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Mitchell v. Archer Daniel Midland Co.

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

July 13, 2015

ERIC MITCHELL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ARCHER DANIEL MIDLAND COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

T. MICHAEL PUTNAM, Magistrate Judge.

Before the court is a partial motion to dismiss filed by defendant Archer Daniel Midland Company ("ADM"). (Doc. 10). The motion has been fully briefed. The parties have consented to the exercise of dispositive jurisdiction by the undersigned.

BACKGROUND

Eric and Rita Mitchell (together "Plaintiffs") filed a complaint against ADM in this court on January 26, 2015. The complaint asserts claims on behalf of plaintiff Eric Mitchell pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. ) and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and § 1981a. The complaint also asserts claims on behalf of plaintiff Rita Mitchell for third party breach of contract pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981.[1] On March 31, 2015, ADM filed a partial motion to dismiss the complaint supported by a brief.[2] (Docs. 10, 11). ADM moves to dismiss with prejudice, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, all claims asserted by Rita Mitchell because, ADM alleges, she has never been employed by ADM and, therefore, lacks standing to bring a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

On a motion to dismiss a pleading seeking relief, the court must analyze the pleading pursuant to the pleading standards set forth in Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as construed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). These standards replace and enhance those outlined in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957), which allowed a claim to survive a motion to dismiss unless it could be shown "beyond doubt that the Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Id. at 45-46. According to Twombly, Conley has been put out to "retirement, " Twombly at 563, or "interred, " id. at 577 (Stevens, J., dissenting).

The Supreme Court commented in 2007 on Rule 12(b)(6) dismissals, saying:

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, " in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ibid.; Sanjuan v. American Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (C.A.7 1994), a plaintiff's obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitle[ment] to relief" requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) (on a motion to dismiss, courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation"). Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, see 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004) (hereinafter Wright & Miller) ("[T]he pleading must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action), on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact), ...
...
The need at the pleading stage for allegations plausibly suggesting (not merely consistent with) [the alleged claims] reflect the threshold requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) that the "plain statement" possess enough heft to "sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief."

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544-70, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-74, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (internal footnotes omitted). In Twombly, the Supreme Court clearly raised the threshold for factual allegations in a complaint from "conceivable" to "plausible." Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010); Rivell v. Private Health Care Systems, Inc., 520 F.3d 1308, 1309 (11th Cir. 2008); Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1261 (11th Cir. 2009); Financial Securities Assurance, Inc. v. Stephens, Inc., 500 F.3d 1276, 1282 (11th Cir. 2007)). Mere legal conclusions are insufficient substitutes for factual allegations.

Two years after the Twombly decision, the Supreme Court discussed pleading requirements in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009):

Two working principles underlie our decision in Twombly. First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id., at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation" (internal quotation marks omitted)). Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Id., at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. 490 F.3d, at 157-158. But 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 "show[n]" - "that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).
In keeping with these principles 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. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should ...

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