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Tinsley v. BP Corporation North America, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

June 16, 2015

BRIAN R. TINSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BP CORPORATION NORTH AMERICA, INC., BP AMERICA, INC., CRAIG CERISE, and LYNETTE OTTO, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Brian R. Tinsley ("Mr. Tinsley"), who is proceeding pro se, initiated this breach of contract action on January 23, 2015. (Doc. 1). The four defendants named in his lawsuit are BP Corporation North America, Inc. ("BP Corp."), BP America, Inc. ("BP America"), Craig Cerise ("Mr. Cerise"), and Lynette Otto ("Ms. Otto"). (Doc. 15).

The case arises out of Mr. Tinsley's efforts to become a commissioned broker of petroleum products for BP Corp. and/or BP America, which began in February 2013. (Doc. 15 at 4 ¶ 15). Mr. Tinsley filed an amended complaint (Doc. 15) on March 3, 2015, and this pleading includes nine counts: (i) breach of oral contract; (ii) breach of implied contract; (iii) conspiracy to breach an oral contract; (iv) conspiracy to breach an implied contract; (v) fraud; (vi) conspiracy to commit fraud; (vii) deceptive business practice; (viii) conspiracy to commit deceptive business practices; and (ix) financial discrimination. (Doc. 15 at 14-21 ¶¶ 45-80).

Pending before the court and challenging the viability of Mr. Tinsley's amended complaint is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 25) (the "Dismissal Motion") filed on March 24, 2015. Defendants also filed their supporting brief (Doc. 26) and evidentiary materials (Doc. 27) on this same date. Because Mr. Tinsley is representing himself, the court, on March 25, 2015, entered a special briefing order (Doc. 30) on the Dismissal Motion.

Also pending before the court is a Motion for Default Judgment, Legal Malpractice, [and] Fraud upon the Court (Doc. 31) (the "Default Motion") filed by Mr. Tinsley on April 13, 2015, as part of his response to Defendants' Dismissal Motion. Mr. Tinsley also filed a supporting memorandum (Doc. 32) on April 13, 2015. On April 27, 2015, Defendants filed their reply (Doc. 34) in support of their Dismissal Motion.

Accordingly, the Dismissal Motion and the Default Motion are now both under submission. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Dismissal Motion is GRANTED IN PART and otherwise DENIED. Further, Mr. Tinsley's Default Motion is DENIED.

II. Standards

A. Rule 12(b)(2)

In Madara v. Hall, 916 F.2d 1510 (11th Cir. 1990), the Eleventh Circuit described the framework for evaluating personal jurisdiction challenges under Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when subject matter jurisdiction is premised upon diversity, as Mr. Tinsley relies upon here (Doc. 15 at 2 ¶ 6):[1]

When a district court does not conduct a discretionary evidentiary hearing on a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Morris v. SSE, Inc., 843 F.2d 489, 492 (11th Cir. 1988). A prima facie case is established if the plaintiff presents enough evidence to withstand a motion for directed verdict. Id. The district court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true, to the extent they are uncontroverted by the defendant's affidavits. Id. Finally, where the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's affidavits conflict, the district court must construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.
The determination of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant requires a two-part analysis. Cable/Home Communication Corp. v. Network Productions, Inc., 902 F.2d 829, 855 (11th Cir.1990); Alexander Proudfoot Co., 877 F.2d at 919. First, we consider the jurisdictional question under the state long-arm statute. Cable/Home Communication Corp., 902 F.2d at 855; Alexander Proudfoot Co., 877 F.2d at 919. If there is a basis for the assertion of personal jurisdiction under the state statute, we next determine whether sufficient minimum contacts exist to satisfy the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment so that "maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'"

Madara, 916 F.2d at 1514 (emphasis added) (citing International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945)).

B. Rule 12(b)(6)

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion attacks the legal sufficiency of a complaint. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) ("[A] party may assert the following defenses by motion: (6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]"). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide "a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) (footnote omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)), abrogated by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (setting forth general pleading requirements for a complaint including providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief").

While a plaintiff must provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, Rule 8 does not mandate the inclusion of "detailed factual allegations" within a complaint. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.Ct. at 103). However, at the same time, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, 127 S.Ct. at 1969.

"[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. "When 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. (emphasis added). "Under Twombly 's construction of Rule 8... [a plaintiff's] complaint [must] nudge[] [any] claims'... across the line from conceivable to plausible.' Ibid. " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680, 129 S.Ct. at 1950-51.

A claim is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a ...


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