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Collier v. State, Department of Transportation

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

August 8, 2017

WILLIE COLLIER and COLLIER WELDING, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION and BELL CONSTRUCTION & ASSOCIATES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          John E. Ott Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         This race discrimination case arises out of the unsuccessful efforts of plaintiffs Willie Collier and Collier Welding, LLC (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”) to participate in an Alabama Department of Transportation (“ALDOT”) construction project awarded to Bell Construction & Associates, LP (“Bell Construction”). The Plaintiffs allege that Bell Construction failed to hire Collier Welding, a certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”), to perform welding work on the project because of Willie Collier's race, African-American. They further allege that ALDOT failed to monitor Bell Construction's efforts to include DBEs on the project and failed to remedy the alleged discrimination they experienced in seeking to work on the project. Their complaint contains claims against ALDOT for intentional race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. (“Title VI”), and a claim against Bell Construction for intentional race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

         The case is now before the Court on ALDOT's motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 26). In support, ALDOT has submitted affidavits (with attached exhibits) from four of its representatives. (Docs. 26-1 through 26-6). The Plaintiffs have opposed the motion to dismiss and have requested an opportunity to conduct discovery relevant to the issues raised in the motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 32). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant ALDOT's motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs' claim for violation of § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court will treat ALDOT's motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs' Title VI claim as a motion for summary judgment, and will deny the motion without prejudice to ALDOT's right to renew the motion after the Plaintiffs have had an opportunity to conduct discovery relevant to that claim.

         FACTS[1]

         Collier Welding is a minority-owned business and is a certified DBE in ALDOT's DBE program. Willie Collier, an African-American, is the owner and operator of Collier Welding.

         In March 2015, Bell Construction was the low bidder on an ALDOT project for the reconstruction of a bridge over Interstate 59/20 in Birmingham, Alabama (the “Project”). The Project required a 5% DBE participation goal.

         In late August or early September 2015, Willie Collier met with a representative of Bell Construction and expressed an interest in bidding on welding work on the Project. The Bell Construction representative, a Caucasian, asked Mr. Collier to submit a bid to perform the welding work on the bridge foundation. He also informed Mr. Collier that he needed to verify with ALDOT that Collier Welding was eligible to hire employees to work on the Project. Mr. Collier told the Bell Construction representative that he would prepare a proposal over the weekend for presentation the following Monday. The Bell Construction representative said he would call Mr. Collier on Monday to let him know where to report with his bid and to let him know whether ALDOT had verified that Collier Welding could hire other welders to work on the Project.

         Mr. Collier never heard back from the Bell Construction representative. Consequently, Mr. Collier returned to the job site, where he was informed that Bell Construction had been advised by ALDOT that he was not certified to work on any of ALDOT's projects. According to Mr. Collier, ALDOT's statement was not true. According to ALDOT representative William Pickett, however, Mr. Collier had never taken or passed the American Welding Society's welding test, a prerequisite to gaining certification to work on ALDOT projects. (Doc. 26-5). Bell Construction did not hire Collier Welding (or Mr. Collier) to work on the Project.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

          A. Motion to Dismiss

         1. Rule 12(b)(1)

         ALDOT has moved for dismissal of the Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges subject matter jurisdiction and may take the form of either a facial attack or a factual attack. Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990). A facial attack requires the court “‘merely to look and see if [the] plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in the complaint are taken as true for purposes of the motion.'” Id. at 1529 (quoting Menchaca v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 613 F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir. 1980)). A factual attack, on the other hand, challenges “‘the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, are considered.'” Id. (quoting Menchaca, 613 F.2d at 511). Here, ALDOT's jurisdictional challenge is a facial attack; therefore, the allegations in the Plaintiffs' complaint are taken as true for purposes of ALDOT's Rule 12(b)(1) motion. Because the burden of proof on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction, the plaintiff “constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing Menchaca, 613 F.2d at 511).

         2. Rule 12(b)(6)

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the claims set out in the plaintiff's pleadings. Harris v. Proctor & Gamble Cellulose Co., 73 F.3d 321, 324 (11th Cir. 1996). Thus, “‘[t]he issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.'” Little v. City of North Miami, 805 F.2d 962, 965 (11th Cir. 1986) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as ...


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