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Briseus v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 24, 2018




         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A's (“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint or, in the alternative, Motion for More Definite Statement, ECF No. [20] (“Motion”). The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion, all opposing and supporting materials, the record in this case, the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a pro se litigant, originally filed this action in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida, attempting to assert a claim for discrimination. See ECF No. [1-1] at 10. Defendant then removed the lawsuit to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and sought dismissal of the Complaint for failure to state a claim. See ECF Nos. [1] and [5]. In response, Plaintiff sought leave to file an Amended Complaint, which this Court granted. See ECF Nos. [8] and [9].

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff purports to state claims for slander and discrimination and alleges that his “name has been slandered and [his] rights have been violated because [he] was strictly prohibited from entering or remaining on the premises of any retail branch facility of JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.” ECF No. [14] at 1-2. According to Plaintiff, “[t]hese false accusations have prohibited [him] from entering and working as a security guard at any financial center that has JP Morgan Chase in it.” Id. Plaintiff further alleges that he filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in which he expressed his concern about his inability to bank with Chase to which Chase responded as follows: “Please note: Based on your account activity and its subsequent closure, we may elect to report relevant information to credit reporting agencies. This could affect your ability to open accounts in the future.” Id. at 1-2. Plaintiff claims that Defendant's threat to report inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies will affect his ability to open bank accounts and build his credit in the future. Id. at 2. The Amended Complaint characterizes this conduct as discriminatory and unjust, alleging that Plaintiff is a “young black man” and that these actions violated his rights under the United States Constitution. Id. Through the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks $2 million in damages for slander and another $2 million in damages for discrimination. Id.

         In response to the Amended Complaint, Defendant once again sought dismissal. See ECF No. [20]. Plaintiff did not file a timely Response so the Court entered an Order to Show Cause, requiring that he respond to the Motion in writing no later than July 24, 2018. See ECF No. [25]. Plaintiff has since filed a Response opposing Defendant's Motion. See ECF No. [27].


         a. Motion to Dismiss

         A pleading in a civil action must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining that Rule 8(a)(2)'s pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”). Nor can a complaint rest on “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (alteration in original)).

         When reviewing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, as a general rule, must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and evaluate all plausible inferences derived from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. See Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. S. Everglades Restoration Alliance, 304 F.3d 1076, 1084 (11th Cir. 2002); AXA Equitable Life Ins. Co. v. Infinity Fin. Grp., LLC, 608 F.Supp.2d 1349, 1353 (S.D. Fla. 2009). However, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions, and courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Thaeter v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 449 F.3d 1342, 1352 (11th Cir. 2006). Moreover, “courts may infer from the factual allegations in the complaint ‘obvious alternative explanations,' which suggest lawful conduct rather than the unlawful conduct the plaintiff would ask the court to infer.” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 682). A court considering a Rule 12(b) motion is generally limited to the facts contained in the complaint and attached exhibits, including documents referred to in the complaint that are central to the claim. See Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009); Maxcess, Inc. v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 433 F.3d 1337, 1340 (11th Cir. 2005) (“[A] document outside the four corners of the complaint may still be considered if it is central to the plaintiff's claims and is undisputed in terms of authenticity.”) (citing Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1135 (11th Cir. 2002)).

         b. Motion for a More Definite Statement

         Under Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “a party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). Since courts have liberally construed the pleading standard under Rule 8(a), “a short and plain statement” will be enough, unless upon motion it is shown that the pleading “is so ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably” respond. Betancourt v. Marine Cargo Mgm't, Inc., 930 F.Supp. 606, 608 (S.D. Fla. 1996). “Most courts disfavor the use of Rule 12(e), ” and “motions for a more definite statement should not be used as a means of discovery.” Royal Shell Vacations, Inc. v. Scheyndel, 233 F.R.D 629, 630 (M.D. Fla. 2005).

         c. Pro Se Litigants

         Courts must liberally construe all pleadings submitted by a pro se litigant. See Jarzynka v. St. Thomas Univ. of Law, 310 F.Supp.2d 1256, 1264 (S.D. Fla. 2004). Notwithstanding such leniency, courts cannot serve as de facto counsel for a party and cannot rewrite a deficient pleading for the sake of sustaining an action. Id. (quoting GJR Investments, Inc. v. County of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998)). That is, “[t]he Court cannot simply ‘fill in the blanks' to infer a claim.” Grady v. Georgia Dep't of Correction, No. CV409-103, 2010 WL 322881, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 27, 2010). In determining whether a pro se litigant has stated a claim, “the court ought not penalize the litigant for linguistic imprecision in the more ...

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