United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division
JACKSON L. KISER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
me is Defendant Halifax County (Virginia) School
Board’s Motion to Dismiss, in which it argues that
Plaintiff William Wilborn’s claims are barred by
Virginia’s res judicata rule. The matter has
been fully briefed by the parties, and I have reviewed the
record, relevant law, and arguments of counsel. For the
reasons stated herein, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss
will be granted, and Plaintiff’s claims will be
dismissed with prejudice.
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL
William Wilborn (“Plaintiff” or
“Wilborn”) was employed by Defendant Halifax
County (Virginia) School Board (“the Board”) as a
continuing contract teacher from 2005 to 2014. (Compl.
¶¶ 5-6 [ECF No. 1-1].) Wilborn requested FMLA leave
on April 3, 2014; while on leave, Assistant Superintendant
Valdivia Marshall informed Plaintiff that the Board proposed
to terminate his employment. (Id. ¶ 15.) On
April 25, 2014, Plaintiff requested a hearing on his proposed
termination. (Id. ¶ 16.) The hearing officer
ultimately recommended that Plaintiff’s termination be
upheld, and the Board terminated Plaintiff on June 2, 2014.
(Id. ¶ 19.)
filed suit against the Board in Halifax County Circuit Court
on June 9, 2014, alleging a violation of his due process
rights and breach of contract. (See Def.’s
Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss [hereinafter
“Def.’s Mem.”] Ex. A [ECF No. 8-1].) The
Board filed a demurrer to both counts, and the Circuit Court
sustained the demurrer and dismissed Plaintiff’s
complaint without prejudice. (Id. Ex. C [ECF No.
8-3].) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint reasserting both
claims. (See id. Ex. D [ECF No. 8-4].) The Board
filed a second demurrer. (Id. Ex. E [ECF No. 8-5].)
After the Board filed its second demurrer but before the
hearing on that demurrer, Plaintiff nonsuited only
his breach-of-contract claim. (See id. Ex. F [ECF
No. 8-6].) The court granted Plaintiff’s request for a
nonsuit. When it reached the merits of the Board’s
demurrer on the remaining claim (violation of
Plaintiff’s due process rights), the Circuit Court
sustained the demurrer and dismissed Plaintiff’s
amended complaint with prejudice. (See id. Ex. H
[ECF No. 8-8].) Plaintiff appealed this decision, but the
Supreme Court of Virginia denied his petition for appeal.
(See id. Ex. J [ECF No. 8-10].)
filed a second lawsuit against the Board on February 2, 2016,
reasserting his previously nonsuited breach-of-contract claim
and adding claims that the Board’s termination of
Plaintiff violated the Family Medical Leave Act.
(See Compl. ¶¶ 21-46.) The Board removed
that action to this Court on February 22 and filed a motion
to dismiss on February 24. (Mot. to Dismiss, Feb. 24, 2016
[ECF No. 7].) In its motion, the Board asserts that
Plaintiff’s claims are barred by res judicata.
Plaintiff responded on March 10, 2016 [ECF No. 12], and the
Board replied on March 17 [ECF No. 14]. I heard oral
arguments on the Motion on May 9, 2016.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
that claims are res judicata are challenged under
Rule 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Andrews v. Daw,
201 F.3d 521, 524 (4th Cir. 2000). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
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.’”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
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.” Id. at 678. In
determining facial plausibility, the court must accept all
factual allegations in the complaint as true. Id.
The Complaint must contain “a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief” and sufficient “[f]actual allegations . .
. to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . .
. .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal
quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the Complaint must
“allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of
[the] claim.” Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours &
Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003). Although
“a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” a
pleading that merely offers “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
the Full Faith and Credit Act, state judicial decisions
‘shall have the same full faith and credit in every
court within the United States . . . as they have by law or
usage in the courts of such State . . . from which they are
taken.’” Ghayyada v. Rector & Visitors of
Univ. of Va., Case No. 3:11-cv-00037, 2011 WL 4024799,
at *3 (W.D. Va. Sept. 12, 2011) (quoting 28 U.S.C. §
1738). Federal courts, therefore, “give the same
preclusive effect to state court judgments that those
judgments would be given in state courts of the State from
which the judgments emerged.” Baker v. GMC,
522 U.S. 222, 246 (1998) (Kennedy, J., concurring). In other
words, a federal court interprets the issue of res
judicata stemming from a Virginia court judgment by
applying Virginia preclusion rules in the same manner that a
Virginia court would.
applicable here, the Virginia claim preclusion rule is found
in Rule 1:6 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
The Rule states, in pertinent part:
A party whose claim for relief arising from identified
conduct, a transaction, or an occurrence, is decided on the
merits by a final judgment, shall be forever barred from
prosecuting any second or subsequent civil action against the
same opposing party or parties on any claim or cause of
action that arises from the same conduct, transaction or
occurrence, whether or not the legal theory or rights
asserted in the second or subsequent action were raised in
the prior lawsuit, and regardless of the legal elements or
the evidence upon which any claims in the prior proceedings
depended, or the particular remedies sought.
Sup. Ct. R. 1:6(a). “Accordingly, the rule
‘operates to bar any claim that could have been brought
in conjunction with a prior claim, where the claim sought to
be barred arose out of the same conduct, transaction, or
occurrence as the previously litigated claim.’”
Ghayyada, 2011 WL 4024799, at *4 (quoting
Martin-Bangura v. Commonwealth Dep’t of Mental
Health, 640 F.Supp.2d 729, 738 (E.D. Va. 2009)).
present case, Plaintiff concedes that his
denial-of-due-process claim was dismissed with prejudice, and
that that ruling operates to bar any claim arising out of the
same conduct, transaction, or occurrence. He disputes,
however, that his breach-of-contract claim arose out of the
same transaction because that claim arose out of his
termination, not his ...