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Doe v. De Amigos, LLC

United States District Court, District Circuit

October 9, 2013

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
DE AMIGOS, LLC d/b/a Spot Lounge, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

AMY BERMAN JACKSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jane Doe brings this action against defendants De Amigos, LLC and Mazin Saleh arising from bodily and emotional injuries that she allegedly sustained from a sexual assault that occurred after she had consumed alcohol at Spot Lounge D.C., which is operated by defendant De Amigos. Counts I through III of plaintiff's complaint are asserted against defendant Saleh and Counts IV through VI are asserted against defendant De Amigos. Defendant De Amigos has moved for partial summary judgment or, in the alternative, to dismiss Count VI, which asserts a claim for "reckless and willful disregard." Def. De Amigos, LLC's Mot. for Partial Summ. J. Against Pl. as to Count VI, or in the alternative, Mot. to Dismiss Count VI ("Def.'s Mot.") [Dkt. # 44]. Because plaintiff improperly pled a claim for punitive damages, the Court granted in part defendant's partial motion to dismiss Count VI at a status conference held on September 23, 2013. See Minute Entry (Sept. 23, 2013). The Court also granted in part defendant's motion for partial summary judgment regarding the availability of punitive damages in this case because plaintiff has not proffered evidence of the aggravating circumstances necessary to obtain punitive damages in this jurisdiction. See id.

BACKGROUND

For the purposes of this motion, the Court accepts the following factual allegations as true. On October 2, 2010, plaintiff was invited to attend a party at Spot Lounge D.C. ("Spot Lounge"). Compl. ¶ 7 [Dkt. # 3]. Spot Lounge is operated by defendant De Amigos, LLC. Resp. to Request for Admission Ex. K to Lebowitz Decl. ("RFA Resp.") [Dkt # 51-1]. On October 3, 2010, plaintiff was admitted into Spot Lounge where she was served and consumed several alcoholic beverages. Doe Dep. 82:1-83:3 Ex. C to Lebowitz Decl. ("Doe Dep.") [Dkt # 51-1]. At the time, plaintiff was only 18 years old. Doe Dep. 48:8-22, 52:19-21. Plaintiff became severely intoxicated, a condition described as "black out drunk, " which allegedly caused her to lose consciousness and parts of her memory from that night. Brownlow Dep. 26:1-28:6 Ex. B to Lebowitz Decl. ("Brownlow Dep.") [Dkt # 51-1]. Plaintiff alleges that her inebriation allowed the co-defendant, Mazin Saleh, to carry her to his car where he sexually assaulted her. Brownlow Dep. 29:8-30:14, 34:2-12.

On September 30, 2011, plaintiff filed the complaint in this action against defendants De Amigos, LLC and Mazin Saleh. See Compl. Counts I, II, and III are asserted against defendant Saleh and respectively state common-law claims for battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and reckless and willful disregard. Id. ¶¶ 52-71. Counts IV, V, and VI are asserted against defendant De Amigos, LLC and respectively assert common-law claims for negligence, negligence per se, and reckless and willful disregard. Id. ¶¶ 72-130. On January 18, 2013, defendant De Amigos LLC filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment or, in the alternative, motion to dismiss Count VI of the complaint, which alleges reckless and willful disregard. Def.'s Mot. The motion does not contest Counts I through V of the complaint.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Although defendant De Amigos has styled its motion as a motion for partial summary judgment or, in the alternative, a motion to dismiss, the Court will treat the alternative motion to dismiss as a motion for judgment on the pleadings because defendant De Amigos filed an answer to the complaint on November 7, 2011. Answer of Def. De Amigos [Dkt. # 7]; see Langley v. Napolitano, 677 F.Supp.2d 261, 263 (D.D.C. 2010) ("[A]s the standards for review are the same under either Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) or 12(c), courts routinely treat motions to dismiss that are filed after a responsive pleading has been made as a motion for judgment on the pleadings.").

I. Judgment on the Pleadings

A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) may be granted "only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Longwood Vill. Rest., Ltd. v. Ashcroft, 157 F.Supp.2d 61, 66 (D.D.C. 2001), citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). Put another way, "[i]f there are allegations in the complaint which, if proved, would provide a basis for recovery, the Court cannot grant judgment on the pleadings." Nat'l Shopmen Pension Fund v. Disa, 583 F.Supp.2d 95, 99 (D.D.C. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

"The standard of review for such a motion is essentially the same as the standard for a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)." Longwood, 157 F.Supp.2d at 66-67. "To survive a [Rule 12(b)(6) ] 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). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated the two principles underlying its decision in Twombly: "First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." 556 U.S. at 678. And "[s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 679.

A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. A pleading must offer more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted), and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, " id. In evaluating a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), the court may consider facts alleged in the complaint as well as documents attached to or incorporated by reference in the complaint. Qi v. FDIC, 755 F.Supp.2d 195, 199-200 (D.D.C. 2010).

II. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the "initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). To defeat summary judgment, the non-moving party must "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). The existence of a factual dispute is insufficient to preclude summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" only if a reasonable fact-finder could find for the non-moving party; a fact is only "material" if it is capable of affecting the outcome of the litigation. Id. at 248; Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1241 (D.C. Cir. 1987). In assessing ...


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