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Coleman v. Corizon, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

February 21, 2018

WILLIAM E. COLEMAN, JR., Inmate No. 456672, Plaintiff,
CORIZON, LLC, et al., Defendants.



         This cause is before the court upon a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Corizon, LLC, Allan Ho, and Gary Owens (ECF No. 47) and incorporated memorandum of law. Defendant Annie L. Phillips has adopted the motion (ECF No. 49). Plaintiff filed a response to the motion (ECF No. 53), and Defendants filed a reply (ECF No. 58).


         Dismissals for failure to state a claim are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997). The allegations of the complaint are taken as true and are construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 120 F.3d 1390, 1393 (11th Cir. 1997). To survive the 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quotation and citation omitted). A claim is plausible on its face where “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). Plausibility means “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. (quotation and citation omitted).

         The determination of whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted). The pleader is not entitled to relief “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. at 678 (quotation and citation omitted). And “bare assertions” that “amount to nothing more than a formulaic recitation of the elements” of a claim “are conclusory and not entitled to be assumed true.” Id. at 681 (quotation and citation omitted). Stated succinctly:

. . . a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Id. at 679. Finally, consistent with the foregoing precepts, in civil rights cases more than “mere conclusory notice pleading” is required, and a complaint is subject to dismissal “as insufficient where the allegations it contains are vague and conclusory.” Gonzalez v. Reno, 325 F.3d 1228, 1235 (11th Cir. 2003) (quotation and citation omitted).


         Defendants first assert that the complaint should be dismissed because the claims against Defendants Corizon and Owens in the second amended complaint amount to a “shotgun pleading” as they are improperly commingled. Defendants cite to Weiland v. Palm Beach County Sherriff's Office, 792 F.3d 1313, 1320 (11th Cir. 2015), to support their contention that the complaint should be dismissed on this basis. Weiland culled together a description of the various types of shotgun pleadings:

The most common type-by a long shot-is a complaint containing multiple counts where each count adopts the allegations of all preceding counts, causing each successive count to carry all that came before and the last count to be a combination of the entire complaint. The next most common type, at least as far as our published opinions on the subject reflect, is a complaint that does not commit the mortal sin of re-alleging all preceding counts but is guilty of the venial sin of being replete with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any particular cause of action. The third type of shotgun pleading is one that commits the sin of not separating into a different count each cause of action or claim for relief. Fourth, and finally, there is the relatively rare sin of asserting multiple claims against multiple defendants without specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is brought against. The unifying characteristic of all types of shotgun pleadings is that they fail to one degree or another, and in one way or another, to give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them and the grounds upon which each claim rests.

Id. at 1321-23 (footnotes omitted).

         Defendants fault the complaint for commingling Corizon and Owens because supervisory liability is approached differently when the defendant is an entity such as Corizon and when it is an individual such as Owens. It does appear from the complaint that these two Defendants were commingled because Plaintiff considered them to have acted in their supervisory capacities. While Defendants cite to case law that might point to differences between a supervisory entity and a supervisory individual, the similarities between the two largely outweigh their differences. Defendants do not complain that the complaint is exceedingly long, rambling, or redundant. Most importantly, Defendants do not spell out how those differences lead them to any lack of understanding as to how liability is alleged as to either Defendant in particular. Indeed, Defendants do little more than make the blanket statement that the “sin” of commingling was committed. As Weiland itself suggests, erecting a wall of separation between each claim may not necessarily promote clarity, especially when the same essential transactions or occurrences are involved. Id. at 1325 n.18.

         Also important is that, unlike Weiland, this case involves a pro se plaintiff, and the court is mindful that a pro se party's allegations must be read and construed in a liberal fashion. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972). That the court has been able to conduct its review of Plaintiff's pleadings under Section 1915 and gather from it the salient facts suggests that Defendants ought to be able to do the same. The court considers that Defendants have at least enough information to be placed on notice as to the nature of Plaintiff's claims, and therefore it is not “virtually impossible to know which allegations of fact are intended to support which claim(s) for relief.” Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1320 (quotation omitted).

         Finally, the relief sought in the motion dictates against the granting of the motion, for Defendants seeks only the option of dismissal. Defendants could have requested a more definite statement from Plaintiff pursuant to Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure but did not do so.[1] Because ...

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