United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
truth is in the eye of the beholder, this case appears to
feature very different beholders. Plaintiff Joe Johnson
alleges that a car driven by Defendant Mark Johnson (no
apparent relation) struck his vehicle on a District freeway
and that Defendant Johnson then assaulted him and fled with
another passenger, Defendant Nneka Grimes. To add insult to
injury, he alleges that these two then provided an entirely
different account to their insurance company, Defendant
Metropolitan Direct Property & Casualty Insurance Company
(MetLife). In Defendants' version, Plaintiff was the
transgressor who twice struck their vehicle and himself fled
thus brought this pro se action against those three
Defendants, the owner of the car, and a MetLife claims
adjuster, Christian Hayman, alleging myriad causes of action,
some conceivable and others less so. MetLife and Hayman now
move to dismiss four counts against them for failing to state
a claim and separately seek a more definite statement on two
others. As Plaintiff's counts against these two
Defendants are either facially deficient or in need of
further clarification, the Court will grant both Motions.
the facts alleged in the First Amended Complaint as true, as
is required at this stage, the Court observes that the
dispute here centers around an automobile accident on the
Southeast Freeway here in Washington on November 20, 2017.
Plaintiff alleges that he was rear-ended by Defendant
Johnson, who then approached Plaintiff's vehicle on foot,
threatened to kill him, grabbed Plaintiff's cell phone,
punched him in the face, and then fled the scene.
See Am. Compl. at 3. An arrest warrant, he believes,
was subsequently issued for Defendant Johnson. Id.
Defendants Nneka Grimes (a passenger in the car) and Patricia
Grimes (the owner of the car who was not present at the
accident), meanwhile, had a fundamentally contradictory story
to recount. Plaintiff alleges that they falsely told MetLife
that he was the one at fault, that his car had
struck theirs on two occasions, and that he had tried
unsuccessfully to flee. Id. at 4. MetLife and its
employee, Christian Hayman, then “relied upon [these
false reports] and republished them to third parties without
conducting any investigation to determine [their] truth and
never provides the upshot of these conflicting narratives,
who was forced to pay whom for the incident, or if anyone
ended up being criminally charged. He nonetheless asserts ten
causes of action against myriad Defendants: Negligence
against Johnson (Count I), Assault/Battery and Intentional
Infliction of Emotional Distress against Johnson (II),
Defamation against Patricia and Nneka Grimes (III), Libel
against the Grimeses (IV), Republication of Defamation
against MetLife and Hayman (V), Republication of Libel
against MetLife and Hayman (VI), Intentional Infliction of
Emotional Distress against MetLife, Hayman, and the Grimeses
(VII), Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress against
MetLife and Hayman (VIII), Negligent Hiring, Training &
Supervision against MetLife (IX), and Civil Conspiracy
against all Defendants (X). Id. at 5-13. He asserts
that he has “suffered severe bodily injuries, loss of
sleep, headaches, severe mental pain, humiliation,
embarrassment, [and] depression” as a result.
Id., ¶ 21.
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, he is either an
attorney himself or has likely received substantial
assistance from an attorney, as his pleadings are
professionally presented, even if a number of claims are
evanescent. The Court thus affords him some leeway as a
pro se party but need not bend over backwards to
indulge his pleadings.
and Hayman have now filed a Motion to Dismiss as to Counts
VII-X and a separate Motion for More Definite Statement as to
evaluating Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the Court
“must treat the complaint's factual allegations as
true . . . and must grant plaintiff ‘the benefit of all
inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.'” Sparrow v. United Air Lines,
Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting
Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C.
Cir. 1979)); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v.
FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253-54 (D.C. Cir. 2005). The Court
need not accept as true, however, “a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation, ” nor an inference
unsupported by the facts set forth in the Complaint. See
Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006)
(quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of an action where a complaint fails “to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” Although
“detailed factual allegations” are not necessary
to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “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)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). For a
plaintiff to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the facts alleged in
the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
12(e) permits a defendant to move for a more definite
statement if “a pleading . . . is so vague or ambiguous
that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.”
“[W]hen a defendant is unclear about the meaning of a
particular allegation in the complaint, the proper course of
action is not to move to dismiss but to move for a more
definite statement.” Hilska v. Jones, 217
F.R.D. 16, 21 (D.D.C. 2003) (quoting Am. Nurses'
Ass'n v. Illinois, 783 F.2d 716, 725 (7th Cir.
1986)). “Normally, of course, the basis for requiring a
more definite statement under Rule 12(e) is
unintelligibility, not mere lack of detail.”
Burnett v. Al Baraka Inv. and Dev. Corp., 274
F.Supp.2d 86, 110 (D.D.C. 2003) (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). Indeed, “a plaintiff need not
allege all the facts necessary to prove its claim so long as
[he] provides enough factual information to make clear the
substance of that claim.” Wilson v. Gov't of
D.C., 269 F.R.D. 8, 12 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting
Caribbean Broad. Sys., Ltd. v. Cable & Wireless
PLC, 148 F.3d 1080, 1086 (D.C. Cir. 1998)).
Court begins with Defendants' Motion for More Definite
Statement as to Counts V-VI and then addresses their ...