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Betts v. Conecuh County Board of Education

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 9, 2015

TERRA BETTS, Plaintiff,


KATHERINE P. NELSON, Magistrate Judge.

This action is before the Court on the Defendants' "Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint" (Doc. 20) brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, alternatively, Rule 41(b). The Plaintiff, Terra Betts ("Betts"), has timely filed a response in opposition (Doc. 22) to the motion, and the Defendants have timely filed a reply (Doc. 23) to the response. The motion is now under submission and is ripe for adjudication. ( See Doc. 21).

The motion has been referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for entry of a report and recommendation under 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(B)-(C) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(1). Upon consideration, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the Defendants' "Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint" (Doc. 20) be DENIED; that Betts's Amended Complaint (Doc. 19) be STRICKEN pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) and that Betts be given one final opportunity to re-plead in accordance with the Court's Order dated December 30, 2014 (Doc. 17).

I. Applicable Legal Standards

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, " the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, "accepting all well-pleaded facts that are alleged therein to be true." Miyahira v., Inc., 715 F.3d 1257, 1265 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Bickley v. Caremark RX, Inc., 461 F.3d 1325, 1328 (11th Cir. 2006)). "To survive... a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."'" Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007))). "The plausibility standard calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' of the defendant's liability." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1289 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

[T]he Court held[ in Iqbal ] that the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Second, restating the plausibility standard, the Court held that where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief. The Court suggested that courts considering motions to dismiss adopt a "two-pronged approach" in applying these principles: 1) eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Importantly, the Court held in Iqbal, as it had in Twombly, that courts may infer from the factual allegations in the complaint obvious alternative explanations, which suggest lawful conduct rather than the unlawful conduct the plaintiff would ask the court to infer.

Id. at 1290 (citations and quotations omitted).

Rule 41(b) provides: "For failure of the plaintiff to prosecute or to comply with these rules or any order of court, a defendant may move for dismissal of an action or of any claim against him." Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b)...
...[A] dismissal with prejudice ... is an extreme sanction that may be properly imposed only when: "(1) a party engages in a clear pattern of delay or willful contempt (contumacious conduct); and (2) the district court specifically finds that lesser sanctions would not suffice." World Thrust Films [ Inc. v. Int'l Family Entm't, Inc. ], 41 F.3d [1454, ] 1456[ ((11th Cir. 1995)]; accord Gratton v. Great Am. Commc'ns., 178 F.3d 1373, 1374 (11th Cir. 1999); Mingo v. Sugar Cane Growers Co-op. of Fla., 864 F.2d 101, 102 (11th Cir. 1989); Cohen v. Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., 782 F.2d 923, 924-25 (11th Cir. 1986); Goforth [ v. Owens ], 766 F.2d [1533, ] 1535[ (11th Cir.1985)]; Jones v. Graham, 709 F.2d 1457, 1458 (11th Cir. 1983); Gonzalez [ v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. ], 610 F.2d [241, ] 247[ (5th Cir. 1980)]; Hildebrand [ v. Honeywell, Inc. ], 622 F.2d [179, ] 181[ (5th Cir. 1980)]; Boazman v. Econ. Lab., Inc., 537 F.2d 210, 212-13 (5th Cir. 1976). Moreover, the harsh sanction of dismissal with prejudice is thought to be more appropriate in a case where a party, as distinct from counsel, is culpable. Gratton, 178 F.3d at 1375.

Betty K Agencies, Ltd. v. M/V MONADA, 432 F.3d 1333, 1337-38 (11th Cir. 2005).[1]

II. Applicable Background

Betts initiated this action on July 31, 2014, by filing a Complaint with the Court alleging claims against Defendants Conecuh County Board of Education ("the Board"), Ronnie Brogden, superintendent of the Conecuh County school system ("Superintendent Brogden"), and Mary Ann Danford, Curriculum Coordinator/Counselor Coordinator for the Conecuh County school system ("Danford"). ( See Doc. 1). The Defendants challenged the initial Complaint by filing a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for more definite statement (Doc. 7) under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(e), respectively. On December 30, 2014, the Court, adopting the recommendations of the undersigned (Doc. 16), granted that motion in part and denied it in part, dismissing certain claims and ordering Betts to file an amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(e) conforming to certain standards. (Doc. 17). Betts timely filed her Amended Complaint (Doc. 19).

The following well-pleaded factual allegations in the Amended Complaint are accepted as true for ...

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