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Finley v. Town of Camp Hill

United States District Court, Middle District of Alabama, Eastern Division

April 30, 2015

ROOSEVELT FINLEY, NATHAN WHITE, MORRIS GREATHOUSE, and DAVID GALLEW, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE TOWN OF CAMP HILL, ALABAMA, a municipal corporation, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER

CHARLES S. COODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION

In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, the plaintiffs, Roosevelt Finley (“Finley”), Nathan White (“White”), Morris Greathouse (“Greathouse”), and David Gallew (“Gallew”), complain that defendant Town of Camp Hill (“Camp Hill”), wrongfully terminated them in violation of state law and their rights to due process pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court has jurisdiction of the plaintiffs’ federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over their state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) and M.D. Ala. LR 73.1, the parties have consented to a United States Magistrate Judge conducting all proceedings in this case and ordering the entry of final judgment.

On April 3, 2015, the defendant filed a partial motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) asserting that counts II and III of the amended complaint should be dismissed because these counts fail to state claims upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. # 12 & 13). Specifically, Camp Hill argues that the plaintiffs’ state law wrongful termination claims are due to be dismissed because there is no state law tort of wrongful termination under Alabama law, and Ala Code § 11-43-230 does not provide a private right of action for damages. Camp Hill further argues that the plaintiffs’ federal procedural due process claims are due to be dismissed because the plaintiffs had an adequate post-deprivation remedy.[1]

On April 20, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a response to the defendant’s motion to dismiss. See Doc. # 18. The defendant has filed a reply to the plaintiffs’ response. See Doc. # 21. After careful review of the defendant’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs’ response to the motion and the defendant’s reply, the court concludes that the motion to dismiss is due to be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

II. THE STANDARD OF REVIEW

In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept well-pled facts as true, but the court is not required to accept the plaintiffs’ legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009) (“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions”). In evaluating the sufficiency of the plaintiffs’ pleadings, the court must indulge reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs’ favor, “but we are not required to draw plaintiff’s inference.” Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005). Similarly, “unwarranted deductions of fact” in a complaint are not admitted as true for the purpose of testing the sufficiency of the plaintiffs’ allegations. Id.. See also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681 (stating conclusory allegations are “not entitled to be assumed true”).

A complaint may be dismissed if the facts as pled do not state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (explaining “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss”); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561-62, 570 (2007) (retiring the prior “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts” standard). In Twombly, the Supreme Court emphasized that a complaint “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations in a complaint need not be detailed but “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (internal citations and emphasis omitted).

More recently, in Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated that although Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it does demand “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint must state a plausible claim for relief, and “[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.” Id. The mere possibility the defendant acted unlawfully is insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 679. The well-pled allegations must nudge the claim “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

III. DISCUSSION

A. State Law Wrongful Termination Claims

Camp Hill argues that the plaintiffs’ claims for wrongful termination are due to be dismissed because there is no state law tort of wrongful termination.[2] The defendant argues that “Alabama’s courts have consistently refused to recognize any variation of a wrongful termination tort, whether rooted in the Alabama Constitution, common law, or public policy concerns.” (Doc. # 13 at 6). However, Camp Hill ignores the fact that the plaintiffs are law enforcement officers which distinguishes this case from the run-of-the-mill employment case. Alabama law specifically grants the plaintiffs the right to a pre-termination hearing. Ala Code § 11-43-230(a).[3] Ala Code § 11-43-230(c) also requires that the hearing “be conducted by an impartial officer or body.” The plaintiffs allege in their amended complaint that they were terminated without affording them a pre-termination hearing, and that the post termination hearing was before a biased deliberative body. (Amended Compl. at 2, ¶ 4).

In Hardric v. City of Stevenson, 843 So.2d 206, 210 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002), the court concluded that the plaintiff police officer’s wrongful termination claim against the City survived the City’s motion to dismiss.

As to Hardic’s claim of wrongful termination, we view this court’s decision in City of Gadsden v. Harbin, 398 So.2d 707 (Ala. Civ. App. 1981), as controlling. That decision held that a municipal employee may bring a wrongful-termination action. This court determined that “[t]he dismissal of a public employee who is entitled to a pretermination hearing, without such a hearing, is a wrongful act constituting a tort under Alabama law.” Harbin, 398 ...

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