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Shepler v. Hendricks

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

April 30, 2019

TIM SHEPLER, Plaintiff,
v.
GAYNELL HENDRICKS, et al., Defendants. DOMINION RESOURCES, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
GAYNELL HENDRICKS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          JOHN H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         These consolidated actions, both of which were removed from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama, (see Shepler v. Hendricks, No. 2:18-01429-JHE (“Shepler”), doc. 1; Dominion Resources LLC v. Hendricks, et al., No. 2:18-01580-JHE, doc. 1 (“Dominion”)), relate to a May 20, 2014 tax sale of real property by the Tax Collector of Jefferson County, Alabama (“Jefferson County”). Defendants Gaynell Hendricks (“Hendricks, ” who is the Tax Assessor of Jefferson County) and Jefferson County (collectively with Hendricks, the “Moving Defendants”) have moved to dismiss both actions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), contending each is time-barred. (Shepler, doc. 5; Dominion, doc. 15). Plaintiffs in each case oppose dismissal. (Shepler, doc. 11; Dominion, doc. 20). The Moving Defendants have filed a reply in support of their motion in Shepler.[2] (See Id. at doc. 12). For the reasons discussed further below, the motions, (Shepler, doc. 5; Dominion, doc. 15), are DENIED.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertions]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955). Additionally, “[i]n alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

         The court accepts all factual allegations as true on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000). However, legal conclusions unsupported by factual allegations are not entitled to that assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

         II. Background

         A. Factual Allegations[3]

         On or about May 20, 2014, the Jefferson County Tax Collector sold a number of parcels of real property due to unpaid taxes levied by Jefferson County. (Shepler, doc. 1-1 at 2 (¶ 8); Dominion, doc. 1-1 at 3 (¶ 9)). Plaintiff Tim Shepler (“Shepler”) bought one of these parcels (Parcel Id. 28-00-18-1-014-077.336, “Parcel 1”) and received a tax sale certificate the same day. (Shepler, doc. 1-1 at 2 (¶¶ 8, 10)). Nonparty Austin Mann (“Mann”) purchased two parcels (Parcel I.D. 28-00-18-1-014-007.331, “Parcel 2, ” and Parcel I.D. 28-00-18-1-014-007.347, “Parcel 2”) at the sale and received tax sale certificates for them. (Dominion, doc. 1-1 at 3 (¶¶ 9-10)). Plaintiff Dominion Resources, LLC (“Dominion”) bought one parcel (Parcel I.D. 28-00-19-1-002-003.342, “Parcel 4”) at the sale and received a tax sale certificate for it. (Dominion, doc. 1-1 at 3-4 (¶¶ 9, 13)).

         On September 6, 2017, the Judge of Probate of Jefferson County issued tax deeds to Shepler and Dominion for the parcels they had purchased. (Shepler, doc. 1-1 at ¶ 11; Dominion, doc. 1-1 at 4 (¶ 14)). On September 11, 2017, the probate judge issued tax deeds to Mann for Parcels 2 and 3. (Dominion, doc. 1-1 at 3 (¶ 11)). Mann later conveyed those parcels to Dominion by quitclaim deed. (Dominion, doc. 1-1 at 3 (¶ 12)).

         On or about July 13, 2018, Shepler received a notice from the Jefferson County Tax Assessor dated June 21, 2018, indicating Parcel 1 had been mistakenly sold at the tax sale. (Shepler, doc. 1-1 at 2 (¶ 12); doc. 1-4 at 2). The notice stated “Due to the assessment error this parcel [sic] exemptions were removed. This parcel was exemption [sic] and should not have sold. The tax sale is invalid.” (Id., doc. 1-4 at 2). Enclosed with the notice was an “Application for Refund by Petition of Taxes Paid by Mistake or Error” pursuant to Act 89-861. (Id. at 1-1, 2 (¶ 13); doc. 1-4 at 3). On or about July 18, 2018, Dominion received similar notices for Parcels 2, 3, and 4, accompanied by identical petitions. (Dominion, doc. 1-1 at 4 (¶¶ 15-16), 32-37).

         B. Procedural History

         On August 6, 2018, Shepler filed an action in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. (Shepler, doc. 1-1). Four days later, Dominion filed its own action in the same court. (Dominion, doc. 1-1 at 2-7). Defendant Ben Carson removed Shepler to this court on September 4, 2018, (Shepler, doc. 1-1), and removed Dominion on September 26, 2018, (Dominion, doc. 1). On April 5, 2019, the undersigned consolidated the actions. (Shepler, doc. 33).

         III. ...


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