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Senthilnathan v. AT&T Inc

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

January 3, 2018

RAJAMANI SENTHILNATHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
AT&T, INC., Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          RENEE HARRIS TOLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pursuant to the District Judge's Order of Reference, Doc. 9, this cause is before the undersigned for a recommendation on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Doc. 7. For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss should be GRANTED.

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed his complaint in May 2017, alleging that Defendant, his former employer, violated the civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) during the course of his employment. Doc. 3 at 3, 5-6. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that he initially worked for Defendant in a contract position as a video-encoder. Doc. 3 at 5. He was hired as a full-time employee as part of Defendant's networking group, which necessitated a move from Dallas to Austin. Doc. 3 at 5. In his rambling and disjointed complaint, Plaintiff alleges that during and after his employment, (1) Defendant's hiring manager and “his coterie” had him purchase a home that was not in a “prime location” and sent someone to break into the house; (2) his manager, Michael Raftelis, caused “shoulder-instability” in Plaintiff's child in early 2012, and Raftelis and his coterie used electronic means to lead physicians to not correctly diagnose the child's scoliosis; (3) Raftelis watched all of Plaintiff's and his families' activities and spread rumors regarding Plaintiff's skills; (4) Raftelis used another person to “deny access to home- reference lab, where 3rd party devices were tested”; and (5) Defendant's hiring manager is “unable to verify [Plaintiff's] employment, ” and Plaintiff thus assumes he “was framed after [he] resigned.” Doc. 3 at 5. Plaintiff seeks over $11 million in damages, health care coverage for his family for life, and the redaction of false statements from the Federal Register about Defendant's settlement of an anti-trust suit filed by the Department of Justice in relation to Defendant's acquisition of DirecTV. Doc. 3 at 6. Defendant now moves to dismiss the case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. 7.

         B. Applicable Law

         A plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6) when the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A plaintiff's complaint should “contain either direct allegations on every material point necessary to sustain a recovery . . . or contain allegations from which an inference fairly may be drawn that evidence on these material points will be introduced at trial.” Campbell v. City of San Antonio, 43 F.3d 973, 975 (5th Cir. 1995) (quotation omitted).

         Civil RICO claims under 18 U.S.C. § 1962 must allege the existence of “(1) a person who engages in (2) a pattern of racketeering activity, (3) connected to the acquisition, establishment, conduct, or control of an enterprise.” Abraham v. Singh, 480 F.3d 351, 355 (5th Cir. 2007) (quotation omitted). To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a civil RICO plaintiff must plead specific facts, not mere conclusory allegations, which establish the existence of an enterprise. Elliott v. Foufas, 867 F.2d 877, 881 (5th Cir. 1989). The enterprise must be an entity “separate and apart from the pattern of activity in which it engages.” Id. (citation omitted). In other words, the “person” and the “enterprise” at issue must be distinct. See Cedric Kushner Promotions, Ltd. v. King, 533 U.S. 158, 162 (2001). Accordingly, the “enterprise is not a pattern of racketeering activity, but must exist separate and apart from the pattern of racketeering activity in which it engages.” Whelan v. Winchester Prod. Co., 319 F.3d 225, 229 (5th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). Employees who, in the course of their employment, associate to commit RICO predicate acts do not form a distinct RICO “enterprise.” Id. A “pattern of racketeering activity” consists of two or more predicate criminal acts that are (1) related and (2) amount to or pose a threat of continued criminal activity. Abraham, 480 F.3d at 355. The predicate acts can be either state or federal crimes. St. Germain v. Howard, 556 F.3d 261, 263 (5th Cir. 2009) (per curiam).

         To establish injury, the plaintiff must allege financial harm to his business or property. See In re Taxable Mun. Bond Sec. Litig., 51 F.3d 518, 522-23 (5th Cir. 1995). This must be “a conclusive financial loss” of the plaintiff's own money. Id. at 523. To sufficiently allege causation in relation to his damages, the plaintiff must show that a RICO predicate offense was the but-for and proximate cause of his claimed injuries. Hemi Grp., LLC v. City of New York, N.Y., 559 U.S. 1, 9 (2010). Finally, apart from the substantive elements of a RICO claim, a plaintiff must bring such a claim within four years of the date he discovers the injury giving rise to his claim. Rotella v. Wood, 528 U.S. 549, 553-54 (2000).

         C. Parties' Arguments

         Defendant argues, inter alia, that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) because, as an initial matter, Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged either injury or the requisite causation necessary to maintain standing to bring a RICO claim. Doc. 8 at 11-13. Defendant further argues that some of the events Plaintiff alleges in his complaint occurred outside RICO's four-year statute of limitations, namely his being hired to a full-time position by Defendant in 2010 and the alleged injuries to Plaintiff's child in 2012. Doc. 8 at 13. Finally, Defendant contends that Plaintiff failed to adequately allege a distinct RICO participant and enterprise or a pattern of racketeering activity. Doc. 8 at 13-14.

         Plaintiff responds that, since leaving his job with Defendant, (1) he has been unable to obtain employment or gain admission to a Ph.D. program; (2) his college transcript has been tampered with; and (3) only a company such as Defendant could “create so much havoc” in his life. Doc. 11 at 1. He argues that he cannot identify all persons who “colluded” against him because Defendant has not given him his personnel file. Doc. 11 at 2. Additionally, Plaintiff contends that he did not receive a copy of Defendant's motion, which he alleges creates circumstantial evidence of mail delay or theft. Doc. 11 at 2.

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff's complaint does not plead specific facts to state a civil RICO claim. His complaint stems from allegations against Defendant's employees who he contends committed various acts against him, but such acts do not form a distinct RICO “enterprise.” Whelan, 319 F.3d at 229. Additionally, Plaintiff does not adequately specify two or more criminal acts that are (1) related and (2) amount to or pose a threat of continued criminal activity. Abraham, 480 F.3d at 355. In short, Plaintiff has pled only conclusory allegations, which cannot establish the existence of an enterprise. Elliott, 867 F.2d at 881.

         Neither has Plaintiff pled sufficient facts to establish that he suffered any concrete, conclusive injury to his business or property as a result of Defendant's actions. In re Taxable Mun. Bond Sec. Litig, 51 F.3d at 523. Indeed, Plaintiff acknowledges in his complaint that he “le[ft] the company on [his] own” when another employee told him that he “should look for a more engineering-oriented firm where [he could] grow [his] career better.” Doc. 3 at 5. Thus, he cannot plead that a RICO predicate offense was the but-for and proximate cause of any of his injuries. Hemi Grp., 559 U.S. at 9. ...


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