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Sanders v. City of Winnfield

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division

October 18, 2017




          Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief can be Granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), filed by Defendant City of Winnfield ("the City"). (Doc. 8). Plaintiff Roderick Sanders ("Sanders") opposed the motion (Doc. ll). The City replied (Doc. 14). For the reasons below, it is recommended that the City's motion to dismiss (Doc. 8) be GRANTED IN PART, and that the remaining state law claims be REMANDED to state court.

         I. Background

         Sanders filed state and federal claims under Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 591 against the City in the Eighth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Winn, State of Louisiana. Sanders seeks relief for damages allegedly sustained as a result of flooding in the City of Winnfield, Winn Parish, Louisiana on April 30, 2017. (Doc. l). Sanders claims to represent a class of similarly-situated individuals in his neighborhood who sustained damages as a result of the City's actions. (Doc. l). Sanders states the legal elements of a class action under Louisiana law. (Doc. l).

         Sanders alleges the City, a Louisiana municipality, maintains custody and control of the drainage facilities within its jurisdictional limits. (Doc. l). Sanders owns and lives in property located at 107 Boon Street within the city limits of Winnfield. (Doc. l). Sanders alleges his property was damaged by flooding on or about April 30, 2017. (Doc. l). Sanders further alleges the damage was caused by the City's failure to properly design, construct, and maintain the drainage facility in and for Sanders's neighborhood. (Doc. l).

         Sanders claims that the City's drainage decisions and practices resulted in Sanders and others in his neighborhood receiving different and lower levels of municipal services and facilities. (Doc. l). Sanders also alleges his neighborhood is predominantly African American. According to Sanders, similarly-situated, predominantly white neighborhoods within the City's municipal limits received adequate flood and drainage protection to the detriment of Sanders's neighborhood. (Doc. l). Sanders argues the City systematically and intentionally discriminated against him and other property owners in his neighborhood. (Doc. l).

         Sanders seeks recovery for "property damage, loss of use, inconvenience, aggravation and distress, and health hazard." (Doc. l). Additionally, Sanders claims he is entitled to damages under the Equal Protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions, the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1)

         The City removed the case to federal court on the sole basis of federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Doc. l). The City now seeks dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 8). The City claims Sanders: (1) fails to meet the basic pleading requirements of Rule 8 by providing only a threadbare recitation of legal elements; (2) asserts an Equal Protection Claim alleging differential treatment arising from race-based animus without pleading facts sufficient to establish discriminatory intent or identifying a like comparator; (3) fails to identify any allegedly discriminatory action taken by a person acting under color of law; (4) asserts a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 without alleging any impairment of contractual rights; and (5) fails to identify a policy or custom sufficient to bring a Monell claim against a municipality. (Doc. 8).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Standards governing the 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         A court may grant a motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A pleading states a claim for relief when, inter alia, it contains a "short and plain statement...showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         To withstand 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) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twomblv. 550 U.S. 544 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when it contains sufficient factual content for the court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." IcL Plausibility does not equate to possibility or probability; it lies somewhere in between. IcL Plausibility simply calls for enough factual allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence to support the elements of the claim. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The court must view all well-pleaded facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Yumilicious Francise, L.L.C. v. Barrie, 819 F.3d 170, 174 (5th Cir. 2016).

         Although the court must accept as true all factual allegations set forth in the complaint, the same presumption does not extend to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading comprised of labels and conclusions, a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement will not stand. IcL Similarly, where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the Court to infer more than the mere possibility ...

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