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Royale v. Knightvest Management LLC

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

February 28, 2018

R. ROYALE, Plaintiff,
v.
KNIGHTVEST MANAGEMENT, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          RENEE HARRIS TOLIVER JUDGE

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and District Judge Fitzwater's orders of reference, Doc. 50 & Doc. 38, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 22) for Failure to State a Claim, Doc. 48, and Defendant Knightvest Management, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 35, are each before the Court for findings of fact and a recommended disposition. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion to dismiss should be GRANTED IN PART and Plaintiff's federal claims DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claim, which should be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. And, as acceptance of this recommendation would dispose of all of Plaintiff's claims pending before this Court, Defendant Knightvest Management, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment should be TERMINATED AS MOOT.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se plaintiff R. Royale filed this civil action arising from a confrontation with an off-duty City of Dallas police officer and Defendant Vicki Hibdon (“Hibdon”), manager of an apartment complex owned by Defendant Knightvest Management, LLC, where Plaintiff resided (“the Incident”). Doc. 22 at 2. Plaintiff alleges that, in December 2015, while at the apartment complex, he was “viciously harassed, verbally threatened, and . . . provoked violently into a physical confrontation” by the complex's “courtesy officer, ” Taylor Smith, an off-duty City of Dallas police officer. Doc. 22 at 3. Plaintiff further alleges that Hibdon, “encouraged and join[ed]” Officer Smith, and that both Officer Smith and Hibdon conspired to “pester[ ] and violate[ ]” his Constitutional rights. Doc. 22 at 3. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was “detained” when Officer Smith questioned him in the complex's parking lot, and again for more than ten minutes in Hibdon's office with the door closed. Doc. 22 at 16-17. Plaintiff further alleges that, during this time, Hibdon and Officer Smith “intimidated and threatened to handcuff and arrest him without no [sic] criminal charges.” Doc. 22 at 8, 17. The confrontation ended when Plaintiff “stormed out” of the office. Doc. 22 at 8. Two days later, Hibdon allegedly placed a notice on Plaintiff's apartment door stating that Plaintiff's lease had been terminated and demanding that he vacate the premises. Doc. 22 at 3. The purported lease termination and demand to vacate were retracted three weeks later. Doc. 22 at 4.

         On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed this civil action, and on July 18, 2017, he filed his second amended complaint (the operative complaint) against Knightvest Management, LLC; Knightvest Holdings, LLC; Foxmoor Apartments, LLC; Knightvest, LLC; Knightvest Capital, LLC; Knightvest Fairways; Knightvest PB, LLC; K. C. Kronbach; and Vicki Hibdon (collectively “Defendants”).[1] Doc. 22. In it, Plaintiff asserts civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and a state law tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Doc. 22, passim. A few days later, on July 26, 2017, Defendant Knightfest Management LLC filed its motion for summary judgment. Doc. 35. And, on August 9, 2017, Defendants jointly filed the instant motion, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), seeking dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim. Doc. 48. Plaintiff filed a response to the motion for summary judgment, Doc. 51 & Doc. 52, but did not file a response to Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         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). In making this determination, the court accepts “all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, the court cannot “accept as true conclusory allegations or unwarranted deductions of fact.” Collins, 224 F.3d at 498 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). In sum, a plaintiff's 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).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations and footnote omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's section 1983 claims on the grounds that Plaintiff fails to allege facts from which it can be inferred that: (1) Defendants are state actors; (2) there was personal involvement of the Knightvest Defendants and Kronbach in the events at issue; (3) a conspiracy existed between Hibdon and Officer Smith; and (4) there was a constitutional violation. Doc. 49 at 3-5.

         Section 1983 “provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of law, of a citizen's rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States[.]” Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts that demonstrate he has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and that the defendant was acting under color of state law. See Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155 (1978). “[T]he under-color-of-state-law element of § 1983 excludes from its reach merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory or wrongful.” Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). However, private acts may incur section 1983 liability, if the individual “is a willing participant in joint action with the state or its agents.” Hale v. Harney, 786 F.2d 688, 690 (5th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted). To allege such joint action, the plaintiff must set forth specific facts that tend to show an agreement among the defendants to commit an illegal act. Arsenaux v. Roberts, 726 F.2d 1022, 1024 (5th Cir. 1982). Conclusory allegations of a conspiracy are insufficient. See Id. (“[M]ore than a blanket of accusation is necessary to support a § 1983 claim.”).

         Finally, “[p]ersonal involvement is an essential element of a civil rights cause of action.” Thompson v. Steele, 709 F.2d 381, 382 (5th Cir. 1983) (citation omitted). Thus, section 1983 excludes from its reach vicarious liability based on assertions that a defendant is responsibility for another's actions. Monell v. New York Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 693 (1978).

         1. Plaintiff has failed to state a viable section 1983 claim against the Knightvest Defendants and Defendant Kronbach.

         Here, Plaintiff has not alleged facts to establish that the Knightvest Defendants and Kronbach are state actors, or that they conspired with state actors to commit illegal acts. Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 50; Arsenaux, 726 F.2d at 1024. Moreover, Plaintiff's second amended complaint is devoid of any discussion of the Knightvest Defendants' or Kronbach's personal involvement in the Incident. Thompson, 709 F.2d at 382. Indeed, the descriptions in the complaint of each Defendant's role conclusively establishes that the Knightvest Defendants and Kronbach are ...


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