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Sims v. Chatham-Sims

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

July 26, 2019

STEVEN SHEROD SIMS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROSALINE CHATHAM-SIMS, et al., Defendants.

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

          REBECCA RUTHERFORDUNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Garland Independent School District (“GISD”), Gradyne Brown, and Darren Hemphill's (collectively, the “School District Defendants”), Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (the “Motion”). Mot. (ECF No. 60). For the reasons stated below, the District Court should GRANT Defendants' Motion and DISMISS Plaintiff's claims against them.

         Background [1]

         Plaintiff filed his Original Complaint on November 22, 2017. Compl. (ECF No. 3). Less than a month later, he filed an Amended Complaint. Am. Compl. (ECF No. 6). Ten months after that, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint without leave of court, causing Defendants to file a motion for clarification regarding the state of the pleadings. Sec. Am. Compl. (ECF No. 38); see Order (ECF No. 53). As a result, the Court granted Plaintiff one final opportunity to amend his complaint and plead his case. Order (ECF No. 47). In response, Plaintiff filed his Third Amended Complaint, the live pleading in this case, on December 17, 2018. Third Am. Compl. (ECF No. 49).

         The School District Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Plaintiff asserts more than 23 claims against 42 Defendants in his Third Amended Complaint, and it is unclear exactly which claims he brings against the School District Defendants. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Darren Hemphill, together with several other named Defendants and “unknown Defendants, ” “conspired to intentional [sic] inflict emotional distress upon [Plaintiff] by mocking him, humiliating him, and depriving him of the right to seek happiness.” Third Am. Compl. 15. He further alleges that the School District Defendants, Justin Graham, and Joe Taguma, II conspired with the state of Texas to deprive him of “rights protected by the freedom of information act by denying his FOIA request” and to obstruct justice by withholding information from him regarding Defendant Rosaline Chatham-Sims in his family-court case. Id. 16, 27. However, Plaintiff claims that “Justin Graham” and “Joe Tanguma” are only false names that the School District Defendants used to withhold that information. Id. 34. Plaintiff also contends that Darren Hemphill “refused to investigate [Plaintiff's] claim of his wife, Defendant Rosaline Chatham-Sims who works for Garland Independent School District as a 6th grade science teacher, having workplace romance/sex” and encouraged her to continue the “extra marital affair.” Id. 17, 48. After Hemphill's refusal to investigate, Plaintiff states that he “escalated his complaint to Garland Independent School District primary grades supervisor Gradyne Brown.” Id. 17-18. Plaintiff also maintains that Defendant Hemphill participated with “Defendants” in securing “an application for emergency detention against [Plaintiff].” Id. 37.

         Plaintiff complains of “a list of continuing causes of action including, but not limited to, fraud, the intentional infliction of emotional distress, the deprivation of the rights of [Plaintiff], his family and friends, the torture and death of [Plaintiff's] mother from December 16-22, 2015, and obstruction of justice.” Id. 17. Among other relief, Plaintiff seeks a court order requiring “Defendant Garland Independent School District to address in its employee conduct policy the consequences of extra-marital affairs in the workplace.” Id. 84-85. Defendants' Motion is fully briefed and ripe for determination.

         Legal Standards and Analysis 12(b)(1)

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges a federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). “‘A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case.'” Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting Nowak v. Ironworkers Local 6 Pension Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1187 (2d Cir. 1996)). The Court “must presume that a suit lies outside [its] limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal forum.” Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). The party asserting jurisdiction must allege the jurisdictional basis “affirmatively and distinctly”; it cannot be “established argumentatively or by mere inference.” Ill. Cent. Gulf R. Co. v. Pargas, Inc., 706 F.2d 633, 636 & n.2 (5th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted); accord Getty Oil Corp. v. Ins. Co. of N.A., 841 F.2d 1254, 1259 (5th Cir. 1988).

         The Fifth Circuit recognizes two types of challenges to a federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction-“facial” attacks, which are based solely on the pleadings, and “factual” attacks, which are based on affidavits, testimony, and other evidentiary material. See Paterson v. Weinberger, 644 F.2d 521, 523 (5th Cir. May 1981); see also Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (“Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be found in any one of three instances: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.”) (citation omitted)). Whether the attack is facial or factual, however, the plaintiff seeking a federal forum “constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.” Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (citation omitted).

         When a defendant files a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss without evidentiary materials supporting it, the attack is facial, and the Court need only consider the sufficiency of the allegations in the plaintiff's complaint. Paterson, 644 F.2d at 523. If the defendant makes a factual challenge, to defeat it, “a plaintiff ‘must prove the existence of subject-matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence' and is ‘obliged to submit facts through some evidentiary method to sustain his burden of proof.'” Superior MRI Servs., Inc. v. All. Healthcare Servs., Inc., 778 F.3d 502, 504 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Irwin v. Veterans Admin., 874 F.2d 1092, 1096 (5th Cir. 1989), aff'd sub nom., Irwin v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89 (1990)).

         I.

         The Court should dismiss Plaintiff's state-law tort claims against Defendants Brown and Hemphill because it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims under the Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”). The TTCA's election-of-remedies provision requires plaintiffs to choose between suing a governmental unit or its employees. Bustos v. Martini Club Inc., 599 F.3d 458, 462 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.106). Suing either the governmental unit or its employee constitutes an “irrevocable election by the plaintiff” and “forever bars any suit or recovery by the plaintiff . . . regarding the same subject matter” against the other. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.106(a)-(b); see also Bustos, 599 F.3d at 462. But “[i]f a suit is filed . . . against both a governmental unit and any of its employees, the employees shall immediately be dismissed on the filing of a motion by the governmental unit.” Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.106(e). Because the Texas Supreme Court interprets § 101.106 to apply to state-law claims for negligence and intentional torts, “if a plaintiff brings virtually any state common law tort claim against both a governmental unit and its employees, § 101.106(e) will allow the employee defendants to be dismissed if the governmental unit so moves.” Bustos, 599 F.3d at 463 (citing Mission Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Garcia, 253 S.W.3d 653, 658 (Tex. 2008)).

         Here, Plaintiff appears to bring state-law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy, [2] “fraud by false personation, ” “obstructing justice, ”[3] and “abuse of powers.”[4] Third Am. Compl. 15-17, 34, 47-48, 72. In the School District Defendants' Motion, pursuant to the TTCA, GISD moves to dismiss Plaintiff's state-law tort claims against its employees Rosaline Chatham-Sims, Gradyne Brown, Darren Hemphill, and Justin Graham. Defs.' Br. 9 (ECF No. 61). Because GISD is a governmental unit under the TTCA, Plaintiff's state-law tort claims-including Plaintiff's claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy, and fraud, as well as any other claim asserted against Hemphill, Brown, Chatham-Sims, and Graham[5] that could be construed as a state-law tort claim-should be dismissed. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.001(3)(B) (“‘Governmental unit' means: a political subdivision of this state, including any city, county, school district . . . .”).

         II.

         The Court should also dismiss Plaintiff's state-law tort claims against GISD because GISD enjoys governmental immunity. Governmental immunity exists to protect the state's “political subdivisions from lawsuits and liability for money damages.” Mission, 253 S.W.3d at 655 (citing Reata Constr. Corp. v. City of Dallas, 197 S.W.3d 371, 374 (Tex. 2006)). Accordingly, “‘no State can be sued in her own courts without her consent, and then only in the manner indicated by that consent.'” Id. (quoting Hosner v. DeYoung, 1 Tex. 764, 769 (1847)). The TTCA “generally waives governmental immunity to the extent that liability arises from the ‘use of a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment' or from ‘a condition or use of tangible personal or real property.'” Id. at 655-56 (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.021). But, “[f]or school districts, the Act's waiver is even narrower, encompassing only tort claims involving the use or operation of motor vehicles.” Id. at 656 (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.051).

         Here, Plaintiff asserts intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy, and “fraud by false personation” claims against GISD like the other School District Defendants. Third Am. Compl. 17, 34, 72. Because Plaintiff's claims do not arise out of conduct involving the use or operation of motor vehicles, GISD is immune from suit. Accordingly, the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's state-law tort claims-including his intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy, and ...


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