United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
GREGORY A. PRESNELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
18) filed by Defendant Randy Lee Hill (“Hill”);
the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 28) filed by Defendants BJ
Loughman Lake Lodge, LLC (“LLL”) and Anywhere
Anytime Airboat Tours, LLC (“AAA”); and the
Responses (Docs. 23, 34) filed by the Plaintiff.
moves to dismiss Count X, which alleges a violation of the
Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), for failure
to state a claim, arguing that it has been deemed
unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. Doc. 18
at 2. LLL and AAA move to dismiss the entire Amended
Complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be
granted. Doc. 28 at 2.
to the relevant time period, the Plaintiff worked as a
manager for LLL, a restaurant on the St. Johns River in
Brevard County, Florida. Around mid-2016, Jack Barta, the
owner of LLL, informed the Plaintiff that he was hiring a new
manager and requested that she stay on for three months in
order to train the new manager. The Plaintiff agreed, and
Barta told the Plaintiff to “do whatever [the new
manager] tells you to do.” Amend. Compl. ¶ 10. The
new manager, Hill, repeatedly told the Plaintiff that he was
a “partner” in LLL. Id. ¶ 11-12. He
informed her that one of the changes he would make was to
integrate AAA into the operations and employment at LLL,
creating a joint operation. Id. ¶ 13. He began
making frequent and regular sexual comments to the Plaintiff
and other female employees. Id. ¶ 15, 17-18.
Hill also “pressed[ed] his (clothed) genitals against
[the Plaintiff's] (clothed) buttocks in a grossly sexual
manner” multiple times during an eighteen-day period.
Id. ¶ 16. Hill repeatedly and regularly asked
the Plaintiff for sexual favors. Id. ¶ 21.
Additionally, Hill hired an assistant manager, named Dale
Dees, who also made regular sexual comments to the Plaintiff
and other female employees, apparently with the approval of
Hill. Id. ¶ 20.
August 31, 2016, Hill instructed the Plaintiff to come into
work while the restaurant was closed in order to help with
managerial duties; he then instructed her to go with him in
an AAA boat on the St. Johns River to show him where former
airboat pilots had taken guests on tours. Id. ¶
23. Hill led the Plaintiff to believe that she was required
to go with Hill as a “crewperson, ” because he
signed her paychecks and because AAA operations were
“part of her job” at LLL. Id. ¶
23-24. When they were out on the St. Johns River, Hill
“attacked [the Plaintiff] by painfully and offensively
pressing his mouth over her mouth, by penetrating her mouth
with his tongue, by groping the genital area of her clothing,
and by pressing his (clothed) crotch on her.”
Id. ¶ 25. The Plaintiff pushed Hill away and
told him to stop. Then, after taking the airboat to a
different location on the St. Johns River, Hill
“repeated his sexual attacks.” Id.
¶ 26. The Plaintiff demanded that Hill take her back to
LLL, and he did. Upon their return, the Plaintiff went to get
her purse so that she could leave, “but Hill grabbed
her from behind, pulled her to him and . . . put his hand
down the front of [the Plaintiff's] pants and brutally
and painfully inserted one or more of his fingers into her
vagina.” Id. ¶ 27. The Plaintiff pushed
him away, left LLL, and never returned to work for LLL or
Plaintiff reported the August 31 incidents to the police, and
after a controlled call from the Plaintiff to Hill, the
police arrested Hill for felony sexual battery and assault on
the Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 29. After Hill's
arrest, he allegedly either publicized or caused to be
publicized falsehoods about the Plaintiff, including that she
was fired for stealing money from LLL/AAA. The Plaintiff also
claims that, after the arrest, Hill had associates and/or
friends attempt to threaten and intimidate her into dropping
the criminal charges.
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must view the
complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff,
see, e.g., Jackson v. Okaloosa County, Fla., 21 F.3d
1531, 1534 (11th Cir. 1994), and must limit its consideration
to the pleadings and any exhibits attached thereto.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c); see also GSW, Inc. v.
Long County, Ga., 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993).
The Court will liberally construe the complaint's
allegations in the Plaintiff's favor. See Jenkins v.
McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However,
“conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual deductions
or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent
dismissal.” Davila v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.,
326 F.3d 1183, 1185 (11th Cir. 2003).
reviewing a complaint on a motion to dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “courts must be
mindful that the Federal Rules require only that the
complaint contain ‘a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'
” U.S. v. Baxter Intern., Inc., 345 F.3d 866,
880 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). This is a
liberal pleading requirement, one that does not require a
plaintiff to plead with particularity every element of a
cause of action. Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice,
Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683 (11th Cir. 2001). However, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds for his or
her entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-555 (2007). The
complaint's factual allegations “must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ”
id. at 555, and cross “the line from
conceivable to plausible.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 680 (2009).
Count I, the Plaintiff alleges Sexual Harassment, Assault,
and Battery under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104, et
seq., against LLL and AAA. Section 30104 provides that
“[a] seaman injured in the course of employment . . .
may elect to bring a civil action at law, with the right of
trial by jury, against the employer.” There are two
essential requirements for seaman status under the Jones Act:
(1) the employee must have duties that “contribute to
the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its
mission, ” and (2) the employee “must have a
connection to a vessel in navigation . . . that is
substantial in terms of both its duration and its
nature.” Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S.
347, 368 (1995) (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Ultimately, however, if reasonable minds could differ as to
whether an individual qualifies as a seaman, it remains a
question of fact for a jury to resolve. Id. at 369.
Amended Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges that she “was
a crewperson on one or more of Defendants' airboats on
the navigable waters of the St. Johns River.” Amend.
Compl. ¶ 7. The Plaintiff also alleges that Hill told
her that he was a “partner” in LLL, and that AAA
and LLL became a “joint operation” after Hill
became the new manager. Id. ¶ 11-13. The
Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that she had a duty that
contributed to the accomplishment of the vessel's
mission: she went on the boat in order to show Hill locations
for AAA airboat tours. However, the Plaintiff has not alleged
that she had a connection to the vessel that was substantial
in terms of both its duration and its nature. There is no
indication that the ...