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Garcia v. Algiers Charter Schools Association, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 9, 2018

LINDSAY GARCIA
v.
ALGIERS CHARTER SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION, INC. ET AL.

         SECTION “R” (3)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SARAH S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants move to dismiss several of plaintiff's claims.[1] For the following reasons, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Lindsay Garcia is a teacher at the William J. Fisher School in Algiers, Louisiana.[2] Plaintiff alleges that Stanley Green, the school's principal at the time, began sexually harassing her in August 2016.[3] Green allegedly made unwanted sexual overtures and comments in person, in notes he left on plaintiff's desk, in text messages, and during telephone calls.[4]Plaintiff asserts that she complained to her immediate supervisor and to the human resources department of Algiers Charter Schools Association (ACSA), but that no action was taken.[5] Green left the William J. Fisher School in early 2017.[6]

         Plaintiff sued ACSA, the William J. Fisher School, and Green on August 22, 2017.[7] She seeks damages under Title VII, and also asserts claims for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and assault and battery. ACSA now moves to dismiss plaintiff's assault and battery, IIED, and negligence claims, and Green moves to dismiss the assault and battery and IIED claims.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must plead enough facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “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. A court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 239, 244 (5th Cir. 2009). But the Court is not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A legally sufficient complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's claim is true. Id. It need not contain detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond labels, legal conclusions, or formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In other words, the face of the complaint must contain enough factual matter to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each element of the plaintiff's claim. Lormand, 565 F.3d at 257. If there are insufficient factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, or if it is apparent from the face of the complaint that there is an insuperable bar to relief, Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007); Carbe v. Lappin, 492 F.3d 325, 328 n.9 (5th Cir. 2007), the claim must be dismissed.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Assault and Battery

         Under Louisiana law, “[a]ssault is an attempt to commit a battery, or the intentional placing of another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” La. R.S. § 14:36; see also Rice v. ReliaStar Life Ins. Co., 770 F.3d 1122, 1135 (5th Cir. 2014) (defining assault as “the imminent threat of a battery” (citation omitted)). A battery, in turn, is defined as “harmful or offensive contact with a person, resulting from an act intended to cause the plaintiff to suffer such a contact.” Caudle v. Betts, 512 So.2d 389, 391 (La. 1987); see also La. R.S. § 14:33 (defining battery as “the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another”).

         Plaintiff fails to state a claim of either assault or battery. She does not allege any actual physical contact between her and Green. Plaintiff does allege that on September 12, 2016, Green told her-while she was walking a group of students to the restroom-that he wanted to “kidnap” or “snatch” someone, “subdue” them, and “keep them for a period of time.”[8] He also allegedly stated that he was “planning it out, ” but did not want to hurt or bruise the person.[9] According to plaintiff, she nervously laughed and told him that “he can't do that to kids, ” and Green responded that it was not a kid he wanted to kidnap and subdue.[10] Later that day, Green asked plaintiff if she would like to be kidnapped or subdued.[11] This incident allegedly occurred in a school hallway, with groups of children nearby.[12]

         Generally, “[m]ere words do not constitute an assault.” Groff v. Sw. Beverage Co., 997 So.2d 782, 787 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2008). But “a combination of threats, present ability to carry out the threats, and reasonable apprehension of harmful or offensive contact may suffice.” Id.; see also McVay v. Delchamps, Inc., 707 So.2d 90, 93 (La.App. 5 Cir. 1998) (“To constitute an assault, threats, coupled with the present ability to carry out the threats, are sufficient when one is placed in reasonable apprehension of receiving an injury.”). The threat of harmful or offensive contact, however, must be imminent. Rice, 770 F.3d at 1135; see also Groff, 997 So.2d at 787 (affirming summary judgment on assault claim partially because co-employee “had no weapon” and “did not move toward [plaintiff] in a manner that would indicate a threat of imminent harmful or offensive contact”).

         Even if Green's statements constituted a threat to kidnap or subdue plaintiff, plaintiff pleads no facts upon which the Court may infer that Green was able to kidnap her when he made those statements, or that the threatened kidnapping was imminent. That Green made the statements in public, with groups of children nearby, suggests otherwise. Therefore, plaintiff fails to state a claim of assault or battery against Green.

         Plaintiff's assault and battery claims against ACSA are predicated on its vicarious liability for Green's conduct. Because plaintiff fails to state a claim for either assault or battery against Green, her claims against ACSA must also fail. Moreover, plaintiff pleads no facts suggesting that any threatened kidnapping would be “within the ambit of [Green's] assigned duties and also in furtherance of [ACSA's] objective.” Baumeister v. Plunkett, 673 So.2d 994, 996 (La. 1996) (quoting Scott v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 415 So.2d 327, 329 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1982)). Thus, even if plaintiff stated a claim for assault against Green, her factual allegations would not support an assault claim against ACSA based on vicarious liability.

         B. Intentional Infliction of ...


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