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Santander Consumer USA, Inc. v. Homer Skelton Enterprises, Inc.

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

June 13, 2017

SANTANDER CONSUMER USA, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
HOMER SKELTON ENTERPRISES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          A. JOE FISH, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is the motion for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e) and the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) filed by the defendant (docket entry 4). For the reasons stated below, the motions are denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         This breach of contract action arises out of an automobile retail installment contract entered into between the plaintiff, Santander Consumer USA, Inc. (“Santander”), and the defendant, Homer Skelton Enterprises, Inc. (“Skelton”). See Plaintiff's Original Petition (“Original Petition”) ¶¶ 6-7 (docket entry 1-4). Santander is in the business of purchasing automobile retail installment sales contracts from automobile dealerships such as Skelton. Id. ¶ 6. Santander and Skelton entered into a non-recourse dealer retail agreement, which governs the assignment of contracts relating to various aspects of automobile sales from Skelton to Santander. Id. ¶ 7. Santander commenced this action alleging that Skelton breached the agreement. Id. at 3-6. Specifically, Santander alleged that Skelton failed to disclose damage to vehicles, misrepresented vehicle equipment options, failed to pay the agreed-upon amount in the event of customer cancellations, and failed to repurchase contracts where it misrepresented customers' income and credit information in contravention of the agreement.[1] See id.

         B. Procedural Background

         On January 31, 2017, Santander commenced this action in the 191st Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas. Notice of Removal (“Notice”) at 1 (docket entry 1). Skelton timely removed the case to federal court on February 27, 2017. Id. On March 6, 2017, Skelton filed the instant motion to dismiss.[2] Defendant's Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion to Dismiss (docket entry 4); Brief in Support of Defendant's Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion to Dismiss (“Defendant's Brief”) (docket entry 5). On March 31, 2017, Santander filed a timely response to which Skelton Enterprises filed a timely reply. Plaintiff's Objection and Response to Defendant's Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion to Dismiss (“Plaintiff's Response”) (docket entry 13); Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (“Defendant's Reply”) (docket entry 14). The motion is now ripe for decision.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Rule 12(e) Motion for a More Definite Statement

         When a party moves under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e) for a more definite statement, the court is afforded discretion to determine whether the complaint is such that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading. Mitchell v. E-Z Way Towers, Inc., 269 F.2d 126, 130 (5th Cir. 1959); Bruce v. Gore, No. 3:10-CV-2173-G, 2012 WL 987556, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 22, 2012) (Fish, J.). A more definite statement of a pleading is required when the pleading “is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) requires that a claimant give “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), a plaintiff's complaint is not required to set out detailed facts about the claim; rather, it need only notify the defendant as to the nature of the claim against it and the grounds upon which that claim rests. See Charles E. Beard, Inc. v. Cameronics Technology Corporation, 120 F.R.D. 40, 41 (E.D. Tex. 1988), aff'd sub. nom., Charles E. Beard, Inc. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 939 F.2d 280 (5th Cir. 1991). Here, the court concludes that the complaint is not so vague that Skelton cannot reasonably respond to it. Thus, Skelton's motion for a more definite statement is denied.

         B. 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 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” its claims “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” See id. at 679, 683.

         1. Whether the Court Should Consider the Document Attached to ...


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