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Hughes v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP

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

June 12, 2018

TIFFANY HUGHES, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, EAST LP., AND MICHAEL R. HARRIS, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          TERRY F. MOORER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) this case was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for review and submission of a report with recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law. (Doc. 4). Pending before the Court is Defendant Wal-Mart's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 32, filed 2/13/18), Plaintiff's Response thereto (Doc. 35, filed 2/16/2018), Wal-Mart's Reply (Doc. 39 filed 3/19/2018), Defendant Harris' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 42, filed 3/22/2018) and Plaintiff's Response thereto (Doc. 44, filed 4/12/2018). For good cause, it is the Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge that the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss be GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part, as set out below.

         I. DISCUSSION

         This is an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff, who was previously employed with Wal-Mart as a pharmacist, brings claims pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., as amended. Additionally, she brings state law claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, tortious conduct, and conspiracy. (Amended Complaint, Doc. 30). Defendants, Wal-Mart and Harris, move to dismiss the state law claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, tortious conduct and conspiracy. Harris also moves to dismiss any ADA claims against him, and Plaintiff, in her response, admits that she does not bring any ADA claims against Harris. (Doc. 44 at p. 2 citing Amended Complaint at ¶¶ 1 and 11)[1]. Accordingly, the Court will now address Defendants' Motions to Dismiss as to the state law claims.

         A. FACTS

         In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges state law claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, tortious conduct, and conspiracy. (Doc. 30). She specifically claims that she was defamed by Harris' statement made to her “in front of Wal-Mart customers, as well as to others at Wal-Mart, that she was unfit to continue working as a pharmacist.” (Doc. 30 at ¶ 89). She further claims that “the Defendants have publicized this information with actual malice, knowing that the information was false, or with reckless disregard of the fact that the information was probably false.” (Doc. 30 at ¶ 94). With respect to her claim for invasion of privacy, she claims that Defendants have “made public, private information and matters concerning the Plaintiff, which information places Plaintiff before members of the public in a false . . . light.” (Doc. 30 at ¶ 96). Alternatively, Plaintiff claims that “employees of Defendant Wal-Mart, . . . have given publicity to private health information about the Plaintiff, whether true or false, that was of no legitimate concern to those to whom the information was disclosed.” (Doc. 30 at ¶ 99). As a result of this invasion, Plaintiff claims that she “was prejudiced in her profession, . . . and Defendant's actions may have resulted in the refusal of prescribed medicines to her.” (Doc. 30 at ¶ 101). Plaintiff also alleges a state law claim for tortious conduct arising from Defendants' “refus[al] [of] a valid prescription for postoperative pain medication [for Plaintiff] from a Pharmacy that was under the supervision and control of Rusty Harris.” (Doc. 30 at ¶ 104). Finally, Plaintiff alleges a claim for conspiracy stating that “[t]o the extent that the actions taken by Rusty Harris were outside the line and scope of his employment with Wal-Mart, his actions appear to have been actions taken in concert with one or more other individuals acting in their personal capacity or as agents servants or employees of co-defendant, Wal-Mart, including but not limited to Chad Souers with whom Harris conferred in order to determine whether Mrs. Hughes shoes were a violation of the ‘dress code,' to concoct a ‘legitimate, non-retaliatory' reason to discharge Mrs. Hughes.” (Doc. 30 at ¶ 107).

         B. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “A Rule 12 (b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. . . .[I]n order to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Coggins v. Abbett, 2008 WL 2476759 *4 (M.D. Ala. 2008) citing Bell Atlantic Corp., v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). The standard for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) was explained in Twombly and refined in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, (2009) as follows:

Two working principles underlie our decision in Twombly. First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all 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. Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hypertechnical, 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. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. 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 shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief.

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citations and internal edits omitted).

         The Twombly-Iqbal two-step analysis begins “by identifying the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth” because they are conclusory. Id., at 195; Mamani v. Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148, 1153 (11th Cir. 2011) (“Following the Supreme Court's approach in Iqbal, we begin by identifying conclusory allegations in the Complaint.”). After conclusory statements are set aside, the Twombly-Iqbal analysis requires the Court to assume the veracity of well-pleaded factual allegations, and then to determine whether they “possess enough heft to set forth ‘a plausible entitlement to relief.'” Mack v. City of High Springs, 486 Fed. App'x 3, 6 (11th Cir. 2012). (Quotation omitted.) “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint need not contain ‘detailed factual allegations' but instead the complaint must contain ‘only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Maddox v. Auburn Univ. Fed. Credit Union, 441 B.R. 149, 151 (M.D. Ala. 2010). (Citation omitted). Establishing facial plausibility, however, requires more than stating facts that establish mere possibility. Mamani,, 654 F.3d at 1156 (“The possibility that - if even a possibility has been alleged effectively - these defendants acted unlawfully is not enough for a plausible claim.”). Plaintiff is required to “allege more by way of factual content to nudge [her] claim . . . across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. (Citation omitted.)

         C. ANALYSIS

         1. ...


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