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Harris v. Johnsons Giant Foods Inc.

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

April 17, 2017

JOHNNIE WILL HARRIS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNSON'S GIANT FOODS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case is before the court on several pre-answer challenges to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. The motions under submission include (1) Defendant Andy Gunter's Motion to Drop Parties, or in the Alternative, to Sever and Dismiss or to Transfer (Doc. # 15), (2) Defendant Jeffrey Hinkle's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 19), (3) Defendant Clark Thompson's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 27), (4) Defendant Scott Lowery's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 31), (5) Defendant JTM Corporation's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 50), and (6) Defendant Food Giant Supermarkets, Inc.'s (“Food Giant”) Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 55). Plaintiff has responded to all of these motions. (Docs. # 34, 37, 52-53, 56, 58). Defendants have filed reply briefs supporting their motions. (Docs. # 45-47, 54, 59-60).

         I. Procedural History and Facts

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint presents claims against four individual Defendants and four corporate Defendants. (See generally Doc. # 44). These claims arise from four arrests that occurred from December 2014 to December 2015. (See Id. at ¶¶ 14-39). The arrests occurred after employees from various stores filed complaints against Plaintiff for cashing forged payroll checks. (See Id. at ¶¶ 15, 22, 27, 34-35). But, Plaintiff alleges that unknown individuals acquired his personal information and unlawfully used his identity to cash counterfeit payroll checks. (Id. at ¶ 1). Additionally, Plaintiff insists that the corporate Defendants possessed video and fingerprint evidence that would have exonerated him, but they either destroyed the evidence or failed to use it to investigate the crimes. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 11-12).

         A. Etowah County Criminal Complaint Against Plaintiff

         In November 2014, an employee for Defendant Johnson's Giant Foods complained that Plaintiff had cashed a forged payroll check in October 2014. (Id. at ¶ 16). The payroll check was cashed at Johnson's Giant Foods #4 in Gadsden, Alabama. (Id.). The employee filed the complaint in the District Court of Etowah County. (Id.). Defendant Johnson's Giant Foods sought $1, 244.46 in restitution from Plaintiff in December 2014. (Id. at ¶ 18).

         On December 18, 2014, Plaintiff was arrested in Hoover, Alabama and held in Hoover's city jail for 13 hours. (Id. at ¶ 15). Plaintiff then was transferred to a jail in Gadsden, Alabama, and released on a $2, 500 appearance bond. (Id.). Defendant Thompson “investigated the case.” (Id. at ¶ 19). In June 2015, a grand jury in Etowah County issued an order of no bill, and the criminal case against Plaintiff was dismissed. (Id.).

         B. Coffee County Criminal Complaint Against Plaintiff

         According to the Amended Complaint, an employee for Defendant Food Giant filed a complaint against Plaintiff for allegedly cashing forged checks at a Food Giant store in Elba, Alabama. (Id. at ¶ 22). Plaintiff denies presenting the check to the store. (Id. at ¶ 23). Indeed, Food Giant allegedly created a video of the incident that proves Plaintiff did not cash the check. (Id. at ¶ 24).

         Hoover police officers arrested Plaintiff at his residence in Hoover in October 2015 and transported him to a jail in Elba. (Id. at ¶ 22). Plaintiff posted a $2, 000 appearance bond. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that this arrest occurred due to “the actions of Andy Gunter.” (Id.). A grand jury for a Coffee County state court issued a no bill in the criminal action. (Id. at ¶ 25).

         C. Franklin County Criminal Complaint Against Plaintiff

         An employee for Defendant Gateway Foods, Inc. (“Gateway Foods”) filed a complaint averring that Plaintiff cashed “two checks purportedly issued by the Coca Cola Bottling [Company]” at a Foodland grocery store in Russellville, Alabama. (Id. at ¶ 29). Defendant Lowery, a police officer for the City of Russellville, also signed the complaint. (Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiff denies presenting the checks at the Foodland store. (Id. at ¶ 31).

         In December 2015, police officers in Mountain Brook, Alabama arrested Plaintiff and held him at a Mountain Brook police station. (Id. at ¶ 27). Russellville police transported Plaintiff to Russellville's city jail, and Plaintiff was then transferred to the Franklin County Jail. (Id.). Plaintiff posted bond, but was held in Franklin County until sheriffs from Chambers County picked him up. (Id. at ¶ 28). A criminal case against Plaintiff in Franklin County was dismissed in March 2016. (Id. at ¶ 32).

         D. Chambers County Criminal Complaint Against Plaintiff

         An employee for Defendant JTM Corporation filed a complaint against Plaintiff for allegedly cashing a forged check at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Lanett, Alabama. (Id. at ΒΆ 36). Plaintiff denies presenting the forged check and alleges that Defendant JTM possessed a ...


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