United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
C. Cacheris UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for Failure to
State a Claim. [Dkt. 15.] For the following reasons, the
Court will grant Defendant's motion.
case is brought by pro se Plaintiff Rona Rosemond
Ansah (“Plaintiff” or “Ansah”)
against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Defendant” or
“Wal-Mart”) for alleged violations of her right
to be free from unlawful search and seizure, her right to
privacy, and her right to self-dignity. Amend. Compl. at 6-7.
These rights were allegedly violated when one of
Defendant's employees “set her up for
theft.” Id. at 1. The following facts are
taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and, for the
purposes of this motion, are presumed true.
April 14, 2016, Plaintiff took her automobile, a 2005
Chevrolet Equinox, to a Wal-Mart start located at 5883
Kingstowne Boulevard in Alexandria, Virginia, to obtain
automotive services. Amend. Compl. at 1. According to
Plaintiff, she was required to wait for an hour after her
vehicle was ready. Id. ¶ 3. While waiting,
Plaintiff asked the cashier if she could purchase two
additional items, a cookie and a facial cleanser, when she
paid for her automotive services. Id. ¶ 4. The
cashier confirmed that she could do so. Id.
Plaintiff was finally called to the counter to check out, she
alleges that the cashier's computer experienced a
technical malfunction. Amend. Compl. ¶ 6. The cashier
had to call a manager for assistance. Id. While
waiting for the manager to arrive, Plaintiff left the counter
to browse a display of car stereos. Id. ¶ 7.
She alleges that she left the cookie and facial cleanser at
the counter during this time. Id. Once the manager
arrived, Plaintiff returned to the counter to sign some
paperwork and pay. Id. ¶ 9. After doing so,
Plaintiff asked the cashier for her car keys, which she
alleges had not yet been returned to her. Id. ¶
10. The cashier stated to Plaintiff that she had already been
given her keys, which she had put in her purse. Id.
¶ 11. To demonstrate that this was not true, Plaintiff
emptied the contents of her purse onto the counter.
Id. No keys appeared. Id. ¶ 12. The
cashier then suggested that Plaintiff look for her keys near
the car stereos. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges
that, after noticing some store surveillance cameras, she
asked the cashier to call store security. Id. She
further alleges that the cashier responded to this request by
handing Plaintiff her car keys. Id.
obtained her keys and paid, Plaintiff began to walk out of
the Wal-Mart store. Amend. Compl. ¶ 15. However, she
realized that the cashier had not charged her for the cookie
and facial cleanser. Id. ¶ 15. She discussed
this oversight with the cashier. Id. It is unclear
from the face of her Amended Complaint whether she ultimately
paid for these items, though.
filed suit in state court on July 19, 2016. [See
Dkt. 1-1.] On October 28, 2016, Defendant filed a notice of
removal to federal court. [Dkt. 1.] That same day, Defendant
filed its first motion to dismiss. [Dkt. 3.] On November 22,
2016, the Court ordered Plaintiff to file a more
particularized Complaint by December 5, 2016. [Dkt. 11.]
Plaintiff failed to do so by the deadline, filing her Amended
Complaint on December 21, 2016. [Dkt. 12.] Defendant filed
its second motion to dismiss on January 5, 2017. [Dkt. 14.]
Plaintiff filed her response in opposition on January 24,
2017, [Dkt. 21] to which Defendant replied on January 30,
2017 [Dkt. 23]. Defendant's motion is now ripe for
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency
of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of
N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992)
(citation omitted). The Supreme Court has stated that in
order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a [c]omplaint
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 pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id.
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [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 (citations
omitted). While legal conclusions can provide the framework
for a complaint, all claims must be supported by factual
allegations. Id. Based upon these allegations, the
court must determine whether the plaintiff's pleadings
plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.
Id. Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations
are not sufficient, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, nor
are “unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions,
or arguments, ” E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D.
Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir.
2000). The plaintiff, however, does not have to show a
likelihood of success; rather, the complaint must merely
allege-directly or indirectly-each element of a “viable
legal theory.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562-63.
motion to dismiss stage, the court must construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read
the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein
as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Generally, a
district court does not consider extrinsic materials when
evaluating a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). It may, however,
consider “documents incorporated into the complaint by
reference.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues &
Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); see also
Blankenship v. Manchin, 471 F.3d 523, 526 n.1 (4th Cir.
2006). In addition, the court may consider documents attached
to the defendant's motion to dismiss if those documents
are central to the plaintiff's claim or are
“sufficiently referred to in the complaint, ” so
long as the plaintiff does not challenge their authenticity.
Witthohn v. Fed. Ins. Co., 164 F. App'x 395,
396-97 (4th Cir. 2006).
Court construes the pro se Complaint in this case
more liberally than those drafted by an attorney. See
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Further, the
Court is aware that “[h]owever inartfully pleaded by a
pro se plaintiff, allegations are sufficient to call for an
opportunity to offer supporting evidence unless it is beyond
doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling
him to relief.” Thompson v. Echols, No.
99-6304, 1999 WL 717280, at *1 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing
Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972)). Nevertheless,
while 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 v. City
of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1276 (4th Cir. 1985). Thus,
even in cases involving pro se litigants, the Court
“cannot be expected to construct full blown claims from
sentence fragments.” Id. at 1278. Further, the
Court may not construct a plaintiff's legal arguments for
him or her. See, e.g., Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d
411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993).