United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
THELMA L. HEWLETT, Plaintiff,
PERMANENT GENERAL ASSURANCE CORPORATION and S&M AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE, LLC, Defendants.
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge.
Hewlett suffered fire and water damage to her car. Hewlett
filed this action against Permanent General Assurance
Corporation ("General"), her insurance company, and
S&M Automotive Service, LLC ("S&M"), a car
repair shop, alleging that the companies handled her car
damages improperly and discriminated against her based on her
race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. General and
S&M have moved to dismiss Hewlett's second amended
complaint ("the second amended complaint") for
failure to state a claim. The Court GRANTS both motions and
DISMISSES the second amended complaint WITH PREJUDICE.
an African-American woman, alleges a dispute regarding
damages to her car during which General and S&M
discriminated against her because of her race. Hewlett filed
her complaint ("the complaint") on September 15,
2015. (Dk. No. 1.) The Court dismissed the complaint without
prejudice on October 29, 2015. (Dk. No. 2.) Hewlett appealed
to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
The Fourth Circuit dismissed Hewlett's appeal for lack of
jurisdiction, but remanded with instructions for the Court to
permit Hewlett to amend her complaint. (Dk. No. 5.) The Court
ordered Hewlett to file an amended complaint, directing her
to identify each legal claim against the defendants and
include sufficient facts giving rise to those claims. (Dk.
No. 8.) Hewlett filed her amended complaint ("the
amended complaint") on April 29, 2016. (Dk. No. 9.)
Because the amended complaint did not include any facts
describing how the defendants allegedly wronged her and only
the conclusion that the defendants discriminated against her,
the Court directed Hewlett to file a second amended
complaint. (Dk. No. 10.) Hewlett filed her second amended
complaint on May 13, 2016. (Dk. No. 11.) The Court, affording
Hewlett the liberal construction required for pro se
plaintiffs, interpreted the second amended complaint as a
suit "arising from damage to her car that her insurance
company, and an automotive repair company, handled
improperly." (Dk. No. 12.) Hewlett alleges that General
and S&M "handled the situation improperly because of
her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981."
(Id.) General and S&M have moved to dismiss the
second amended complaint for failure to state a claim.
Because the second amended complaint includes only the
conclusion that General and S&M discriminated against
her, Hewlett fails to state a claim upon which the Court
could grant relief.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
contain "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
the plaintiff appears pro se, although courts should
liberally construe the complaint, Gordon v.
Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978),
"[p]rinciples requiring generous construction of pro se
complaints are not. . . without limits." Beaudett v.
City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
Courts need not attempt "to discern the unexpressed
intent of the plaintiff." Laber v. Harvey, 438
F.3d 404, 413 n.3 (4th Cir. 2006). The Fourth Circuit has
stated that "though [pro se] litigants cannot... be
expected to frame legal issues with the clarity and precision
ideally evident in the work of those trained in law, neither
can district courts be required to conjure up and decide
issues never fairly presented to them."
Beaudett, 775 F.2d at 1276. In other words,
"[district judges are not mind readers."
Id. at 1278.
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a
complaint; it does not resolve contested facts in the case or
the factual basis of a claim or defense. Republican Party
of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In
considering the motion, a court must accept all allegations
in the complaint as true and must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Nemet Chevrolet,
Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253
(4th Cir. 2009) (citing Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999)). The
plaintiffs allegations, however, must consist of sufficient
factual matter that, accepted as true, "state[s] 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)). This
plausibility standard requires the plaintiff to demonstrate
more than "a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully." Id.
second amended complaint, Hewlett asserts that General and
S&M discriminated against her based on her "sex,
color, and race" in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
(2d Am. Compl. ¶ 2.) While Hewlett does establish that
she belongs to a racial minority group and that the alleged
discrimination involved contractual relationships, she fails
to plead sufficient facts giving rise to the conclusion that
the defendants intended to discriminate against her.
1981 grants all persons within the United States equal rights
"to make and enforce contracts." 42 U.S.C. §
1981(a). A claim under section 1981 must "identify an
impaired contractual relationship under which the plaintiff
has rights, " Domino's Pizza, Inc. v.
McDonald, 546 U.S. 470, 476 (2006), and whether
"racial discrimination . .. impairs an existing
contractual relationship." Morris v. Carter Global
Lee, Inc., 997 F.Supp.2d 27, 37 (D.D.C. 2013). The
plaintiff must show that (1) he belongs to a racial minority
group; (2) the defendant intended to discriminate against him
based on his race; and (3) the discrimination relates to a
contractual relationship covered under section 1981.
Kungle v. State Farm, Fire & Cas. Co., 48
F.Supp.3d 67, 77 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Dickerson v.
District of Columbia, 806 F.Supp.2d 116, 119 (D.D.C.
2011)) (dismissing the pro se plaintiffs suit under section
1981 because the plaintiffs complaint included allegations of
race discrimination that were "conclusory and tenuous at
best"). The plaintiff must allege facts beyond the
conclusion that he was "discriminated against because of
[her] race." Long v. Teradata Corp., No.
I:12cv787 (JCC/TCB), 2012 WL 6026441, at *3 (E.D. Va. Dec. 4,
survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff is not required
"to plead facts establishing a prima facie
case, " Swierkiemcz v. Sorema N.A.,
534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002), but he must plead sufficient facts
"to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level" and "to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555, 570; see also Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals,
626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010). The plaintiff still has
the burden of alleging facts sufficient to state all the
elements of his claim. Jordan v.
Alternative Resources Corp., 458 F.3d 332,
346 (4th Cir 2006) (citing Bass v. E.I. Supont
De Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir.
second amended complaint, Hewlett establishes that she
belongs to a racial minority group and that the alleged
discrimination involves contractual relationships under which
she has rights. Hewlett, an African-American woman, states
that she identifies as a "low-income woman" and as
a "member of a protected class." (2d Am. Compl.
¶ 2.) Because Hewlett has a car insurance policy with
General, the alleged discrimination involved a contractual
relationship between Hewlett as the insured and General as
insurer. As the repair shop handling the damages to
Hewlett's car, S&M also shared a contractual
relationship with Hewlett. The alleged discrimination,
therefore, involved contractual relationships with General
and S&M under which Hewlett has rights. See 42
U.S.C. § 1981(b).
fails, however, to plead sufficient facts to show that
General and S&M intended to discriminate against her. In
the second amended complaint, she states only the conclusion
that the defendants engaged in "unlawful
discrimination." (2d Am. Compl ¶ 3). Hewlett pleads
allegations of race discrimination that "are nothing
more than the sort of unadorned allegations of wrongdoing to
which Twombly and Iqbal are directed."
Francis v. Giacomelli,588 F.3d 186, 195-96 (4th
Cir. 2009) (affirming dismissal of a section 1981 claim in
which the plaintiffs alleged only that they were
African-American males and the defendants were white males).
The facts alleged in the second ...