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Ferrell v. Quality Suites Hotel

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 18, 2015

KEYONNA FERRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
QUALITY SUITES HOTEL, ROCKVILLE POLICE, CORPORAL LOU, CORPORAL PECK, OFFICER LEE, OFFICER TREASURICK, OFFICER ENGLISH, and OFFICER ZITO, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE JARROD HAZEL, District Judge.

The above-captioned case was filed, together with the full filing fee, on May 26, 2015. See ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that some of her property was stolen during her stay at an extended-stay facility owned by Defendant Quality Suites Hotel. See id. For the reasons that follow, the Complaint is dismissed.

The Complaint details Plaintiffs experience as a guest at a Quality Suite extended-stay hotel located in Rockville, Maryland. In pertinent part, she alleges that she runs a website that includes content that some people may find objectionable, and that internet service in her room was not working properly because staff knew about her website and were intentionally denying her access to the internet service. See id. at 3. She claims she had to call to have the service repaired several times and, after it was made operational again, was told the following day to request the service daily. See id. After she had apparently become a disagreeable guest, she was told she would be checked out of the hotel the following morning. See id. at 3-4.

During the course of her stay, Plaintiff alleges that she hid a "bag of documents" in her room under the seat cushion of a chair and left them behind when she checked out of the room. See id. at 4. In addition, after she left, she realized that she had left her phone charger in the room. See id. She attempted to obtain her belongings by making numerous phone calls to hotel staff and to officers in the Rockville police department. See id. Neither of the items were located. See id. Plaintiff asserts both were stolen (apparently by employees of the extended-stay facility). See id.

The Complaint fails to state a cognizable claim against Defendants Rockville Police, Corporal Lou, Corporal Peck, Officer Lee, Officer Treasurick, Officer English, and Officer Zito (hereinafter "law enforcement Defendants"). Although a complaint need not contain detailed allegations, the facts alleged must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level and require "more than labels and conclusions, " as "courts are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Id. at 563. Although district courts have a duty to construe self-represented pleadings liberally, Plaintiff must nevertheless allege facts that state a cause of action. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir.1985) (duty to construe liberally does not require courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented). Here, the only facts asserted with regard to the law enforcement Defendants are that Plaintiff filed complaints regarding her missing property and was not satisfied with their response. These facts do not state a claim for relief.

To the extent Plaintiff intended to assert a claim that she was a victim of a crime and her rights were abridged by the inaction of law enforcement Defendants, she has no legally protected interest in the prosecution of others. "[I]n American jurisprudence at least, a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or non-prosecution of another." Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973). To the extent Plaintiff is attempting to assert some other claim against law enforcement Defendants, that claim is not discernible from the Complaint as presented. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). a pleading which sets forth a claim for relief, whether an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new grounds of jurisdiction to support it, (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks. Each "averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise, and direct." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(1). "[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The instant Complaint fails to provide law enforcement Defendants with "fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swirkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

Plaintiff's claim as to Defendant Quality Suites Hotel for the loss of her property sounds in state tort law. A state law claim may be asserted in this Court where there is complete diversity of citizenship among the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 exclusive of interest and costs. See 28 U.S.C. ยง1332. "A court is to presume, therefore, that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to be proper." United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Moreover, the "burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on... the party asserting jurisdiction." Robb Evans & Assocs., LLC v. Holibaugh, 609 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2010); accord McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010).

In the instant Complaint, Plaintiff claims up to $25, 000 in damages for emotional distress from the loss of private and sensitive information as well as compensatory damages ranging from $25, 000 to $75, 000. ECF No. 1 at 15. "The test for determining jurisdiction based upon the amount involved is primarily one of good faith." Gauldin v. Va. Winn-Dixie, Inc., 370 F.2d 167, 170 n. 1 (4th Cir.1966). "[I]f it appears to a legal certainty that the plaintiff cannot recover the jurisdictional amount, " the case should be dismissed for want of jurisdiction. McDonald v. Patton, 240 F.2d 424, 426 (4th Cir. 1957) (citing St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 289 (1938)).

Here, the facts and allegations in Plaintiffs complaint show that, to a legal certainty, her claim is for less than the jurisdictional amount of $75, 000. See St. Paul, 303 U.S. at 289 ("It must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal"). Even assuming Plaintiffs emotional distress claim for up to $25, 000 is recoverable, the loss of documents (which Plaintiff does not allege has caused her any economic loss) and the loss of a phone charger cannot be, in good faith, worth the $25, 000 to $75, 000 Plaintiff requests. Thus, the potential recovery for the loss of documents and a phone charger cannot bring Plaintiff's total potential relief to $75, 000 and her damages do not meet the $75, 000 requirement for diversity actions. As a result, the claim as to Quality Suites Hotel will be dismissed without prejudice. The Court notes that Plaintiff remains free to file her claim against the hotel in the appropriate state court.

A separate Order follows.


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