United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION AND ORDER
C. Keesler United States Magistrate Judge
MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on “Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss” (Document No. 13). This motion has
been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and is now ripe for disposition.
Having carefully considered the arguments, the record, and
the applicable authority, the undersigned will respectfully
recommend that the motion be granted in part and
denied in part.
summary, for the reasons stated below, all causes of action
against the individual Defendants - in both their official
and individual capacities - should be dismissed. Causes of
Action Two, Three, and Four against Defendant Town of
Cramerton should also be dismissed. Causes of Action One,
Five, Six, and Seven against Defendant Town of Cramerton
should survive at this stage of the litigation.
Randall Smith (“Plaintiff” or
“Smith”) was employed by the Town of Cramerton
from on or about February 2, 1982 until November 19, 1992, as
a Reserve Police Officer. (Document No. 1, ¶ 16);
see also (Document Nos. 1-2 and 1-3). From November
19, 1992, to June 30, 2010, Mr. Smith was employed by the
Town of McAdenville as a regular full-time Law Enforcement
Officer. (Document No. 1, ¶¶ 24, 41). Plaintiff was
again employed by the Town of Cramerton from July 1, 2010,
until on or about July 30, 2018, where he worked as a patrol
officer until August 2017, and was then reassigned as a
School Resource Officer with the Cramerton Police Department.
Id. at ¶¶ 41, 43, 45).
Smith's retirement from the Cramerton Police Department
took effect on August 1, 2018. Id. at ¶ 46. At
the time of his retirement, Mr. Smith had over twenty-five
years of full-time, paid employment and over thirty-six years
of total employment, including eleven years as a Reserve
Officer, with the Towns of McAdenville and Cramerton.
Id. at ¶¶ 53-54.
December 7, 2004, the Town of Cramerton adopted a resolution
creating the “Retiree's Health Benefit” (the
“Benefit”) to “pay 100% of the health
insurance premiums of any retiree with 25 years of service
until the age of 65.” Id. at ¶ 26. There
is disagreement as to whether the Benefit was amended.
Pleading in the alternative, Plaintiff alleges that the
Benefit was either amended to require thirty years of service
in July of 2005 or September of 2010, or was not duly amended
at all. Id. at ¶¶ 29, 30, 35. The term
“service” is not defined in either the Town of
Cramerton's policies or the meeting minutes implementing
the Benefit. Id. at ¶ 28.
1, 2010, the Town of McAdenville entered into an Interlocal
Cooperation Agreement (the “Agreement”)
dissolving its police department and allowing the Cramerton
Police Department (“CPD”) to be the primary
provider of police services for both towns. Id. at
¶¶ 36, 38(c); see also (Document No. 1-4).
The Agreement incorporated an Implementation Plan (the
“Plan”), in which the Town of Cramerton agreed to
assume the then “current McAdenville Police Department
(“MPD”) full-time employees, ” including
Mr. Smith. Id. at ¶¶ 37, 39(a); see
also (Document No. 1-5). The Plan provided that current
MPD personnel “would comply with . . . Town of
Cramerton Personnel Policies to include salary and
benefits” and “would enjoy their current years of
service at CPD with salaries commensurate to current CPD
officers. . . .” Id. at ¶ 39(b). The term
“service” is not defined in the Agreement or the
Plan. Id. at ¶ 40.
filed a Complaint with this Court on November 26, 2018.
Id. The crux of the Complaint is that Defendants
have failed to provide Plaintiff health insurance in
accordance with the Benefit. Id. at ¶ 55. The
Complaint asserts causes of action against Defendant Town of
Cramerton (“Town of Cramerton”) and seven
individually listed town officials (“Town
Officials”), including: David Pugh, Town of Cramerton
Manager; Will Cauthen, Town of Cramerton Mayor; Demetrios
Koutsoupias, Town of Cramerton Mayor Pro Tempore and
Commissioner; Houston Helms, Town of Cramerton Commissioner;
Susan Neeley, Town of Cramerton Commissioner; Donald Rice,
Town of Cramerton Commissioner; and Dixie Abernathy, Town of
Cramerton Commissioner. (Document No. 1). The claims against
Town Officials are in both their official and individual
capacities. Id. at 1.
Complaint asserts seven Causes Of Action: (1) Pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, a violation of Procedural and Substantive
Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution; (2) Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
violation of Article I, Section 10, the Contracts Clause of
the U.S. Constitution; (3) A violation of Article I, Section
19, the Law of the Land Clause of the North Carolina
Constitution; (4) A violation of Article I, Section 1, the
Fruits of Your Own Labor Clause of the North Carolina
Constitution; (5) Breach of Contract; (6) Breach of Contract,
Third Party Beneficiary; and (7) Breach of the Implied
Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. (Document No. 1,
¶¶ 56-168). Each Cause of Action is asserted as to
Motion to Dismiss” (Document No. 13) was filed on
January 25, 2019. Defendants seek “dismissal of all of
Plaintiff's causes of action except Plaintiff's cause
of action for violation of Substantive Due process pursuant
to the Fourteenth Amendment. . . .” (Document No. 13-1,
p. 2). “Plaintiff's Response to Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss” (Document No. 17) was filed on
February 15, 2019. Defendants' “Memorandum of Law
in Support of Defendants' Partial Motion to
Dismiss” (Document No. 18) was filed on February 22,
pending motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review
and a recommendation to the Honorable Robert J. Conrad, Jr.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the
“legal sufficiency of the complaint” but
“does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the
merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.”
Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943,
952 (4th Cir. 1992); Eastern Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D.
Assoc. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir.
2000). A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss will survive if it states “enough facts”
to “raise a right to relief above the speculative
level” and “states a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Robinson
v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 551 F.3d 218, 222
(4th Cir. 2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged” and must assert more than
the “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Id.
Supreme Court has also opined that:
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Specific facts are
not necessary; the statement need only “‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'” In addition, when
ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must
accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56).
for the purposes of this motion to dismiss we must take all
the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we are not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 286 (1986). The court “should view the
complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkar, 7 F.3d
1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993).
first move to dismiss “all claims alleged against the
individually named persons in both their individual and
official capacities.” (Document No. 13, p. 1). The
undersigned will respectfully recommend that Defendants'
motion be granted as to the individual Defendants.
support of dismissal, Defendants first argue that
Plaintiff's claims against Town Officials in their
official capacities are “duplicative, redundant, and
unnecessary” because they are really just claims
against the Town. (Document No. 13-1, p. 9). Defendants rely
on Hill v. Robeson County to note that “[a]
claim against a government employee in his official capacity
is tantamount to a claim against the government entity for
which he works and should be dismissed as duplicative.”
(Document No. 13-1, p. 8); (citing Hill v. Robeson
County, 733 F.Supp. 2d. 676, 682 (E.D. N.C. 2010)).
acknowledges that “a suit against a town official in
his official capacity is really a suit against the ...