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Jones v. Tubal-Cain Hydraulic Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

March 30, 2017

SENECA JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
TUBAL-CAIN HYDRAULIC SOLUTIONS, INC., et al, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MELINDA HARMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 24), as well as Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 27) and Defendants' Reply (Doc. 28). Upon review and consideration of the Motion, Response, Reply, relevant legal authority, and for the reasons explained below, the Court finds that Defendants' Motion should be denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Seneca Jones, who is African-American, worked as a hydraulic technician for Tubal-Cain Hydraulic Solutions (“Defendant TCHS”) beginning on February 6, 2012. Doc. 24 at 8. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against him because of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, and 42 U.S.C. §1981. Doc. 27 at 2. Plaintiff asserts that during his employment he was subjected to discriminatory and racially motivated comments and threatening conduct, and harassed by management and co-workers on a regular basis. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC on July 17, 2012, naming Defendant TCHS as respondent. Doc. 24 at 8. Plaintiff amended his charge on August 22, 2013, and received his right-to-sue letter on February 19, 2016. Plaintiff then filed suit on May 6, 2016. Id. at 8-9.

         Plaintiff sues nine defendants: Defendant TCHS, Tubal-Cain Industries, Inc.; Tubal-Cain Holdings, Inc.; Tubal-Cain Marine Services, Inc.; Tubal-Cain Industrial Services, Inc.; Tubal-Cain Gas Free Services, Inc.; Tubal-Cain Rentals, Inc.; Tubal-Cain Marine Services-Devall Fleet, Inc.; and Tubal-Cain Gas Free Services-Devall Fleet, Inc. (all Defendants except Defendant TCHS are referred to as the “Non-TCHS Defendants”). Defendants now move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Id. at 1.

         In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants assert that, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the Non-TCHS Defendants are entitled to dismissal because: (1) Plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies as to these Defendants because they were not named as respondents in Plaintiff's Charge of Discrimination or Amended Charge of Discrimination, and (2) Plaintiff did not timely file his Amended Charge of Discrimination. Id. at 10-15. Defendants further assert that, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), Defendants are not subject to liability on two grounds: (1) Plaintiff did not plead sufficient facts to show that the Non-TCHS Defendants were joint employers or an integrated enterprise with Defendant TCHS, and (2) as to all Defendants, Plaintiff's claims under Section 1981 are barred by the statute of limitations. Id. at 10-16.

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) governs challenges to a court's subject-matter jurisdiction. “A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case.” Krim v. pcOrder.com, Inc., 402 F.3d 489, 494 (5th Cir. 2005) (quoting Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998)). “Courts may dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on any one of three bases: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Spotts v. United States, 613 F.3d 559, 565-66 (5th Cir. 2010). “The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction. Accordingly, the plaintiff constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion can mount either a facial or factual challenge. See, e.g., Paterson v. Weinberger, 644 F.2d 521, 523 (5th Cir. 1981). When a party files a Rule 12(b)(1) motion without including evidence, the challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction is facial. Id. If, however, defendant supports its motion with affidavits, testimony, or other evidentiary materials, then the attack is “factual, ” and the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. When examining a factual challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), the district court has substantial authority “to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case.” Garcia v. Copenhaver, Bell & Assocs., 104 F.3d 1256, 1261 (11th Cir. 1997). See also Clark v. Tarrant Cnty., 798 F.2d 736, 741 (5th Cir. 1986). “When a party challenges the allegations supporting subject-matter jurisdiction, the court has wide discretion to allow affidavits, other documents, and a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts.” Walsh v. Aries Freight Sys., L.P., 2007 WL 3001650, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 12, 2007). In such instances, a court's reference to evidence outside the pleadings does not convert the motion to dismiss to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. Id. Accordingly, the court may consider matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, to resolve a factual challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction, without converting the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. Id. See also Garcia, 104 F.3d at 1261.

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the filing of a motion to dismiss a case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of its entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (internal quotations omitted). A plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to state a claim that is “plausible” on its face. Id. at 569. A claim is facially plausible when a “plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). However, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted.” Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales v. Avondale Shipyards, 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982). Therefore, the complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff, all reasonable inferences are to be drawn in favor of the plaintiff's claims, and all factual allegations pleaded in the complaint must be taken as true. Overton v. JMPC Chase Bank, 2010 WL 1141417 (S.D. Tex. March 20, 2010) (citing Campbell v. Wells Fargo Bank, 781 F.2d 440, 442 (5th Cir. 1986). It is the court's responsibility to determine whether the plaintiff has stated a legally cognizable claim that is plausible, not to evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success. Id. However, conclusory allegations and unwarranted factual deductions will not suffice to avoid a motion to dismiss. United States ex rel. Willard v. Humana Health Plan of Tex., Inc., 336 F.3d 375, 379 (5th Cir. 2003). “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.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal quotations omitted).

         “When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with other Rule 12 motions, the court should consider the Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack on the merits.” Morris v. Livingston, 739 F.3d 740, 745 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Randall D. Wolcott, M.D., P.A. v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d 757, 762 (5th Cir. 2011)). Further, if a complaint could be dismissed for both lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, “the court should dismiss only on the jurisdictional ground under Rule 12(b)(1), without reaching the question of failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).” Crenshaw-Logal v. City of Abilene, 436 F. App'x 306, 308 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hitt v. City of Pasadena, 561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977)). This approach “prevents [a] court[] without jurisdiction ‘from prematurely dismissing a case with prejudice.'” Id. (quoting Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161).

         III. Discussion

         A. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of ...


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