United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court are Defendants Tri-State Zoological Park of
Western Maryland, Inc., Animal Park, Care & Rescue, Inc.,
and Robert Candy's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings,
Motion for Sanctions, and Interim Motion to Seal Filed in
Support of Defendants' Motion for Sanctions. ECF Nos. 55,
71, 72. The motions are fully briefed, and no hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons
that follow, the Court denies Defendants' motion for
judgment on the pleadings, grants in part and denies in part
Defendants' motion for sanctions, and grants the joint
motion to redact a portion of the motion for sanctions.
own and operate a zoological park in Cumberland, Maryland
(“the Zoo”). ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 12-15. The
Zoo houses many animals, including five tigers, one lion, and
two lemurs. ECF No. 1 ¶ 3. Plaintiff People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. (“PETA”)
filed suit under the Endangered Species Act
(“ESA”), seeking, inter alia, to enjoin
the Zoo from owning or possessing endangered or threatened
species. Id. at 38. According to the Complaint, the
animals at the Zoo live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions,
are not fed sufficiently, and are not provided adequate
enrichment in the Zoo habitat . Id. ¶ 25.
a nonprofit organization “dedicated to protecting
animals, including animals used in entertainment, from abuse,
neglect, and cruelty.” Id. ¶¶ 11,
110. To advance this mission, PETA educates the public on
animal-welfare issues, rescues animals, advocates for
protective animal-welfare legislation, and organizes
mission-related protests and fundraisers. Id. ¶
111. For purposes of standing, PETA avers that the Zoo's
public mistreatment of animals has frustrated PETA's
mission by contributing to the increasing population of
animals in need of rescue and by “making it harder to
persuade the public that it should not tolerate the use of
animals in entertainment.” Id. ¶¶
112, 113. Similarly, PETA avers that it has diverted its
resources toward investigating the Zoo and engaging in a
public-relations campaign aimed at exposing the Zoo's
adverse treatment of the animals. Id. ¶¶
115-16. PETA contends that the effort expended in the name of
protecting the Zoo's animals has diverted resources away
from its other animal rescue missions and campaigns. ECF No.
1 ¶ 118.
undertook this investigation at the direction of its counsel,
and in anticipation of filing this lawsuit. ECF No. 71-3 at
1. Specifically PETA deployed undercover investigators who
posed as volunteers offering their services to the Zoo. ECF
No. 71-1 ¶ 10. PETA's volunteers gained entry to
Zoo, and subsequently denied to Defendant Candy any
affiliation with an animal-rights organization. Id.
¶ 11; ECF No. 87 at 4 n.4. The volunteers
surreptitiously took over 300 photographs and 70 video
recordings. ECF No. 71-1 ¶ 2; ECF No. 71-3 at 1. At
least some of the video recordings also seem to include audio
of conversations between PETA investigators and Defendant
Candy. ECF No. 71-4 at 10.
initially moved to dismiss the Complaint, arguing that the
Animal Welfare Act preempted PETA's claims, that the
treatment of the animals did not rise to the level of
actionable harm, that the Complaint was vague, and that the
Court did not have power to award the requested relief. ECF
No. 15-1. The Court denied Defendants' motion in its
entirety. ECF No. 23. Defendants now attempt to relitigate
several of the same claims, which, for the reasons discussed
below, will not be revisited. Defendants also now contend
that PETA lacks standing to bring the claims and that
dismissal is warranted as a sanction for PETA having
“illegally obtain[ed] evidence.” ECF No. 55; ECF
No. 71-1 at 3.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for
judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed.
Fed. R. C. P. 12(c). A motion under Rule 12(c) “is
assessed under the same standards as a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6).” Occupy Columbia v.
Haley, 738 F.3d 107, 115 (4th Cir. 2013). The
well-pleaded allegations are accepted as true and viewed most
favorably to the party pursuing the allegations.
ImpactOffice, LLC v. Siniavsky, No. TDC-15-3481,
2017 WL 1410773, at *3 (D. Md. Apr. 19, 2017). The motion
will not be granted unless “no genuine issues of
material fact remain and the case can be decided as a matter
of law.” Bell Atl.-Md., Inc. v. Prince George's
Cty., 155 F.Supp.2d 465, 473 (D. Md. 2011).
resolving a motion brought pursuant to Rule 12(c), the court
“considers the pleadings, which consist of the
complaint, the answer, and any written instruments attached
to those filings.” Impact Office, 2017 WL
1410773, at *3. The court, may, in its discretion, also
consider evidence beyond the four-corners of the pleadings.
A.S. Abell Co., 338 F.2d at 193. However, in that
circumstance, “the motion must be treated as one for
summary judgment” and “the parties must be given
a reasonable opportunity to present all the material
pertinent to the motion.” Jones v. Nucletron
Corp., No. RDB-11-02953, 2013 WL 663304, at *4 (D. Md.
Feb 20, 2013) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
Grounds for Dismissal Previously Decided
seek to re-litigate whether the ESA is preempted by the
Animal Welfare Act and whether the harm to the tigers, as
pleaded in the Complaint, is actionable. Compare ECF
No. 55-1 at 4, 17; with ECF No. 15-1 at 5, 12,
and ECF No. 23 at 15, 19. The Court will not allow
Defendants a second bite at the dismissal apple. As a
preliminary matter, the Court notes that Rule 12(g) prohibits
the refiling of a motion already brought pursuant to Rule 12,
absent limited exceptions set forth in Rule 12(h)(2) and (3).
Smith v. Integral Consulting Servs., Inc., No. DKC
14-3094, 2015 WL 4567317, at *1 (D. Md. July 27, 2015).
Challenges to the Court's subject matter jurisdiction or
a defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted are two such exceptions. Fed.R.Civ.P.
Defendants have previously sought dismissal on these grounds,
which the Court rejected. Accordingly, the Court will only
reconsider its previous decision based on: (1) a change in
controlling law; (2) additional evidence that was not
previously available; or (3) a showing that that the prior
decision was clearly erroneous or manifestly unjust. See
Boyd v. Coventry Health Care Inc., 828 F.Supp.2d 809,
814 (D. Md. 2011); Paulone v. City of Frederick, No.
CIV. WDQ-09-2007, 2010 WL 3000989, at *2 (D. Md. July 26,
2010). The Court cannot discern any of the ...