United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
PEOPLE'S WORKSHOP, INC. ET AL.
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY, ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
W. deGRAVELLES, JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(5) and 12(b)(2) and Alternative Rule 12(e) Motion for a
More Definite Statement filed on behalf of the East Feliciana
Parish Police Jury; Police Jury members Glen Kent, Chris
Hall, Keith Mills, Dwight Hill, and Sean Smith; Jody Moreau;
and Jim Parker (“Defendants”). (“Motion to
Dismiss, ” Doc. 15). Plaintiffs People's Workshop,
Inc. and the individual plaintiffs (“Plaintiffs”)
have filed an Opposition. (Doc. 21). Defendants have filed a
Reply in further support of the Motion. (Doc. 25).
have also filed a Motion to Strike an affidavit offered in
support of the Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss.
(“Motion to Strike, ” Doc. 24). Plaintiffs have
filed an Opposition to the Motion to Strike. (Doc. 35).
reasons discussed below, the Motion to Strike is denied as
moot, and the Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied
action is brought by People's Workshop and several
individuals, purportedly on their own behalf and on behalf of
a class of people similarly situated. (Doc. 1 at 6-12). In
August 2016, Louisiana experienced historic flooding, causing
the President to declare a state of emergency. (Id.
at 6). Plaintiffs allege that, upon the declaration of
emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(“FEMA”) was required to provide people whose
homes were rendered uninhabitable or inaccessible with
various forms of disaster assistance on a non-discriminatory
basis. (Id. at 14). The Complaint claims generally
that a series of delays and misrepresentations by FEMA
representatives, both federal and local, have failed to
provide adequate flood relief to Plaintiffs. (Id. at
14-15). Plaintiffs maintain that these representatives have,
inter alia, failed to provide temporary housing,
failed to provide local group sites for FEMA trailers,
intentionally provided Governor Edwards with erroneous
information, and failed to properly assess damages.
(Id. at 2-3). Plaintiffs contend that delays,
misrepresentations, and denials of temporary housing
assistance have resulted in irreparable harm and injury.
(Id. at 3).
present four causes of action. The first is for failure to
provide temporary housing assistance in violation of the
Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the
“Stafford Act”). (Id. at 18-19). The
second is for failing to provide temporary housing assistance
in violation of due process because the delays and
“bureaucratic red tape” that flood victims have
been subject to amounts to a deprivation of a property
interest without notice of due process. (Id. at
third is for denials and delays of temporary housing
assistance in violation of the nondiscrimination provisions
of the Stafford Act. (Id.). In connection with this
claim, Plaintiffs allege that the defendants have delayed
providing temporary housing to eligible, low-income disaster
victims; failed to provide or wrongfully denied housing
assistance to eligible low-income victims; failed to provide
“continuing rental assistance” to low-income
disaster victims; and otherwise failed to administer this
program in a manner that does not discriminate against
low-income victims. (Id. at 21-22). The final cause
of action is for violating due process and Title VI of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that Defendants
discriminated against Plaintiffs “by securing property
sites in another Parish instead of the property located in
Clinton, Louisiana . . . when [Moreau] . . . learned that the
land owners [were] African Americans.” (Id. at
Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(5) allows
a party to move to dismiss for insufficient service of
process. The party making service has the burden of
demonstrating its validity when an objection to service is
made. Holly v. Metro. Transit Authority, 213
Fed.Appx. 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Carimi v. Royal
Carribean Cruise Line, Inc., 959 F.2d 1344, 1346 (5th
Cir. 1992)). The district court has broad discretion in
determining whether to dismiss an action for ineffective
service of process. George v. U.S. Dept. of Labor,
Occupational Safety & Health Admin., 788 F.2d 1115,
1116 (5th Cir. 1986).
12(b)(2) allows a party to move to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction. “Where a defendant challenges
personal jurisdiction, the party seeking to invoke the power
of the court bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction
exists.” Luv N'Care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix,
Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 469 (5th Cir. 2006) (citing
Wyatt v. Laplan, 686 F.2d 276, 280 (5th Cir. 1982)).
When a court rules on a motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction without holding an evidentiary hearing,
the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of
personal jurisdiction. Johnston v. Multidata Systems
Intern. Corp., 523 F.3d 602, 609 (5th Cir. 2008)
(quoting Buillion v. Gillepsie, 895 F.2d 213, 217
(5th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted)). “Moreover, on a
motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, uncontroverted
allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as
true, and conflicts between the facts contained in the
parties' affidavits must be resolved in the
plaintiff's favor for purposes of determining whether a
prima facie case for personal jurisdiction exists.”
Id. (“Proof by preponderance of the evidence
is not required.”). However, in assessing whether the
plaintiff has presented a prima facie case of personal
jurisdiction, the court “will not ‘credit
conclusory allegations, even if uncontroverted.'”
Sealed Appellant 1 v. Sealed Appellee 1, 625
Fed.Appx. 628, 631 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Panda
Brandywine Corp. v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 253 F.3d
865, 869 (5th Cir. 2001)). The court may consider
“affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, oral
testimony, or any combination of the recognized methods of
discovery.” Revell v. Lidov, 317 F.3d 467, 469
(5th Cir. 2002) (quoting Stuart v. Spademan, 772
F.2d 1185, 1192 (5th Cir. 1985)); cf. Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(d) (listing only motions under Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(c)
as requiring conversion to summary judgment if evaluated on
matters outside the pleadings).
service of process is an essential part of the procedure for
establishing and proving personal jurisdiction.
Carimi, 959 F.2d at 1349; see also Delta S.S.
Lines, Inc. v. Albano, 768 F.2d 728 (5th Cir. 1985). In
the absence of valid service of process, proceedings against
a party are void. Aetna Business Credit, Inc. v.
Universal Décor & Interior Design, Inc., 635
F.2d 434, 435 (5th Cir. 1981).
12(e) provides that “a party may move for a more
definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive
pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that
the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e); see also Beanel v. Freeport-McCoran,
Inc., 197 F.3d 161, 164 (5th Cir. 1999) (“If a
complaint is ambiguous or does not contain sufficient
information to allow a responsive pleading to be framed, the
proper remedy is a motion for a more definite statement under
Rule 12(e)”). The complaint must “give the
defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.” Swierkiewicz
v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). A Rule 12(e)
motion may be appropriate “if a pleading fails to
specify the allegations in a manner that provides sufficient
notice.” Id. at 514.
evaluating a motion for a more definite statement, the Court
must assess the complaint in light of the minimal pleading
requirements of Rule 8. Babcock & Wilcox Co. v.
McGriff, Seibels & Williams, Inc., 235 F.R.D. 632,
633 (E.D. La. 2006); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)
(requiring a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”). Given
the liberal pleading standard set forth in Rule 8(a), Rule
12(e) motions are disfavored. Adams v. Southland
Trace, 2012 WL 12986191, at *5 (M.D. La. Feb. 29, 2012).
The trial judge is given considerable discretion in deciding
whether to grant a Rule 12(e) motion. Id. Finally, a
Rule 12(e) motion is not a substitute for the discovery
process. Ford v. Cain, 2016 WL 447617, at *2 (M.D.
La. Feb. 4, 2016).
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Motion to Dismiss first argues that dismissal is appropriate
for insufficient service of process and lack of personal
jurisdiction. (Doc. 15-1 at 2-6). Defendants contend that
Plaintiffs did not properly effect service within the 90 days
allowed by law, have in fact never properly served the
Complaint, and have not established “good cause”
for their failure to serve. (Id. at 3).
Preliminarily, according to Defendants, Plaintiffs'
February 24, 2017 Complaint was due to be ...