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Williams v. Lipscomb

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

August 2, 2018

LEAH WYNETTE WILLIAMS, et al., Plaintiffs,
LISA ANNETTE LIPSCOMB, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs Leah and Phyllis Williams bring this action against Lisa Lipscomb, James Ayers, and Platinum Corral, LLC, a franchisee of Golden Corral restaurants. Plaintiffs assert various claims arising from their experience dining at a Golden Corral restaurant on August 27, 2017.

         Defendants Ayers and Platinum Corral filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant Lipscomb filed a separate motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, in addition to a motion to strike portions of the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). These matters have been fully briefed and argued before the court. At the hearing, the court granted Ayers' and Platinum Corral's motion to dismiss for reasons stated on the record. The court granted Lipscomb's motion to dismiss, except it took the motion regarding Counts 2 and 7, under advisement. The court also took Lipscomb's motion to strike under advisement after instructing the parties to confer and submit any agreements regarding the motion to the court, which the parties have done. Thus, the only matters remaining are Lipscomb's motion to dismiss Counts 2 and 7 of the complaint and the disputed matters as to Lipscomb's motion to strike.

         For the following reasons, the court will grant Lipscomb's motion to dismiss as to Count 2 and deny it as to Count 7. The court will grant in part and deny in part the motion to strike.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On August 27, 2017, Leah Williams took her son, daughter, and mother, Phyllis, to Golden Corral for her daughter's birthday. The family paid the fixed price for the dinner buffet. As they ate, their server, Lisa Lipscomb, “continuously swe[pt]” the floor around their table. (Compl. ¶ 19, Dkt. No. 1.) Later, Lipscomb warned the family that there were cameras, and if they were taking food, they would need to put it back on the table. Leah and Phyllis were “baffled by Lipscomb's statements” because neither they nor the children had attempted to take food away from the restaurant. (Compl. ¶ 21.) Even so, Lipscomb returned to the table with the manager, James Ayers. Lipscomb told Ayers that she saw Phyllis putting chicken legs in her purse, even though “[t]his was a lie, and Lipscomb knew it was a lie.” (Compl. ¶ 2.)

         Ayers told the family about the $3 charge for take-out, and he informed them that he was going to search Phyllis's purse. When the family refused the search, Ayers responded that he would check the surveillance camera footage and call the police. After Ayers walked way, and “[i]n fear for her family's lives and safety, ” Leah called the police, because the family was “being harassed and falsely accused.” (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 26.) Phyllis began filming the event on her phone, and “Lipscomb and two white men . . . gleefully jeered.” (Compl. ¶ 2.) Leah observed Lipscomb “apologize” to the two white men, and “[o]n information and belief, Lipscomb told the two white men that Leah and Phyllis were taking food.” (Compl. ¶ 26.)

         Ayers returned after watching the footage, but he refused to respond when Leah asked what it showed. Plaintiffs allege that the footage did not show any member of the family putting food in any purse or even serving themselves with large quantities. Nevertheless, Ayers told the Williams family that they were trespassing and had to leave. Leah insisted on waiting for the police, which Ayers permitted.

         Officer Fleichman arrived and “confirmed that she was responding to Leah's 911 call.” (Compl. ¶ 40.) Officer Fleichman told the family that Ayers wanted them to leave and wanted Phyllis barred from the property for life. She then asked Phyllis to sign a “Trespass Bar Letter.”[2]


         A. Lipscomb's Motion to Dismiss

         1. Standard of review

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's allegations must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This standard “requires the plaintiff to articulate facts, when accepted as true, that ‘show' that the plaintiff has stated a claim entitling him to relief, i.e., the ‘plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The plausibility standard requires more than “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         In determining whether the plaintiff has met this plausibility standard, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and any documents incorporated into or attached to it. Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007). Further, it must “draw[] all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, ” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999), but it “need not accept legal conclusions couched as facts or ‘unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, ...

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