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Doe v. D & J Enterprises

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

February 16, 2018

JANE DOE “A, ” Plaintiff,
v.
D&J ENTERPRISES, d/b/a D&J Ranch, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jane Doe “A” (“Doe”) filed this lawsuit on October 10, 2017, alleging several state and federal claims arising out of her employment on a cattle ranch in Lee County, Alabama. Doc. 1. Now before the court are motions to dismiss filed by Defendants D&J Enterprises, d/b/a DCJ Ranch (“D&J”) and Richard D. Starr (Doc. 22), and by James L. Starr (Doc. 28). The remaining defendant, Andrew Calvin Whatley, filed an answer to the complaint. Doc. 11. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. Docs. 38-40.

         After careful consideration of the parties' submissions and the applicable law, it is ORDERED that the motions to dismiss (Docs. 22 & 28) are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and that the plaintiff's federal claims against all defendants are DISMISSED with prejudice. The court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state-law claims for the reasons stated below. Accordingly, it is further ORDERED that the plaintiff's state-law claims against all defendants are DISMISSED without prejudice.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         The court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and the court finds adequate allegations to support both.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The following is a recitation of the facts alleged in the complaint. Doe is a 21-year-old resident of Lee County, Alabama, who began working at D&J Ranch in Beauregard, Alabama, in 2012, when she was 15 years old. Doc. 1 at 2-7. D&J is a cattle and horse ranch owned by D&J Enterprises, Richard Starr, James Starr, and Andrew Calvin Whatley. Doc. 1 at 2-3. Whatley became familiar with Doe and her family through church, and learned that Doe was an avid horseback rider interested in working on a ranch. Doc. 1 at 5-7. Over time, Whatley cultivated a relationship with Doe and her family, taking them out to lunch and inviting Doe to his ranch several times in late 2011. Doc. 1 at 6-7. Early in 2012, Whatley hired Doe to work at D&J on Saturdays, and eventually Doe worked at the ranch on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday of every week. Doc. 1 at 7-8. After working at D&J for roughly one year, Whatley began to make suggestive comments to Doe, referring to her as “sexy” and stating, “I wish I'd met you 20 years ago.” Doc. 1 at 8. He would also make physical contact with Doe, pretending that it was accidental. Doc. 1 at 8.

         In May or June 2013, Whatley hired Doe as the full-time horse manager at D&J. Doc. 1 at 8. Doe often worked 12 to 14 hours per day and was typically alone with Whatley on the ranch. Doc. 1 at 9. Gradually, Whatley's unwanted advances toward Doe increased, as he questioned her about her sexual history and interest in boys her age. Doc. 1 at 9. He began to touch Doe's rear end despite Doe's commands to stop, again pretending that his contact was unintentional. Doc. 1 at 8-9. On February 14, 2013, Whatley invited Doe into his home and tried to kiss her. Doc. 1 at 10. After Doe pushed him away, Whatley forcibly grabbed her face and pulled it toward his. Doc. 1 at 10. Doe began to fight back--pushing, screaming, kicking, and clawing in an attempt to stop him--but Whatley persisted. Doc. 1 at 10. At this point, Whatley forced Doe into a bedroom and raped her as she continued to resist. Doc. 1 at 10. Afterward, Whatley threatened Doe and stated “for your own good, you don't need to say anything [about the sexual assault] to anyone.” Doc. 1 at 11. Traumatized from the assault, Doe did not mention it and was unable to eat or sleep. Doc. 1 at 11. However, Whatley's sexual abuse continued. In March, he told Doe that he knew that sexually assaulting her was wrong, but that he “liked it too much.” Doc. 1 at 11. He removed her shirt and touched her breasts despite Doe stating, “I don't want to do this. Please stop. Leave me alone.” Doc. 1 at 11.

         At this point, Whatley began to ingratiate himself with Doe's family in an attempt to conceal his abuse and cast doubt on any future allegations by Doe. Doc. 1 at 11. He would ask Doe's mother to pick up his five-year-old daughter from school and babysit her in the afternoon while his wife was at work. Doc. 1 at 11. He insisted on picking up his daughter from the Doe family's home-despite the fact that his wife passed the house on her way home from work-“to evaluate whether [Doe's] parents had become aware of his assaulting abuse towards her.” Doc. 1 at 12. Whatley also asked Doe's mother to care for his own mother for two days after she suffered a stroke. Doc. 1 at 12.

         While seeking to earn the trust and admiration of Doe's family, Whatley began to abuse Doe emotionally so as to undermine her “confidence and self-worth to discourage her from reporting his harassment and abuse.” Doc. 1 at 12. Whatley insulted her, calling her “fat” and “stupid, ” and telling her that she was “nothing without” him and that he “made” her. Doc. 1 at 12. Whatley sought to gain control over Doe and to intimidate her to prevent her from reporting his abuse. Doc. 1 at 12. He also told Doe that her parents would not protect her, that they were cheating on each other and getting a divorce, that she could not trust them, and that her mother “hated” her. Doc. 1 at 13. While most of Whatley's abuse occurred when he was alone with Doe, Richard Starr observed him brushing up against Doe and insulting her weight. Doc. 1 at 13. During this time period, Whatley repeatedly raped Doe at the ranch for approximately one year. Doc. 1 at 13. If Doe physically resisted, Whatley would become increasingly violent--punching, grabbing, and kicking Doe and pulling her hair. Doc. 1 at 14. Whatley instructed Doe to explain to her parents that her bruises were from injuries suffered on the job. Doc. 1 at 14. In November 2013, Whatley brutally assaulted Doe--beating her in the face until she lost consciousness--because he instructed her to shoot a coyote on the ranch and she missed. Doc. 1 at 14. Whatley told Doe that she should kill herself if she became pregnant or contracted a sexually transmitted disease from him. Doc. 1 at 16.

         In April 2014, Whatley gave Doe a handgun as a gift. Doc. 1 at 15. He then asked Doe to go with him to a remote part of the ranch, loaded the gun, placed it in Doe's hand pointed the gun toward his head, and stated, “[I]f it's so bad, just end it.” Doc. 1 at 15. Doe began to cry, prompting Whatley to laugh. Doc. 1 at 15. The handgun was not the only gift Whatley gave to Doe in an attempt to keep her from reporting his abuse, as he gifted her a number of job-related tools and often bought her lunch. Doc. 1 at 15.

         As a result of Whatley's campaign of physical and psychological abuse, Doe was traumatized and repressed the memories of Whatley's acts. Doc. 1 at 16. However, in May 2014, Doe suffered a concussion when she was thrown off of a horse. Doc. 1 at 16. She was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome by a pediatric concussion specialist and instructed to rest, refrain from work, and avoid using electronic devices. Doc. 1 at 16. In July, while she was still recovering, Doe began to experience partial recall of Whatley's abusive acts. Doc. 1 at 16. This caused panic attacks and insomnia. Doc. 1 at 16. However, Whatley stayed close by, often visiting Doe uninvited to ask her when she could return to work and monitor if she had disclosed his abuse. Doc. 1 at 16. Once she was fully recovered, Doe returned to work at D&J on a part-time basis, but Whatley greatly restricted her autonomy on the job. Doc. 1 at 17. Eventually, in August 2014, Doe disclosed Whatley's abuse to her mother, sought mental health counseling, and resigned from her employment at D&J. Doc. 1 at 17. After telling Doe that she would never be able to work on a ranch again, Whatley forcibly hugged her, asking if they could still be “friends.” Doc. 1 at 17. Doe did not respond, left the ranch, and only returned with her parents to collect her belongings. Doc. 1 at 17.

         On August 11, 2014, Doe filed a report concerning Whatley's abuse with the Lee County Sheriff's Department. Doc. 1 at 17. Whatley was later charged with first-degree rape. Doc. 1 at 17. It was eventually revealed that Whatley had sexually harassed and abused other female employees in the past, which Richard Starr knew about but made no effort to prevent. Doc. 1 at 18. Even after Doe quit her job and pressed charges, Whatley and Richard Starr engaged in “menacing” behavior toward Doe and her family, repeatedly driving by their home and following Doe on rural roads. Doc. 1 at 20. Doe reported this behavior to the police. Doc. 1 at 21.

         As a result of the years' worth of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, Doe has suffered from anxiety, depression, panic attacks, weight gain, nightmares, crying spells, insomnia, and has sought medical and mental health treatment. Doc. 1 at 21. She has also lost wages and experienced different terms and conditions of employment at D&J. Doc. 1 at 21. As a result, Doe filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on October 14, 2015. Doc. 1-1. After receiving a Dismissal and Notice of Rights--commonly known as a right-to-sue letter--from the EEOC on July 10, 2017, Doe brought suit in this court on October 10, 2017. Doe brought claims against D&J under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation.[1] Doc. 1 at 22-24. She also ...


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