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Thompson v. Naval Academy Athletic Association

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

August 1, 2013

ROBERT D. THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NAVAL ACADEMY ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION; CHESTER S. GLADCHUK, JR., PRESIDENT OF THE NAVAL ACADEMY ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, individually and in his official capacity; & VICE ADMIRAL MICHAEL H. MILLER, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert D. Thompson (“Plaintiff” or “Thompson”), initially pro se, [1] brought this action against Defendants Naval Academy Athletic Association (“Athletic Association”); Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy (“Vice Admiral Miller”), individually and in his official capacity; and Chester S. Gladchuk, Jr., President of the Naval Academy Athletic Association (“President Gladchuk”), individually and in his official capacity. See Compl. ¶¶ 6-8, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants “[b]reached Plaintiff’s contract to provide services to [the United States Naval Academy and the Athletic Association], and did so, inter alia, in violation of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law [(“MWPCL”)].” Id. ¶ 36. He further alleges that Defendants “[b]reached the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing.”[2] Id. Currently pending before this Court is the United States’ Motion to Substitute itself for Defendant Vice Admiral Miller and to Dismiss all claims against both parties (ECF No. 10). Also pending are Defendants Athletic Association and President Gladchuk’s Motion to Dismiss all claims against them, except for the breach of contract claim against the Athletic Association (ECF No. 11), and Plaintiff’s Motion to File a Surreply to the Motion for Partial Dismissal (ECF No. 25).

The parties’ submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons stated below, the United States’ Motion to Dismiss and Substitute (ECF No. 10) is GRANTED; the Motion for Partial Dismissal (ECF No. 11) filed by Defendants Naval Academy Athletic Association and President Chester S. Gladchuk, Jr. is GRANTED; and Plaintiff Robert D. Thompson’s Motion to File a Surreply (ECF No. 25) is DENIED. Accordingly, all claims against Defendants United States and Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, are DISMISSED. Additionally, all claims against President Chester S. Gladchuk, Jr. are DISMISSED, and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law claim and claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing against Defendant Naval Academy Athletic Association are DISMISSED. Plaintiff Robert D. Thompson’s single claim for breach of contract against Defendant Naval Academy Athletic Association remains pending.

BACKGROUND

In ruling on the Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss, this Court accepts as true the facts alleged in Plaintiff’s Complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Moreover, a pro se litigant’s complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that the litigant can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). From 1971 through 2005, Plaintiff Robert D. Thompson (“Plaintiff” or “Thompson”) worked in the fields of sports marketing, event management, and strategic planning. See Compl. ¶ 12, ECF No. 1. He alleges that on May 1, 2006, he entered into a contract with the United States Naval Academy (“Naval Academy”) and the Naval Academy Athletic Association (“Athletic Association”) to provide marketing services to both parties. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff immediately relocated his family from New Jersey to Annapolis, Maryland. Id. ¶ 15. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that on October 30, 2008, the Naval Academy and Athletic Association extended Plaintiff’s contract by three years, to October 31, 2011. Id. ¶ 16. Two years later, on October 29, 2010, they extended his contract to October 31, 2013, agreeing that “either party shall have the right to terminate [the] Agreement for any reason upon one hundred eighty (180) days written notice to the other.” See Contract ¶ VIII, ECF No. 11-2.

According to Plaintiff, recitals in the October 2008 extension specifically acknowledged his role in securing unprecedented sponsorship of the Army-Navy football game. See Complaint ¶ 18, ECF No. 1. “In return for the additional years of service conveyed in the [s]econd [e]xtension, and the opportunity to further extend the agreement in the final year of the [s]econd [e]xtension, ” Plaintiff alleges that he “voluntarily waived significant financial bonuses that otherwise accrued to him under the terms of the [c]ontract and [f]irst [e]xtension.” Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff claims that he worked diligently to fulfill his contractual obligations from May 2006 through May 2011, until Defendant Chester S. Gladchuk, Jr., President of the Athletic Association, (“President Gladchuk”) “began to falsely suggest that Thompson’s services were no longer needed.” Id. ¶¶ 21-22. Consequently, he claims that an agent of the Defendants informed him on May 20, 2011 that the second extension was terminated and that he should not perform any further services under the contract. Id. ¶ 24.

According to Plaintiff, the Navy’s Office of General Counsel reviewed the second extension soon after his termination and granted Defendants the authority to settle the second extension, which would have included a severance package and bonuses. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. However, Defendant President Gladchuk, with clear disregard for Plaintiff’s contractual rights, “refused to pay an invoice for Plaintiff’s monthly retainer for May of 2011, and refused to pay subsequent monthly invoices thereafter.” Id. ¶ 26. Also, without notifying Plaintiff, Defendants forwarded his contract to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, involving him in a criminal investigation. Id. ¶ 30. Furthermore, since Plaintiff was notified of his termination in May 2011, Defendants have dismissed his “every attempt or request to resolve this matter, ” demonstrating a consistent “callous and malicious indifference to the pain and suffering they have imposed on [Plaintiff] Thompson and his family.” Id. ¶ 31.

On September 7, 2012, Plaintiff filed pro se the present Complaint (ECF No. 1) in this Court. Affording the Complaint a liberal construction, it alleges breach of contract, violation of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by Defendants Athletic Association; Vice Admiral Miller, individually and in his official capacity; and President Gladchuk, individually and in his official capacity. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages in the amount of $1, 642, 500, nominal damages in the amount of $375, 000, owing in part to expenses resulting from the forced sale of his home, and punitive damages in the amount of $3, 150, 000. On November 20, 2012, the United States filed a Motion to Substitute itself for Defendant Vice Admiral Miller and to Dismiss the Complaint (ECF No. 10), and Defendants Athletic Association and President Gladchuk filed a Motion to Dismiss all claims against them, except for the breach of contract claim against Athletic Association (ECF No. 11). On January 22, 2013 Plaintiff filed a Motion to File a Surreply to the Motion for Partial Dismissal (ECF No. 25). These three Motions are pending before this Court and have been fully briefed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges a court’s authority to hear the matter brought by a complaint. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). This challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed either as a facial challenge, asserting that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting “that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true.” Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). A plaintiff carries the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999). With respect to a facial challenge, a court will grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction “where a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction.” Davis, 367 F.Supp.2d at 799. Where the challenge is factual, “the district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject matter jurisdiction.” Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. “[T]he court may look beyond the pleadings and ‘the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.’ ” Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003) (citation omitted). The court “may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Velasco v. Gov’t of Indon., 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004); see also Sharafeldin v. Md. Dept. of Pub. Safety & Corr. Servs., 94 F.Supp.2d 680, 684-85 (D. Md. 2000).

II. Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Documents filed pro se are “liberally construed” and are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; therefore, “the purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). In ruling on such a motion, this Court is guided by the Supreme Court’s instructions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) which “require complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required.” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court’s Twombly decision articulated “[t]wo working principles” courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Id. (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to plead a claim.) Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 679. Under a plausibility standard, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

ANALYSIS

I. The United States’ Motion to Dismiss and ...


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