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Adderley v. United States

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

August 10, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants



         This action proceeds before the court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants United States of America; Elaine Duke, in her former, official capacity as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security; and the Transportation Security Administration. (Doc. 19). Defendants seek dismissal of this action pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set out herein, the court GRANTS the Motion to Dismiss.


         A Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) motion challenges the court's exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction over a case. A court should grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion “only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his” jurisdictional averment. Harris v. Bd. of Trustees Univ. of Ala., 846 F.Supp.2d 1223, 1232 (N.D. Ala. 2012) (quoting Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001)). The burden of proof on a subject-matter jurisdiction challenge rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction. Id. “A federal court must always dismiss a case upon determining that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction . . . .” Goodman ex rel. Goodman v. Sipos, 259 F.3d 1327, 1331 n. 6 (11th Cir. 2001).

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion permits a facial or factual attack. Willett v. United States, 24 F.Supp.3d 1167, 1173 (M.D. Ala. 2014) (citing McElmurray v. Consol. Gov't of Augusta- Richmond Cnty., 501 F.3d 1244, 1251 (11th Cir. 2007)). “Facial attacks on the complaint ‘require [ ] the court merely to look and see if [the] plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in his complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion.” Garcia v. Copenhaver, Bell & Assocs., M.D.'s, P.A., 104 F.3d 1256, 1261 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990)) (other citations omitted). On the other hand, “factual attacks” challenge “the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleading, and matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, are considered.” Id. Hence, the court need not assume the veracity of a complaint's allegations when a party raises a factual challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction, and thus, the court may consider extrinsic evidence such as affidavits. Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. v. Unidentified Shipwrecked Vessel, 657 F.3d 1159, 1169 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).

         When “a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with other Rule 12 motions, the court should consider the Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack on the merits.” Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (citing Hitt v. City of Pasadena, 561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977));[1] Harris, 846 F.Supp.2d at 1230. The party commencing suit in federal court bears the burden of establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, facts supporting the existence of federal jurisdiction. Underwriters at Lloyd's, London v. Osting-Schwinn, 613 F.3d 1079, 1085 (11th Cir. 2010).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain a “short and plain statement of the claim” demonstrating the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In conjunction therewith, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Court revisited the applicable standard governing Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. First, courts must take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state the applicable claims at issue. Id. at 675.

         After establishing the elements of the claim at issue, the court identifies all well-pleaded, non-conclusory factual allegations in the complaint and assumes their veracity. Id. at 679. Well-pleaded factual allegations do not encompass mere “labels and conclusions, ” legal conclusions, conclusory statements, or formulaic recitations and threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action. Id. at 678 (citations omitted). In evaluating the sufficiency of a plaintiff's pleadings, the court may draw reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005).

         Third, a court assesses the complaint's well-pleaded allegations to determine if they state a plausible cause of action based upon the identified claim's elements. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Plausibility ensues “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” and the analysis involves a context-specific task requiring a court “to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 678, 679 (citations omitted). The plausibility standard does not equate to a “probability requirement, ” yet it requires more than a “mere possibility of misconduct” or factual statements that are “merely consistent with a defendant's liability.” Id. at 678, 679 (citations omitted).


         Plaintiff Wilfred T. Adderley brought this action against the United States of America, former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke in her official capacity, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). He filed his original complaint on August 22, 2017. (Doc. 1). Adderley filed an amended complaint on September 26, 2017. As this case proceeded, Adderley voluntarily dismissed with prejudice his claims against Officer Young, the TSA officer who performed the search at issue. (Docs. 48 & 49). Finally, Adderley concedes the court should dismiss his FTCA claims against the TSA and Duke. (Doc. 30 at 16).

         Adderley is a black Bahamian and resident of Nassau, Bahamas. He avers that on August 25, 2013, during travel from Huntsville, Alabama, to Atlanta, Georgia, he traversed a TSA checkpoint with an eight-ounce container of almond milk. A female security officer obtained confirmation from Adderley that he consumes almond milk for medical reasons. However, she informed Adderley he must undergo a pat-down search because the liquid exceeded 3.5 ounces. She directed Adderley to a male security officer (Officer Young) for the search.

         Officer Young informed Adderley how he would conduct the search and advised him that during the pat down of Adderley's legs, he would come into contact with Adderley's private area. Adderley objected and requested a private search to remove his pants and dispel any suspicions. Young replied the search constituted standard procedure when a passenger carries liquid in carry-on luggage for medical purposes. Adderley requested to drink the almond milk to avoid a search, yet Young did not honor the request.

         Adderley avers he informed Young prior to the search he had pain in his abdomen, lower back, hips, and thighs because of a previous spinal injury. Adderley alleges Young conducted the search in an aggressive manner, touching his genitals and delivering a “karate chop” thereto at the top of each thigh search. Adderley expressed his objection and discomfort; Young replied he performed the search in adherence with procedure.

         After the search, Adderley asked for a supervisor, and TSA officer Nicewonder overheard his complaint. Nicewonder stated Officer Young should have granted Adderley's request for a private search, and then advised Adderley about his right to file a formal complaint.

         After several communications with TSA personnel regarding the incident, Adderley filed a claim with TSA on August 25, 2015, alleging sexual assault and discrimination against Officer Young and seeking $569, 610.74 in ...

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