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Swaringer v. Psa Airlines, Inc.

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

September 25, 2019

LAUREN SWARINGER, Plaintiffs,
v.
PSA AIRLINES, INC., Defendants/Counterclaimants.

          ORDER

          FRANK D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant PSA Airlines, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss (Swaringer v. PSA Airlines, Inc., No. 3:19-cv-00084-FDW-DCK, Doc. No. 6) (hereafter “Swaringer III”) pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Because Plaintiff appears pro se, the Court issued a Roseboro notice, (Swaringer III, Doc. No. 12), informing Plaintiff of the burden she carries in responding to Defendant’s Motion. Plaintiff has responded, (Swaringer III, Doc. No. 13), Defendant has replied, (Swaringer III, Doc. No. 14), and this motion is now ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, Defendant’s motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint for a Civil Case against Defendant PSA Airlines, Inc. (Swaringer III, Doc. No. 1).[1] This filing is the third action by Plaintiff in this Court against PSA alleging injuries arising out of a uniform PSA distributed to her during her employment. Plaintiff’s complaint in this matter includes a copy of her complaint filed in Mecklenburg County Superior Court on July 30, 2018 alleging medical conditions including “angioedema that has progressed to anaphylaxis” and various complications, though no other attachments are included with the complaint (Swaringer III, Doc. No. 1, p. 15).

         PSA removed Plaintiff’s first complaint from the Superior Court for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina to this Court on August 30, 2018 based on diversity jurisdiction (Swaringer v. PSA Airlines, Inc., No. 3:18-cv-00481-FDW-DCK) (hereafter “Swaringer I”). (Swaringer I, Doc. No. 1). The Court dismissed Plaintiff’s first action without prejudice on October 24, 2018 after issuing a Roseboro notice and Plaintiff failing to timely respond (Swaringer I, Doc. No. 10). The Court also noted in that dismissal that Plaintiff had filed another lawsuit in this Court on October 1, 2018 (Swaringer v. PSA Airlines, Inc., No. 3:18-cv-00531-FDW-DCK) (hereafter “Swaringer II”) alleging substantially identical facts as the first action, but Plaintiff did not file an Amended Complaint responding to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (Swaringer I, Doc. No. 10 n.1). The Court then dismissed Plaintiff’s second action without prejudice on February 13, 2019 pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Swaringer II, Doc. No. 19).

         Defendant again moves this Court to dismiss this action under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim (Swaringer III, Doc. No. 6).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of claims where the Court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the lawsuit. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time by a litigant or the court itself. Mansfield, C. & L.M.R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884). “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         Plaintiff has the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). When a defendant challenges subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), “the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond, 945 F.2d at 768. The district court should grant the Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss “only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Id.; see also Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move for dismissal when a plaintiff has not stated a claim that is recognized by law. Documents attached as exhibits to the complaint or incorporated by reference in the complaint may be considered when resolving a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Zak v. Chelsea Therapeutics Intern. Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 606 (4th Cir. 2015). An outside document may be considered for a 12(b)(6) ruling if it is integral and explicitly relied on in the complaint and there is no challenge to the document’s authenticity.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff’s “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, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. 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 complaint is plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable.” Id. While a high level of factual detail is not required, a complaint needs more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (citation omitted). “Where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. at 679. On the other hand, a plaintiff’s legal conclusions are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Id. at 678.

         “Complaints filed by pro se plaintiffs are [generally] construed more liberally than those drafted by an attorney.” Berry v. Gutierrez, 587 F.Supp.2d 717, 722 (E.D. Va. 2008) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520–21 (1972)). Thus, when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must keep in mind the principle that “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) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Nevertheless, Erickson does not undermine the ...


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