United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION
K. Johnson, United States Magistrate Judge
before the court is Defendant Texas A&M
University's ("TAMU") Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 57). The court
has considered the motion, the response, all. other relevant
filings, and the applicable law. For the reasons set forth
below, the court RECOMMENDS that TAMU's
motion be GRANTED.
filed this civil rights action on May 4, 2018, against TAMU,
Easterwood Airport Management, LLC, and four related
rental-car companies (collectively, "Avis") based
on the alleged discriminatory treatment and refusal to
fulfill a reservation for the rental of a
vehicle. Plaintiff has since amended the complaint
three times. By the third amendment, filed on November
5, 2018, Plaintiff had named two individuals to the original
list of defendants.
maintains a rental counter inside Easterwood Airport, which
is owned by TAMU. Regarding TAMU's ownership and
relationship to the other defendants, Plaintiff alleged:
Upon information and belief, [Easterwood] Airport is managed
under the direct supervision and control of TAMU by
Easterwood [Airport Management], LLC. Upon information and
belief, Avis leases retail space at the Airport from TAMU
and/or Easterwood [Airport Management], LLC. Upon information
and belief, Avis[, ] Easterwood [Airport Management], LLC[, ]
and TAMU all maintain control over the actions of the
security guards that work at [Easterwood] Airport. Upon
information and belief, Avis[, ] Easterwood [Airport
Management], LLC[, ] and TAMU control access to [Easterwood]
2016, Plaintiff, an African-American amputee, contracted with
Avis to rent a vehicle. When Plaintiff approached the Avis
counter to pick up the rented vehicle, an Avis employee
"immediately met [Plaintiff] with derision and
ridicule-especially making fun of [Plaintiff's] physical
handicap (i.e.[, ] her amputation)." The employee
refused to fulfill Plaintiff's reservation and ordered
Plaintiff to leave the premises.
"quietly and pleasantly persisted in requesting that
Avis provide her the vehicle." However, the employee
responded with wholly unacceptable and highly offensive
comments directed at Plaintiff based on her
race. The employee ultimately summoned a
security guard, who escorted Plaintiff from the
TAMU, Plaintiff brought claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1981 ("Section 1981") for discriminatory conduct
based solely on her race that impaired her right to contract
and pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section
1983") for depriving Plaintiff of her rights under
Section 1981 and the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments
to the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiff sought actual,
consequential, economic, and punitive damages, as well as
attorney's fees, costs, and pre- and post-judgment
November 9, 2018, TAMU filed the pending motion to dismiss
the third amended complaint, arguing that Plaintiff's
claims against it should be dismissed for: (1) lack of
subject matter jurisdiction because TAMU is entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity; and (2) failure to state; a
claim. The court begins and ends with
consideration of the former argument.
of an action is appropriate if the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(h)(3). The party
asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of overcoming the
presumption that the action falls outside the court's
limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) .
sovereign immunity pursuant to the Eleventh
Amendment"operates like a jurisdictional tar,
depriving federal courts of the power to adjudicate suits
against a state." Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. La. Pub.
Serv. Comm'n, 662 F.3d 336, 340 (5th Cir.
2011) (citing cases) . However, Eleventh Amendment immunity
is waivable, and, thus, "enacts a sovereign immunity
from suit, rather than a nonwaivable limit on [federal]
subject-matter jurisdiction." Id. (quoting
Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S.
261, 267 (1997)).
sovereign immunity bars suits for money damages brought in
federal court against a state by private citizens unless the
state specifically waives its immunity through unequivocal
consent to suit or Congress, in enacting a particular
statute, "clearly and validly abrogated the state's
sovereign immunity." U.S. Oil Recovery Site
Potentially Responsible Parties Grp. v. R.R. Comm'n of
Tex, [hereinafter, U.S. Oil Recovery Site
PRPG1, 898 F.3d 497, 501 (5th Cir.
2018)(quoting Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Serv. Ctr.,
307 F.3d 318, 326 (5th Cir. 2002)); see also
Will v. Mich. Deo't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66
(1989). "State sovereign immunity protects not only
states from suit in federal court, but also 'arms of the
state.'" U.S. Oil Recovery Site PRPG, 898
F.3d at 501 ...