United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
SHEILA L. WILLOUGHBY, Plaintiff,
OAKMEADE ASSOCIATES, L.P. Defendant.
E. Payne Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant Oakmeade Associates,
L.P.'s MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No. 26) the AMENDED AMENDED
COMPLAINT (ECF No. 22) . For the reasons stated below,
Oakmeade Associates, L.P.'s MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No.
26) will be granted in part and denied in part. The motion is
granted to the extent that it seeks dismissal of the case:
the case is dismissed with prejudice and without leave to
amend. The motion is denied to the extent that it seeks
the Estate of Sheila L. Willoughby ("the Estate"),
proceeding through the appointed representative, Mike M.
Willoughby ("Mike Willoughby,"), alleges
that, in early 2015, Sheila L. Willoughby ("Sheila
Willoughby") provided assistance in an ongoing criminal
investigation against her landlord, Oakmeade Associates, L.P.
("Oakmeade") involving Dominion Power's Energy
Assistance Program. (Am. Am. Compl., ECF No. 18, 1). In April
2015, Oakmeade refused to renew Sheila Willougby's lease.
(Am. Am. Compl. 1-2). The Amended Amended Complaint alleges
that the termination of Sheila Willoughby's lease was
"retaliation for participating in 'protected
activities' by reporting, helping, and assisting in a
criminal investigation into fraudulent activities that were
occurring" in one of Oakmeade's rental properties.
(Am. Am. Compl. 1-2).
October 29, 2015, Sheila Willoughby filed a Motion for Leave
to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. (ECF No. 1). On February 3,
2016, Sheila Willoughby filed a substantially similar case in
this Court, Case No. 3:16-cv-00072. On February 16, 2016,
before the Court ruled on the Motion for Leave to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis, Sheila Willoughby paid the civil filing fee
and filed her complaint. (Docket Nos. 6, 7). On the same day,
Sheila Willoughby also filed a motion to consolidate this
case and Case No. 3:16-cv-00072. On March 14, 2016, Mike
Willoughby, Sheila Willoughby's son, filed a "Notice
of Death" and a motion to appoint him as his
mother's successor in this action. (Docket Nos. 10, 11).
March 18, 2016, the Court denied the Motion to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis as moot, dismissed Case No. 3:16-cv-00072 and
accordingly denied the Motion to Consolidate as moot, and
dismissed the Complaint and the unfiled amended complaints
without prejudice because Mike Willoughby had not
demonstrated that he was an appropriate representative of
Sheila Willoughby's estate. (ECF No. 13).
April 14, 2016, Mike Willoughby filed paperwork to the effect
that he had qualified as the administrator of his
mother's estate. (ECF No. 14). On March 13, 2016, the
Court permitted Mike Willoughby to proceed as representative
of his mother's estate,  reinstated the case, and directed
the Clerk to file the "Amended Amended
Complaint." (ECF No. 17).
30, 2016, Oakmeade filed this motion to dismiss for failure
to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 26).
threshold matter, the Court recognizes that the Estate's
pro se status entitles its pleadings to a liberal
construction. See, e.g., Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted);
Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir.
1978). Nevertheless, "[e]ven pro se plaintiffs must
recognize Rule 8's vision for a system of
simplified pleadings that give notice of the general claim
asserted, allow for the preparation of a basic defense,
narrow the issues to be litigated, and provide a means for
quick dispositions of sham claims, " Sewraz v.
Guice, 2008 WL 3926443, at *2 (E.D. Va. Aug. 26, 2008)
(quoting Prezzi v. Berzak, 57 F.R.D. 149, 151
(S.D.N.Y. 1972)). The requirement of liberal construction
Moes not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in
the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim
cognizable in a federal district court. Skelton v.
EPA, 2009 WL 2191981, at *2 (D.S.C. July 16, 2009)
(citing Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387
(4th Cir. 1990)). Finally, the basic pleading standards set
by Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) that
foreclose conclusory, factually unsupported claims apply to
pro se litigants.
motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) challenges the
legal sufficiency of a complaint. Jordan v. Alternative
Resources Corp., 458 F.3d 332, 338 (4th Cir.2006).
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) "requires only a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, in to give the defendant fair notice of what the
... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."
McCleary-Evans v. Maryland Dep't of
Transp., State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 585 (4th
Cir.2015) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
"draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff." Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v.
Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253 (4th
Cir.2009). However, while the court must "will accept
the pleader's description of what
happened" and "any conclusions that can be
reasonably drawn therefrom, " the court "need not
accept conclusory allegations encompassing the legal effects
of the pleaded facts, " Charles A. Wright & Arthur
R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (3d
ed.1998); Chamblee v. Old Dominion Sec. Co., L.L.C.,
No. 3:13CV820, 2014 WL 1415095, *4 (E.D. Va. 2014). Nor is
the court required to accept as true a legal conclusion
unsupported by factual allegations, Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). "Twombly and
Iqbal also made clear that the analytical approach for
evaluating Rule 12(b) (6) motions to dismiss requires courts
to reject conclusory allegations that amount to mere
formulaic recitation of the elements of a claim and to
conduct a context-specific analysis to determine whether the
well-pleaded factual allegations plausibly suggest an
entitlement to relief." Wright & Miller, supra;
Chamblee, supra. In sum, a 12(b) (6) motion
should be granted if, "after accepting all well-pleaded
allegations ... as true and drawing all reasonable factual
inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, it
appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of
facts in support of his claim entitling him to relief."
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th
the Amended Amended Complaint liberally, it is intended to
prosecute a claim under the retaliation ...