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Randall v. L-3 Communications Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

May 18, 2017

VERA-JEAN RANDALL, Plaintiff,
v.
L-3 COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          A. JOE FISH Senior United States District Judge

         Before the court is the motion of the defendant, James Daniel Ivey (“Ivey”), to dismiss the claims of the plaintiff, Vera-Jean G. Randall (“Randall”), pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (docket entry 15). For the reasons stated below, Ivey's motion is denied. Furthermore, this case is remanded to the state court from which it was removed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 19, 2016, Randall commenced this action in the 191st Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas. Defendants' Notice of Removal (“Notice”) at 1 (docket entry 1). On October 26, 2016, the defendants removed the case to this court based on diversity jurisdiction. Id. at 3. Ivey filed a timely motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Ivey's First Motion to Dismiss (docket entry 4). The court granted Ivey's motion and granted Randall leave to amend her complaint. See Memorandum Opinion and Order of January 31, 2017 (docket entry 13). Randall filed an amended complaint on February 21, 2017. Randall's Amended Complaint (“Amended Complaint”) (docket entry 14). On March 6, 2017, Ivey filed the instant motion to dismiss. See Ivey's Second Motion to Dismiss (“Motion to Dismiss”) (docket entry 15). Randall then filed a timely response, which was followed by Ivey's timely reply. See Randall's Response (“Response”) (docket entry 18); Ivey's Reply (“Reply”) (docket entry 20). The motion is now ripe for decision.[1]

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standards

         1. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         “To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1182 (2008). “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 [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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks, brackets, and citation omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” In re Katrina Canal, 495 F.3d at 205 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Id. (quoting Martin K. Eby Construction Company, Inc. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The Supreme Court has prescribed a “two-pronged approach” to determine whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). The court must “begin by identifying the pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. The court should then assume the veracity of any well-pleaded allegations and “determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief.” Id. The plausibility principle does not convert the Rule 8(a)(2) notice pleading standard to a “probability requirement, ” but “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” will not defeat a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678. The plaintiff must “plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not ‘show[n]' -- ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The court, drawing on its judicial experience and common sense, must undertake the “context-specific task” of determining whether the plaintiff's allegations “nudge” [his or her] claims against the defendant “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” See id. at 679, 683.

         2. Rule 12(b)(6) Dismissal Based on an Affirmative Defense

         “Although dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is ordinarily determined by whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, give rise to a cause of action, a claim may also be dismissed if a successful affirmative defense appears clearly on the face of the pleadings.” Clark v. Amoco Production Co., 794 F.2d 967, 970 (5th Cir. 1986); 5B Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice And Procedure § 1357 (3d ed. 2013) (“As the case law makes clear, the complaint also is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) when its allegations indicate the existence of an affirmative defense that will bar the award of any remedy.”). “In the usual case, this court is unable to grant dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) based on an affirmative defense because it rarely appears on the face of the complaint.” Simon v. Telsco Industries Employee Benefit Plan, No. 3:01-CV-1148-D, 2002 WL 628656, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 17, 2002) (Fitzwater, J.).

         B. Application

         1. Randall's Claim for Tortious Interference with Contractual and Business Relationships

         To recover for tortious interference with contract under Texas law, a plaintiff must prove: “(1) that a contract subject to interference exists; (2) that the alleged act of interference was willful and intentional; (3) that the willful and intentional act proximately caused damage; and (4) that actual damage or loss occurred.” Amigo Broadcasting, LP v. Spanish Broadcasting System, Inc., 521 F.3d 472, 489 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting ACS Investors, Inc. v. McLaughlin, 943 S.W.2d 426, 430 (Tex. 1997)). Ivey contends that Randall has failed to plead facts sufficient to establish the second and third elements of tortious interference.[2] Motion to Dismiss at 5. Accordingly, the court addresses those elements below.

         a. Willful and Intentional Interference

         To show willful and intentional interference, the defendant “must have ‘actual knowledge of the contract or business relation in question, or knowledge of facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe in the existence of the contract or business relationship.'” Amigo Broadcasting, LP, 521 F.3d at 490 (quoting Steinmetz & Associates, Inc. v. Crow, 700 S.W.2d 276, 277-78 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1985, writ ref'd n.r.e.)). Moreover, “a plaintiff is not required to prove intent to injure, but rather ‘only that the actor desires to cause the consequences of his act, or that he believes that the consequences are substantially certain to result from it.'” Id. (quoting Southwestern Bell Telephone Company v. John Carlo Texas, Inc., 843 S.W.2d 470, 472 (Tex. 1992)).

         Here, Randall alleged sufficient facts to support the willful and intentional interference prong. First, Randall alleged that Ivey had knowledge “that would lead a reasonable person to believe in the existence of the contract or business relationship.” Amigo Broadcasting, LP, 521 F.3d at 490. The complaint avers that Ivey had dealings with Randall at work in 2012, see Amended Complaint ¶¶ 1.4-1.7, “had come back into the picture of Plaintiff's work environment” in 2015, and “had Plaintiff removed as Information Assurance Manager” in May of 2015. Amended Complaint ¶ 1.8. If these allegations are accepted as true, it is plausible to infer that Ivey had “knowledge of [the] facts and circumstances” of Randall's ongoing employment relationship with L-3. Amigo Broadcasting, LP, 521 F.3d at 490.

         Moreover, the court can plausibly infer that Ivey willfully and intentionally interfered with Randall's employment relationship. At the time of Ivey's May 11, 2015 report, he knew that Randall's security credentials were critical to her ability to work and would likely be revoked upon his submission of a complaint. See generally Amended Complaint. This is evidenced by the fact that Randall and Ivey had been through this scenario once before in 2012. During the first incident, as a result of Randall rebuffing multiple sexual propositions from Ivey, see Amended Complaint ¶¶ 1.4-1.6, Ivey falsely reported to L-3 that Randall was a “Lockheed Martin Spy.” Id. Consequently, Randall's work accounts and access to L-3's system were disabled -- leaving Randall unable to work. See id. Given the ramifications that Randall faced from Ivey's prior false report, the court can plausibly infer that Ivey knew that his second false report, id. ¶ 1.8, would cause Randall to face similar -- if not more severe -- consequences.

         In addition to the previous incident, Ivey, given his position with the USAF, likely knew that making a false report implicating national security concerns would lead to severe consequences for Randall. Plausible consequences certainly include the suspension of a security clearance and the termination of employment. It is a far stretch to infer that Ivey was not, at a minimum, substantially certain that Randall would suffer from these serious consequences -- just as she had suffered before. Therefore, the court concludes that Ivey could have ...


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