United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
this Court is a Motion to Dismiss (doc. 3) filed by
Defendants Town of Gordo (“Gordo”) and Mayor
Craig Patterson (“Mayor Patterson”) (collectively
“Defendants”). In their Motion, Defendants argue
that Plaintiff Michael Phillips' Complaint is subject to
dismissal on multiple grounds, chiefly that Plaintiff has
released his claims against Defendants, res judicata, that
those claims are brought past their statute of limitations,
qualified and absolute immunity, and that Plaintiff'
Complaint fails to state a claim. The Court agrees that this
action appears to be subject to dismissal on multiple grounds
including pursuant to a valid release and settlement of
claims, because the applicable statute of limitations has run
on all claims, and because Plaintiff's Complaint fails to
state a claim.
was employed by the Town of Gordo, Alabama for a number of
years prior to his suffering an on-the-job injury on or about
June 6, 2013. Other than this initial information, the
Complaint is largely devoid of specific factual
assertions against the Defendants, although it is replete
with legal conclusions and generalized statements. For
example, Plaintiff alleges that following his injury
“Plaintiff has suffered one problem after the other[, ]
all of which appear to be controlled by or originating from
[Defendant Patterson] the Mayor of [Defendant Gordo]
wrongfully continuing to this date.” (Doc. 1-1 ¶
6.) Plaintiff claims he was punished excessively and unfairly
for exercising his First Amendment Rights and by filing
“on the job injury forms” with Defendant Gordo.
(Id. at ¶ 7.) He additionally states that
Defendants failed to give him notice for disciplinary
actions, but does not include in any detail what those
disciplinary actions were. He states that he was
“penalized unfairly for not following Departmental
procedures” but does not give any concrete examples of
such occurrences (Id. at ¶ 9.) He avers that
the personnel actions relating to Plaintiff were based
strictly on an “untrue” paper record, but does
not detail what personnel actions or untrue statements
occurred. At one point in the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges
the Defendants wrongfully terminated him, but does not
specify when this occurred except that it was after his
job-related injury in June 2013. Plaintiff asserts two counts
under (1) “Federal Law (Title VII and U.S.
Constitutional) Violations-Worker's Compensation
Discrimination & Retaliation” and (2) “State
Court Torts.” (Doc. 1-1 at 8-9.) In each Count,
Plaintiff recites a laundry list of claims against Defendants
without indicating any facts to support those claims.
originally filed this action in the Circuit Court of Pickens
County, Alabama on October 11, 2017. (See Doc. 1-1.)
Defendants properly removed the action to this Court on
November 22, 2017. Jurisdiction appears proper under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1343 & 1367 as Plaintiff has asserted
numerous claims against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and other state-law claims arising from the same
conduct. (See Doc. 1.) Defendants filed a Motion to
Dismiss on November 29, 2017, arguing that all of
Plaintiffs' claims were due to be dismissed, because
Plaintiff has released his claims, and because the claims
were barred by the statute of limitations, qualified
immunity, and state-agent immunity.
Motion to Dismiss also filled in some of the backstory to
what happened between Plaintiff's injury in 2013 and the
instigation of this action in 2017. Specifically attached to
Defendants' Motion was a Complaint filed by Plaintiff
against Defendant Gordo in the Circuit Court of Pickens
County, Alabama in August 2013 (the “First
Complaint”). (See Doc. 3-2.) The First
Complaint asked for the payment of benefits due under the
Workmen's Compensation laws of Alabama from Defendant
Gordo to Plaintiff, arising out of the same June 6, 2013
injury mentioned in Plaintiff's current Complaint.
attached to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss was the
conclusion to Plaintiff's first action: a Workers
Compensation Settlement Agreement (doc. 3-4) and Court Order
Approving that Agreement (doc. 3-3). The Settlement Agreement
included the following release:
In consideration of this payment by Gordo, [Plaintiff], for
himself, his heirs, next of kin, executors, administrators,
personal representatives or assigns, releases Gordo, its
elected and appointed officials, employees, representatives,
agents, insurance carriers, third party administrators,
predecessors, successors and assigns, and other every person,
corporation, association or partnership chargeable therewith
(“Gordo Releasees”), of and from any and all
claims which [Plaintiff] may have against Gordo Releasees,
whether known or unknown or hereafter discovered, under any
federal or State law including, but not limited to, all
claims under the Workers' Compensation Act of Alabama . .
(Doc. 3-4 at 5.) The Settlement Agreement was signed by
Plaintiff and notarized on April 26, 2017-approximately seven
months before Plaintiff commenced the current action.
Standard of Review
survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must
generally satisfy the pleading requirements in Fed.R.Civ.P.
8. Rule 8 requires a pleading to contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “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.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-679 (2009). Instead,
“[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.”
Id. at 678 (internal quotations omitted).
Iqbal establishes a two-step process for evaluating
a complaint. First, the Court must “begin by
identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Id. at 679. Second, “[w]hen
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. Factual allegations in a complaint need not be
detailed, but they “must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
need not specifically plead each element in his or her cause
of action, but the pleading must contain “enough
information regarding the material elements of a cause of
action to support recovery under some viable legal
theory.” Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong. of
Indus. Orgs. v. City of Miami, 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th
Cir. 2011). Ultimately, the Court must be able to draw a
reasonable inference from the facts that the other party is
liable. Reese v. Ellis, Painter, Ratterree & Adams,
LLP, 678 F.3d 1211, 1215 (11th Cir. 2012). The Court
must construe pleadings broadly and resolve inferences in the
non-moving party's favor. Levine v. World Fin.
Network Nat'l Bank, 437 F.3d 1118, 1120 (11th Cir.
Complaint is due to be dismissed because it fails to state a
claim, is barred by the Statute of Limitations, and because
Plaintiff agreed to a Settlement Agreement whereby he
released all of his claims against Defendants.