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Nguyen v. Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

March 20, 2015

THOA T. NGUYEN, ET AL
v.
LOUISIANA STATE BOARD OF COSMETOLOGY, ET AL

RULING AND ORDER

BRIAN A. JACKSON, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint and First Amended and Supplemental Complaint (Doc. 57) filed by Defendants Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology ("LSBC"), Steve Young, Frances Hand, Sherrie Stockstill, and Margaret Keller (collectively, "Defendants"). Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint (Doc. 1) and First Amended and Supplemental Complaint (Doc. 44) of Plaintiffs Thoa T. Nguyen, et al., pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6).

Plaintiffs oppose this Motion. (Doc. 60). The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367. Oral argument is not necessary. For reasons explained herein, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

On February 6, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint for Injunctive Relief and Damages (Doc. 1) against the instant Defendants, among other defendants, seeking injunctive relief and damages. With no opposition from any defendants and with leave from the Court, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended and Supplemental Complaint for Injunctive Relief and Damages (Doc. 44) on August 13, 2014.

Plaintiffs are nail salon owners in Louisiana who allege that they have been "harassed, intimidated, falsely imprisoned, and arbitrarily discriminated against or racially profiled based on their race, ethnicity or national origin by the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology and/or its agents." (Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 5).[1] Specifically, Plaintiffs assert claims of (1) racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment, and (2) false imprisonment. Plaintiffs pray for relief in the form of, inter alia, declaratory judgment that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' rights; an injunction enjoining Defendants from further discriminatory practices; an injunction ordering Defendants to reinstate Plaintiffs' business licenses; an injunction ordering Defendants to develop and institute a training program; and costs, damages, and punitive damages for Defendants' commission of false imprisonment.[2] (Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 33).

On January 14, 2015, with leave from the Court, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, [3] asserting: (1) Plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, (2) the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiffs' claims against the LSBC; (3) the individual defendants are entitled to immunity from Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion. ( See Doc. 60).[4]

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8, which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Claims of absolute and qualified immunity may also be raised in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Morales v. State of Louisiana, 74 F.3d 1236 (5th Cir. 1995).

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ( Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. "[F]acial plausibility" exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 ( Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

Hence, the complaint need not set out "detailed factual allegations, " but something "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" is required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. When conducting its inquiry, the Court must "accept[] all well-pleaded facts as true and view[] those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Bustos v. Martini Club Inc., 599 F.3d 458, 461 (5th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks omitted).

The Supreme Court has noted that Rule 12(b)(6) requires dismissal whenever a claim is based on an invalid legal theory:

Nothing in Rule 12(b)(6) confines its sweep to claims of law which are obviously insupportable. On the contrary, if as a matter of law it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations, ... a claim must be dismissed, without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory, or on a close but ultimately unavailing one.

Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989) (quotation marks and citations omitted). However, "[f]ederal pleading rules... do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted." Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 574 U.S. ___, ___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Failure to State a Claim

Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to state claims upon which relief may be granted against individual Defendants Young, Hand, Stockstill, and Keller.

1. Claims Against Steve Young and Frances Hand

The Complaint does not set forth any factual allegations that would form a basis for plausible claims against Defendants Young and Hand. The only reference to Young in the factual allegations details one of Plaintiffs' interactions with Young, wherein "a citation was still issued even after assurances by Mr. Young that [Plaintiff could] continue to prepare the store for business." (Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 11). There is no indication what allegedly unconstitutional action is attributable to Young. As to Hand, there is no reference whatsoever to Hand in the Complaint's factual allegations.

"In order to state a cause of action under section 1983, the plaintiff must identify defendants who were either personally involved in the constitutional violation or whose acts are causally connected to the constitutional violation alleged." Woods v. Edwards, 51 F.3d 577, 583 (5th Cir. 1995). Here, the Court recognizes that Young and Hand serve as LSBC's Executive Director and Chairman respectively, but merely the fact that these individuals hold leadership positions in LSBC is insufficient to state a plausible claim. "Under section 1983, supervisory officials are not liable for the actions of subordinates on any theory of vicarious liability." Roberts v. City of Shreveport, 397 F.3d 287, 291-92 (5th Cir. 2005) ( Thompson v. Upshur Cnty., 245 F.3d 447, 459 (5th Cir.2001)). Plaintiffs have failed to allege any act on the part of Young and Hand which contributed to the violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Similarly, Plaintiffs have not alleged any facts sufficient to support a claim against Young and Hand involving a state tort of false imprisonment.

Accordingly, with respect to Defendants Young and Hand, Defendants' 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is GRANTED, and all claims against Defendants ...


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