United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge.
is Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim (ECF No. 17) and Plaintiff's Motion to File a
Response Out of Time (ECF No. 19). The issues are fully
briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6
because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons stated
below, both motions are granted.
October 6, 2015, Plaintiff Ronnie Alston
(“Alston”) purchased a 2015 Chevrolet Sonic from
the Defendant, Ourisman Chevrolet of Marlow Heights
(“Ourisman”), agreeing to a $700 down payment and
monthly payments of $498. ECF No. 1. Alston wanted to make
his monthly payments electronically, so he asked Ourisman to
provide him with the appropriate routing and account number.
Alston alleges that Ourisman refused to provide him with this
information because Alston is a “black, disabled, aged
customer.” ECF No. 13-1. Without the routing and
account number, Alston alleges that he was unable to make the
necessary car payments. Alston also alleges that Ourisman
prevented him from registering his car and filed a false
theft report against him with the police, all because he is
an elderly, black, and disabled man. Additionally, Alston
alleges that he was charged “a higher interest
rate” and a “higher sticker price” for the
Chevy Sonic than “non-black, non-disabled, younger
customers” purchasing comparable vehicles. ECF No. 13
December 7, 2015, Alston, appearing pro se, filed his
Complaint alleging “discrimination due to age and race,
” but did not aver under which constitutional or
statutory provisions Plaintiff is proceeding or how
particularly Ourisman violated the same. ECF No. 1-1.
Adding to the confusion, Alston alleges throughout his
pleadings that the above-described discriminatory acts were
committed by a collective group of “Defendants, ”
yet Plaintiff only names Ourisman as a single defendant. The
case caption, drafted by Alston himself, refers to the
“Ourisman Chevrolet ‘
.'” (emphasis added).
December 23, 2015, this Court dismissed Alston's
Complaint because, at most, it alleged a state law claim for
breach of contract, and thus this Court was without
jurisdiction. ECF No. 5. Alston asked the Court to reconsider
its December 23rd Order asserting, for the first time, that
his case is a “Civil Rights action, based on Racial
Discrimination.” ECF No. 6. Alston's motion was
granted on the ground that his allegations could be construed
as a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which “bars
discrimination on the basis of race in the making and
enforcement of contracts.” ECF No. 12 at 2.
April 26, 2016, Alston filed an amended complaint, which
again fails to specify a cause of action. ECF No. 13. On June
15, 2016, Ourisman filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that
Alston's amended complaint failed to properly identify a
defendant party, but instead repeatedly refers to a group of
“Defendants” without any other specificity or
identifying information. ECF No. 17. Alston missed the July
5th deadline to file a response to Ourisman's motion to
dismiss. On July 6, 2016, Alston filed a Motion to File a
Response Out of Time, and attached a proposed response to
that motion. ECF No. 19. Because Ourisman has suffered no
prejudice from Alston's day-late filing, the Court will
grant Alston's Motion to File a Response Out of Time and
consider his response. For the following reasons,
Ourisman's motion to dismiss will be granted.
Plaintiff's amended complaint will be dismissed without
prejudice, providing him one final opportunity to amend his
complaint to cure its defects, if possible.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test
the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A
complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which
requires a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a
‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of
entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007). That showing must
consist of more than “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action” or “naked
assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be
considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be
construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176
F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir.1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v.
Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In
evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need
not be accepted. Revene v. Charles Cnty.
Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events.
United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844,
847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli,
588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009); Wag More Dogs, LLC v.
Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012)
(“Although we are constrained to take the facts in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need not accept
legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” (internal
quotation marks omitted)). Ultimately, a complaint must
“‘permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct' based upon ‘its judicial
experience and common sense.'” Coleman v. Md.
Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Liberal
construction means that the court will read the pleadings to
state a valid claim to the extent that it is possible to do
so from the facts available; it does not mean that the court
should rewrite the complaint to include claims never
presented. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1132
(10th Cir. 1999). That is, even when pro se litigants are
involved, the court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege
facts that support a viable claim. Weller v. Dep't of
Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990);
Forquer v. Schlee, No. RDB-12-969, 2012 WL 6087491,
at *3 (D. Md. Dec. 4, 2012) (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted) (“[E]ven a pro se complaint must be
dismissed if it does not allege a plausible claim for
argues that the deficiencies in Alston's pleading prevent
it from establishing a proper defense. For instance, the
amended complaint asserts claims against “Defendants,
” but Ourisman is the only defendant in the case.
Initially, it could have been assumed that Alston simply used
the plural form in error, believing it appropriate when
referring to acts committed by Ourisman's employees on
behalf of Ourisman. Yet, Alston undercuts this assumption in
his response to Ourisman's motion to dismiss. There, he
confirms that he deliberately uses the phrase “
.” in the case caption because there are multiple
defendants. ECF No. 19-3 at 4. He also refers to several
Ourisman employees and members of the Prince George's
County police department as defendants. ECF No. 19-3 at 1-2
(naming “Kenny Powers, General Manager of Ourisman
Chevrolet, . . . Scott Barnby, Finance Manager of Ourisman
Chevrolet, . . . Saied Dadkoo, position unknown to Plaintiff,
of Ourisman Chevrolet, . . . Officer Mason, Officer Thompson,
Officer Jones, of Prince George's County Police
Department and Sgt. Hader of Internal Affairs of the Prince
George's County Police Department”).
referring to the “Defendants” as a group
throughout the amended complaint, he fails to specify which
individuals or entities are responsible for each act.
See, e.g., Taylor v. Nw. Educ. Loan
Ass'n, No. 3:09CV235, 2009 WL 3297564, at *1 (W.D.
N.C. Oct. 13, 2009) (granting a motion for more definite
statement when “Plaintiff refer[red] generally to the
‘defendant(s)' without specifying which Defendant
he is referring to and without referring to the particular
acts of each Defendant.”). Alston's lack of
specificity prevents Ourisman from understanding which
allegations apply to it versus any other potential defendant,
and thus Ourisman cannot adequately respond to Alston's
pleading. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554 (stating that
Rule 8(a)(2) requires “‘a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of
what the . . . claim is.”) (emphasis added)
(citations and internal quotation ...