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Martinez v. City of Birmingham

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

October 16, 2018




         In this action, Plaintiff Randy M. Martinez brings claims against his employer, the City of Birmingham, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 (“Section 1981”). (Doc. 1). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges he was discriminated and retaliated against because of his race and national origin. (Id.). The complaint contains 11 separate counts, [2] with 552 numbered paragraphs, over 85 pages. (Id.). Each count incorporates by reference the first 37 paragraphs of the complaint and then identically repeats dozens of the same paragraphs containing factual assertions and legal conclusions. (Id.). Defendant moves to dismiss the complaint as time-barred and for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 6). For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is due to be granted, but Plaintiff will be given the opportunity to amend his complaint to adequately state a claim or claims.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes a motion to dismiss all or some of the claims in a complaint on the ground that its allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. That provision is read in light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8(a)(2), which requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). The court is required to accept the well-pled factual allegations of the complaint as true and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable factual inferences. See Hazewood v. Foundation Financial Group, LLC, 551 F.3d 1223, 1224 (11th Cir. 2008). However, “courts ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (“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.”). Nor is it proper to assume that the plaintiff can prove facts it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the law in ways that have not been alleged. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8 (citing Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983)).

         “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id., 550 U.S. at 555 (citations, brackets, and internal quotation marks omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Id. Thus, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '” i.e., its “factual content . . . allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations omitted). “[I]n practice, a complaint . . . must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562 (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984) (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis and omission in original)).


         Defendant moves to dismiss the complaint in its entirety for two alternative reasons. Defendant first challenges the timeliness of the complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). (Doc. 6 at 3). Even if Plaintiff's complaint is timely, Defendant asserts it fails to state a cognizable discrimination and/or retaliation claim. (Id. at 3-8). Defendant concludes that the complaint “contradicts any good faith effort to maintain efficiency in the judicial system, and instead uses the process as a means to harass, cause unnecessary delay and needlessly increase the cost of litigation . . . .” (Id. at 8).

         A. Timeliness of Complaint

          A civil action under Title VII must be filed in the district court within 90 days of the claimant's receipt of a right to sue letter from the EEOC. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). The limitations period commences upon the claimant's receipt of the right to sue letter, and not on the issuance of the letter. Zillyette v. Capital One Fin. Corp., 179 F.3d 1337, 1339 (11th Cir. 1999) (“[S]tatutory notification is complete only upon actual receipt of the suit letter”); see also Stallworth v. Wells Fargo Armored Servs. Corp., 936 F.2d 522, 524 (11th Cir. 1991); Norris v. Florida Dept. of Health & Rehab. Servs., 730 F.2d 682 (11th Cir. 1984). The Eleventh Circuit, however, has not delineated “a rule determining when a complainant has received notice of the right to sue.” Kerr v. McDonald's Corp., 427 F.3d 947, 952 (11th Cir. 2005). Rather, the 90 day period is analyzed “on a case-by-case basis to fashion a fair and reasonable rule for the circumstances of each case . . . .” Zillyette, 179 F.3d at 1340 (citations omitted). Once the defendant contests the timeliness issue, the plaintiff has the burden of establishing he met the 90 day filing requirement. Green v. Union Foundry Co., 281 F.3d 1229, 1234 (11th Cir. 2002); Jackson v. Seaboard Coast Line R.R. Co., 678 F.2d 992, 1010 (11th Cir. 1982).

         Plaintiff satisfied his burden. The EEOC issued Plaintiff two right to sue letters, both dated December 19, 2017.[3] (Doc. 1-1 at 4-7). Generally, the court presumes three days for the delivery of mail[4] and, therefore, the court would assume Plaintiff received his right to sue letters by December 22, 2017. That delivery date would make his complaint, filed on March 23, 2018, one day past the 90 day deadline.

         Plaintiff's complaint, however, states he received the right to sue letters on December 24, 2017. (Doc. 1 ¶ 10). Additionally, in response to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff attached two envelopes, with the return address of the EEOC, showing post office processing dates of December 21, 2017.[5] (Doc. 10 at 12). Although the envelopes do not indicate to whom the enclosed letters were addressed and there is not any sworn testimony from Plaintiff regarding the envelopes or his receipt of the letters from the EEOC, the court assumes the evidence establishes the EEOC mailed the letters on or about December 21, 2017, and, therefore, under the three day delivery presumption, Plaintiff received them on December 24, 2018.[6] As such, for purposes of this motion, the court concludes Plaintiff's complaint was filed 89 days after receipt of his right to sue letters. The complaint is, therefore, timely.

         B. Failure to State a Claim

          Before the court addresses the specific claims alleged by Plaintiff, the court first addresses an overarching problem with the complaint. The complaint is 85 pages long (not counting exhibits) and contains 552 paragraphs. Each of the 11 counts contains approximately 45 paragraphs with the vast majority of those paragraphs repeating identical allegations, albeit changing a word here or there. Each count repeats approximately 20 paragraphs of factual allegations asserted in the statement of facts, as well as over 20 paragraphs of conclusory legal assumptions contained in the first count of the complaint. Additionally, counts four through eight, as well as eleven, appear to be identical, save one paragraph, purporting to state the alleged adverse employment action. (See Doc. 1 ¶¶ 205, 251, 297, 343, 389, 531). Counts nine and ten appear to be identical to count eight. (Id. ¶¶ 360-450).

         As currently pled, the complaint is unduly repetitive to the point of unfairly burdening Defendant and offending fundamental principles of due process. See Anderson v. District Board of Trustees of Central Florida Community College, 77 F.3d 364, 366-67 (11th Cir. 1996). It certainly runs afoul of Rule 8's requirement that plaintiff provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” See Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1295 (11th Cir. 2018). Additionally, “each count is replete with factual allegations that could not possibly be material to that specific count, and . . . any allegations that are material are buried beneath innumerable pages of rambling irrelevancies.” Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2001). Such redundant and long-winded complaints “impede the due administration of justice and, in a very real sense, amount to the obstruction of justice.” Strategic Income Fund, L.L.C. v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Vibe Micro, 878 F.3d at 1295 (noting that “[c]ourts in the Eleventh Circuit have little tolerance for shotgun pleadings”). Pleadings such as the one here also impose ...

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