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Slaughter v. L.B. Foster Co.

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

July 31, 2018

KELVIN O. SLAUGHTER, Plaintiff,
v.
L.B. FOSTER COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case is before the court on Defendant L.B. Foster Company's motion to dismiss Plaintiff Kelvin O. Slaughter's complaint (Doc. 6) and motion for sanctions (Doc. 10). L.B. Foster contends that res judicata bars this action and argues that the court should sanction Mr. Slaughter's attorney because the claims that Mr. Slaughter asserts in his complaint have been litigated and decided against him.

         For the reasons explained below, the court GRANTS the motion to dismiss and DENIES the motion for sanctions.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         “Res judicata . . . is not a defense under 12(b); it is an affirmative defense that should be raised under Rule 8(c).” Concordia v. Bendekovic, 693 F.2d 1073, 1075 (11th Cir. 1982). “Nevertheless a party may raise a res judicata defense by motion rather than by answer where the defense's existence can be judged on the face of the complaint.” Id.; see also Brown v. One Beacon Ins. Co. Inc., 317 Fed.Appx. 915, 918, (11th Cir. 2009) (“The district court properly dismissed the action under Rule 12(b)(6) as barred by the doctrine of res judicata. . . .”).

         Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). When resolving a motion to dismiss, the court must “accept[] the allegations in the complaint as true and constru[e] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Miljkovic v. Shafritz & Dinkin, P.A., 791 F.3d 1291, 1297 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Hill v. White, 321 F.3d 1334, 1335 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curiam)).

         B. Rule 11 Standard

         A district court may impose sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “(1) when a party files a pleading that has no reasonable factual basis; (2) when the party files a pleading that is based on a legal theory that has no reasonable chance of success and that cannot be advanced as a reasonable argument to change existing law; or (3) when the party files a pleading in bad faith for an improper purpose.” Massengale v. Ray, 267 F.3d 1298, 1301 (11th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “The goal of Rule 11 sanctions is to reduce frivolous claims, defenses, or motions, and to deter costly meritless maneuvers.” Id. at 1302 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “[D]istrict courts have broad discretion in imposing Rule 11 sanctions.” Fox v. Acadia State Bank, 937 F.2d 1566, 1569 (11th Cir. 1991).

         II. BACKGROUND

         On July 20, 2015, Mr. Slaughter, a former L.B. Foster employee, filed a lawsuit in this court against the company, asserting Title VII race discrimination and retaliation claims. (Doc. 6-1). On February 24, 2017, the court (Hopkins, J.) granted judgment as matter of law in favor of L.B. Foster and dismissed Mr. Slaughter's claims with prejudice. (Doc. 6-2; Doc. 6-3). Mr. Slaughter did not appeal.

         On May 8, 2018, Mr. Slaughter filed his complaint in this case, asserting Title VII and § 1981 race discrimination and Title VII retaliation claims. (Doc. 1).[1] To support his claims in this action, Mr. Slaughter relies on substantially similar facts as he pleaded in the 2015 action. (Compare Doc. 1 with Doc. 6-1).

         III. DISCUSSION

         As the party asserting res judicata as a defense, L.B. Foster must establish four elements: “(1) the prior decision must have been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) there must have been a final judgment on the merits; (3) both cases must involve the same parties or their privies; and (4) both cases must involve the same causes of action.” Mann v. Palmer, 713 F.3d 1306, 1311 (11th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation ...


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