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Delaney v. District of Columbia

May 4, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


On September 26, 2009, Melvin Delaney, Jr. and Melodie Venee Shuler*fn1 filed a twenty-one count complaint against seventeen defendants and various unidentified D.C. employees and correctional officers.*fn2 The complaint alleges violations of federal and state law arising from a District of Columbia criminal action against Mr. Delaney due to unpaid child support, from a District of Columbia criminal action against Ms. Shuler based on an assault charge, and from other circumstances. Among the claims, Plaintiffs allege breach of contract against Mr. Delaney's former employer, Shoppers Food Warehouse Corporation ("Shoppers"), and breach of the duty of fair representation against the union that represented him when he worked at Shoppers, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 (the "Union"). The Union moves to dismiss for failure to state a claim because the Complaint is barred by the statute of limitations. Shoppers moves to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Their motions will be granted, as explained below.


The eighty-two page, twenty-one count Complaint is somewhat garbled. Amid the morass of claims, the Complaint asserts two counts against Shoppers and one against the Union. Mr. Delaney worked at Shoppers and was a member of the Union during the fall of 2006. Compl. ¶ 117; Union's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 4] at 2. He last worked at Shoppers in November of 2006, prior to his arrest on November 11, 2006. Pls.' Opp'n to Union's Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 11] at 6; Pls.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 21] at 1. He was incarcerated due to failure to pay child support from May 29, 2007 to September 25, 2007. Compl. ¶ 20. He sought to return to work at Shoppers when he was released from prison, but Shoppers did not place him on the work schedule. The Complaint alleges, "Mr. Delaney repeatedly called the company and was repeatedly told he was not on the schedule because human resources had to review the information he provided about his incarceration." Compl. ¶ 128. Count Seven alleges that Shoppers negligently garnished more of Mr. Delaney's wages than permitted by law regarding the collection of child support. Id. ¶¶ 117-120. Count Eight alleges that Shoppers breached Mr. Delaney's employment contract by terminating him and breached an oral contract to rehire him. Id. ¶¶ 121-135. Count Nine alleges that the Union breached its duty of fair representation by failing to assist him when he sought to return to work at Shoppers. Id. ¶¶ 136-139.

Shoppers and the Union both move to dismiss. Ms. Shuler opposes and moves for summary judgment.*fn3 The motions to dismiss will be granted on their merits as set forth below.


A. Failure to State a Claim Under Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face, testing whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. A complaint must be sufficient "to give a defendant fair notice of the claims against him." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 1964-65 (internal citations omitted). Rule 8(a) requires a "showing" and not just a blanket assertion of a right to relief. Id. at 1965 n.3.

On a motion to dismiss, a court must treat the complaint's factual allegations - including mixed questions of law and fact - as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 64, 67 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Courts are hesitant to grant a motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations unless the facts that give rise to the defense are clear on the face of the complaint. Smith-Haynie v. District of Columbia, 155 F.3d 575, 577-78 (D.C. Cir. 1998). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court may consider only "the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint, and matters about which the Court may take judicial notice." Gustave-Schmidt v. Chao, 226 F. Supp. 2d 191, 196 (D.D.C. 2002) (citation omitted). Once a claim has been stated adequately, "it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1968-69.

B. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Under Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-89 (1938). Because "subject matter jurisdiction is an 'Art. III as well as a statutory requirement[,] no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court.'" Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Ins. Corp. of Ir., Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxite de Guinea, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982)). On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999); McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 182-83 (1936).

Because subject matter jurisdiction focuses on the court's power to hear the claim, however, the court must give the plaintiff's factual allegations closer scrutiny when resolving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion than would be required for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim. Macharia, 334 F.3d at 64; Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F. Supp. 2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). Moreover, the court is not limited to the allegations contained in the complaint. Hohri v. United States, 782 F.2d 227, 241 (D.C. Cir. 1986), vacated on other grounds, 482 U.S. 64 (1987). Instead, to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the claim, the court may consider materials outside the pleadings. Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992).


A. Claim Against ...

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