United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
C. DEVER III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
January 23, 2018, Jesse Graves Yates, HI ("Yates"
or "plaintiff'), proceeding pro se, filed a
complaint against State Farm Casualty and Fire ("State
Farm") and Michael L. Tipsord ("Tipsord";
collectively, "defendants") in the United States
District Court for the District of South Carolina [D.E. 1].
On January 3, 2019, the United States District Court for the
District of South Carolina transferred the case to this
district. See [D.E. 19, 22]. On April 24, 2019, defendants
moved to dismiss Yates's complaint for failure to state a
claim [D.E. 33] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E. 34].
On the same date, the court notified Yates about the motion,
the consequences of failing to respond, and the response
deadline [D.E. 35]. See Roseboro v. Garrison, 528
F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975) (per curiam). On May 20, 2019,
Yates responded in opposition [D.E. 36]. On May 29, 2019,
defendants replied [D.E. 37]. As explained below, the court
grants defendants' motion to dismiss and dismisses
Yates's complaint with prejudice.
October 31, 2010, a fire destroyed a two-story commercial
building that Yates owned and insured with State Farm. See
[D.E. 1] 1; Yates v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co.,
No. 7:13-CV-233-BO, 2015 WL 13631244, at *1 (E.D. N.C. Aug.
28, 2015) (unpublished). Yates and State Farm agreed that
"the fire was incendiary, had multiple points of origin,
and was intentionally set." Yates, 2015 WL
13631244, at *1. State Farm's investigation revealed that
Yates participated in burning the building, and State Farm
denied Yates's claim. See Id. In response, Yates
sued State Farm for breach of insurance contract. See
February 7, 2017, after a seven day trial before Magistrate
Judge Kimberly A. Swank, a jury returned a verdict in favor
of State Farm, and the court entered judgment in favor of
State Farm. See Yates v. State Farm Fire &
Cas. Co., No. 7:13-CV-233-KS, 2017 WL 5632939, at *1
(E.D. N.C. May 15, 2017) (unpublished). Yates appealed and
submitted an appellate brief. See [D.E. 34-4]. On November
30, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court.
See Yates v. State Farm Fire & Cas.
Co., 704 Fed.Appx. 301, 301-02 (4th Cir. 2017) (per
January 23, 2018, Yates filed a complaint in the United
States District Court for the District of South Carolina
[D.E. 1]. Yates's complaint is virtually identical to his
appellate brief. Compare [D.E. 1], with
[D.E. 34-4]. On January 3, 2019, Judge Donald C. Coggins, Jr.
transferred the action to this court. See [D.E. 19,
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
complaint's legal and factual sufficiency. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556U.S. 662, 677--80 (2009);
Bell Atl. Com. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-63
(2007); Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626F.3d
187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd, 566U.S. 30 (2012);
Nemet Chevrolet. Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com. Inc.,
591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009); Giarratano v.
Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). To withstand
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a pleading "must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation omitted); see
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Giarratano, 521
F.3d at 302. In considering the motion, the court must
construe the facts and reasonable inferences "in the
light most favorable to the [nonmoving party]."
Massey v. Ojaniit, 759 F.3d 343, 352 (4th Cir.
2014); see Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville,
708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013), abrogated on other grounds
by Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S.Ct. 2218 (2015). A
court need not accept as true a complaint's legal
conclusions, "unwarranted inferences, unreasonable
conclusions, or arguments." Giarratano, 521
F.3d at 302 (quotation omitted); see Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678-79. Rather, a plaintiff's allegations must
"nudge [her] claims," Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570, beyond the realm of''mere possibility"
into ''plausibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S.
standard used to evaluate the sufficiency of a pleading is
flexible, "and a pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quotation
omitted). Erickson, however, does not
"undermine [the] requirement that a pleading contain
'more than labels and conclusions.'"
Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 304 n.5 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 677-83; Coleman, 626 F.3d at 190; Nemet
Chevrolet Ltd., 591 F.3d at 255-56; Francis v.
Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009).
evaluating a motion to dismiss, a court considers the
pleadings and any materials "attached or incorporated
into the complaint." E.I. du Pont de Nemours &
Co. v. Kolon Indus. Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir.
2011); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c); Thompson v. Greene,
427 F.3d 263, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). A court also may take
judicial notice of public records without converting the
motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See,
e.g., Fed.R.Evid. 201 (d); Tellabs, Inc. v.
Makor Issues & Rights. Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322
(2007); Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572
F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).
argue that the doctrine of res judicata bars Yates's
claims. See [D.E. 34] 3-6. Under the doctrine of res
judicata, also known as claim preclusion, "[a] final
judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or
their privies from relitigating issues that were or could
have been raised in that action." Federated
Dep't Stores. Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 398
(1981); Pueschel v. United States, 369 F.3d 345, 354
(4th Cir. 2004) (quotation omitted); see Parklane
Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439U.S. 322, 326 n.5
(1979); Laurel Sand & Gravel Inc. v. Wilson,
519F.3d 156, 161-62 (4th Cir. 2008); Parks v.
Petsmart, No. 5:13-CV-777-D, 2014WL11996387, at *2 (E.D.
N.C. Feb. 12, 2014) (unpublished), aff'd, 577 Fed.Appx.
210 (4th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (unpublished).
claim preclusion doctrine of the forum state controls the
claim-preclusive effect of a judgment of a federal court
sitting in diversity. See Semtek Int'l Inc. v.
Lockheed Martin Corp., 531 U.S. 497, 508 (2001); Q
Int'l Courier Inc. v. Smoak, 441 F.3d 214, 218 (4th
Cir. 2006). Thus, because the court entered a:final judgment
while exercising diversity jurisdiction, North Carolina law
controls the claim-preclusive effect of that judgment in this
action. Under North Carolina law, the doctrine of res
judicata bars parties from relitigating issues that the
parties raised or could have raised in a prior action:
Where a second action or proceeding is between the same
parties as the first action or proceeding, the judgment in
the former action or proceeding is conclusive in the latter
not only as to all matters actually litigated and determined,
but also as to all matters which could properly ...