5). She was stopped by Nathan Roberts
(“Roberts”), defendant's employee.
(Id. ¶ 4). Roberts publicly accused plaintiff
of stealing the perfume and jewelry she had been looking at.
(Id. ¶¶ 5-6). Plaintiff was taken by
Roberts and moved about the business premises without her
consent. (Id. ¶ 7). She was held against her
will until law enforcement arrived to take plaintiff into
enforcement officer called to the scene looked at a video
recording of the incident and advised Roberts that he saw no
stealing. (Id. ¶ 8). In addition, no property
was found on plaintiff's person or recovered from her.
(Id. ¶ 9). Nonetheless, Roberts insisted on
charging plaintiff with the crime of larceny. (Id.).
Plaintiff was incarcerated and forced to post a secured bond.
(Id. ¶ 10). Defendant did not pursue the
larceny charge against plaintiff, resulting in dismissal of
the charge. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14).
Standard of Review
survive a motion to dismiss” under Rule 12(b)(6),
‘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, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. In evaluating whether a claim is stated,
“[the] court accepts all well-pled facts as true and
construes these facts in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, ” but does not consider “legal
conclusions, elements of a cause of action, . . . bare
assertions devoid of further factual enhancement[, ] . . .
unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments.” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v.
Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir.
2009) (citations omitted).
court considers in turn plaintiff's claims of false
imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
and punitive damages.
cause of action for false arrest or false imprisonment is
based upon the deprivation of one's liberty without legal
process.” Melton v. Rickman, 225 N.C. 700, 703
(1945). In North Carolina, the elements of a false
imprisonment claim are (1) the illegal restraint of plaintiff
by defendant, (2) by force or implied threat of force, (3)
against plaintiff's will. See Fowler v.
Valencourt, 334 N.C. 345, 348-49 (1993); West v.
King's Dep't Store, Inc., 321 N.C. 698, 702
(1988); Black v. Clark's Greensboro, Inc., 263
N.C. 226, 228 (1964). “While actual force is not
required, there must be an implied threat of force which
compels a person to remain where he does not wish to remain
or go where he does not wish to go.” West, 321
N.C. at 702 (citing Hales v. McCrory-McLellan Corp.,
260 N.C. 568, 570 (1963)); Rogers v. T.J.X. Companies,
Inc., 329 N.C. 226, 229 (1991). “The restraint