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Chapman v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

May 9, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on Wal-Mart Store East, LP's ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(1) and 12(b)(6), to dismiss the lawsuit of Sallie Chapman ("Plaintiff'). Having reviewed the Parties' filings in this case, the Court finds this matter is ripe for judicial determination. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.


         Plaintiff Sallie Chapman ("Plaintiff'), appearing pro se, filed suit against Defendant in the Portsmouth Circuit Court "for the wrongful death and negligence regarding the treatment and ultimate death of William Chapman, II ("Decedent")." Compl. at 2. Plaintiff identifies herself as the "Administratrix of the Estate of William Chapman, deceased." Id. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Decedent entered one of Defendant's stores at approximately 7:30 a.m. on April 22, 2015. Id. One of Defendant's security officers believed that Decedent "had put something inside of his backpack while in the shoe department." Id. Decedent left the shoe department, visited the restroom, and exited the store. Id. The security officer followed Decedent to the parking lot and called the police "to report a possible shoplifting." Id. at 3. The police arrived on the scene, approached Plaintiff, "and later shot and killed" him.[1] Id.

         Plaintiff seeks to impose liability on Defendant for Decedent's death. Plaintiff alleges that (i) Decedent "was wrongfully killed" as a result of Defendant calling the police; (ii) Defendant's actions were a "bad call" and should be considered "racial profiling;" (iii) Defendant's security officer "never intervened to say that [Decedent] hadn't stolen anything" when he "witness[ed] the aggressiveness of the officer that was called to the scene;" (iv) Defendant's security officer had "no proof to justify the call to the police; and (v) Decedent "would be alive today if [Defendant] had not called the police to state that [Decedent] was a possible shoplifter." Id. Plaintiff asks, among other things, "that the surviving beneficiaries and the estate of the Plaintiff [sic] be awarded the sum of 31 million dollars plus interest." Id. at 5.

         Defendant filed a Demurrer, Memorandum in Support, and Answer in the Portsmouth Circuit Court on May 17, 2017. Notice of Removal at 2, ECF No. 1. On May 26, 2017, before the Portsmouth Circuit Court ruled on Defendant's Demurrer, Defendant removed Plaintiffs action to this Court. Id.

         On June 23, 2017, Defendant filed its first Motion to Dismiss in which it argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs action. ECF No. 8. In its motion, Defendant explains that Plaintiff is the mother of Decedent and one of ten statutory beneficiaries of Decedent's estate. ECF No. 9 at 1-2. Defendant argues that Plaintiff, who is not a licensed attorney, cannot "bring a pro se wrongful death action in her capacity as the Administrator of the Estate of [Decedent]." Id. at 5. On August 3, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Hearing in which it asked the Court to rule on the Demurrer that it previously filed in Portsmouth Circuit Court after the Court resolved its Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 17.

         On September 20, 2017, the Court entered an Order in which it, among other things, agreed that Plaintiff "may not proceed in this action pro se." ECF No. 23. However, the Court further stated: ". . . the Court will not dismiss Plaintiffs action at this time. Instead, if Plaintiff would like to proceed with this action, Plaintiff is hereby ORDERED to obtain counsel within thirty (30) days of the date of entry of this Order." Id. at 7. Further, die Court held Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Motion for Hearing, and Motion to Compel Disclosure in abeyance "pending resolution of the representation issue." Id.

         Plaintiff retained counsel on October 18, 2017. ECF Nos. 24-25. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on January 2, 2018. ECF No. 27. On January 16, 2018, Defendant filed an Answer to the Amended Complaint. ECF No. 30. Defendant also filed this instant Motion to Dismiss on January 16, 2018, requesting that this Court dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF Nos. 28-29. Plaintiff filed a Response on February 20, 2018. ECF No. 33. Defendant filed a Reply on February 26, 2018. ECF No. 35.


         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides for the dismissal of an action if the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Unless a matter involves an area over which federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction, [2] a plaintiff may bring suit in federal court only if the matter involves a federal question arising "under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, " 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (1948), or if "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs, and is between citizens of different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) (1948).

         The court assumes that all factual allegations in the complaint are true if it is contended that a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). However, if the factual basis for jurisdiction is challenged, the plaintiff has the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists by a preponderance of the evidence. United States ex rel. Vuyyuru v. Jadhav, 555 F.3d 337, 347-48 (4th Cir. 2009). To determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, the reviewing court may consider evidence outside the pleadings, such as affidavits or depositions, Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219, or whatever other evidence has been submitted on the issues. GTE South Inc. v. Morrison, 957 F.Supp. 800, 803 (E.D. Va. 1997). A party moving for dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should prevail only if material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as matter of law. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co., 945 F.2d at 768. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3) provides that "[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         B. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of actions that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The United States Supreme Court has stated that in order "[t]o 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)) (internal quotations omitted). Specifically, "[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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Moreover, at the motion to dismiss stage, the court is bound to accept all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Id. However, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. Assessing the claim is a "context-specific task mat requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court cannot consider "matters outside the pleadings" without converting the motion to a summary judgment proceeding. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Nonetheless, the Court may still "consider documents attached to the complaint, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c), as well as those attached to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic." Sec 'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007); see also Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008) ("When a court is presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it may consider the Complaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central to the claims contained therein.").

         III. ...

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