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Frankie Cancel v. the Home Depot U.S.A. Inc.; John/Jane Doe(S)

August 24, 2011

FRANKIE CANCEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE HOME DEPOT U.S.A. INC.; JOHN/JANE DOE(S), HOME DEPOT EMPLOYEE(S); AND TIM CROW, VICE PRESIDENT AND MANANGER OF HUMAN RESOURCES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Frankie Cancel ("Cancel") brings this action against defendants Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. ("Home Depot"); John/Jane Doe(s), Home Depot employees; and Vice President and Manager of Human Resources Tim Crow ("Crow") (collectively "defendants"). He alleges discrimination and retaliation based on race under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; unlawful conspiracy to violate his civil rights in contravention of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(2)-(3); and state law claims for negligence, breach of contract, tortious interference with an employment contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and discrimination under New York Executive Law §§ 290, 296(15), New York Correct. Law § 750, and New York City Administrative Code § 8-107(10)(a). Currently before this Court is defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) as to all defendants, and a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction as to Crow. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6) is GRANTED as to the alleged federal violations, and Cancel's asserted state law claims are DISMISSED without prejudice.

BACKGROUND

On a motion to dismiss, the Court must "take[] factual allegations [in the complaint] to be true and draw[] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). The following facts are either undisputed or described in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. See Capobianco v. City of N.Y., 422 F.3d 47, 50 n.1 (2d Cir. 2001).

Cancel, "a Black Hispanic Latino . . . was convicted of felony manslaughter" in 1992. (Compl. (Doc. No. 11) ¶ 18.) Subsequent to conviction, Cancel completed, and later helped facilitate, various treatment programs in an attempt to rehabilitate himself. (Id. ¶¶ 22-24.) He also earned an Associate's degree from the City University of New York, LaGuardia Community College, and a Bachelor of Science degree from St. John's University. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.)

On or about April 9, 2007, Cancel was offered a position with Home Depot's mill department, explicitly conditioned upon a drug test and background check. (Id. ¶¶ 37-38, 43.) Though Cancel passed the drug test, Home Depot revoked the offer of employment upon learning of Cancel's felony manslaughter conviction during the background check. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 42.)

Cancel commenced the instant action on February 22, 2010. After defendants' responsive letter of April 8, 2010, indicating their intention to move for dismissal, Cancel filed an Amended Complaint on May 4, 2010. (Id.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires the court to examine the legal, rather than factual, sufficiency of a complaint. As required by Rule 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." To withstand a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a district court must limit itself to the facts stated in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint. Hayden v. Cnty. of Nassau, 180 F.3d 42, 54 (2d Cir. 1999). A court considering a 12(b)(6) motion must "take[] factual allegations [in the complaint] to be true and draw[] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). A complaint need not contain "'detailed factual allegations,'" but it must contain "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In other words, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, the plaintiff's complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The determination of whether "a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950 (citing Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157--158 (2d Cir. 2007)).

While pro se plaintiffs must satisfy these pleading requirements, federal courts are "obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally." See Harris, 572 F.3d at 71-72 (citations omitted). In other words, trial courts hold pro se complaints to a less exacting standard than they apply to complaints drafted by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Boykin, 521 F.3d at 213-14 (citation omitted). Since pro se litigants "are entitled to a liberal construction of their pleadings, [their complaints] should be read to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Green v. United States, 260 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). When a pro se plaintiff has altogether failed to satisfy a pleading requirement, however, the court should not hesitate to dismiss his complaint. See Rodriguez v. Weprin, 116 F.3d 62, 65 (2d Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court is required to dismiss a complaint, filed in forma pauperis, if it is "(i) frivolous or malicious, (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (iii) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." An action is frivolous as a matter of law when, inter alia, it is based on an "indisputably meritless legal theory" -- that is, when it "lacks an arguable basis in law," or when "a dispositive defense clearly exists on the face of the complaint." Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir. 1998). As under the 12(b)(6) standard, Cancel's pro se status obligates this Court to read his papers liberally and to interpret them as raising the strongest arguments they suggest. McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted); Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). If a liberal reading of the pleading "gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated," this Court must grant leave to amend. See Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I.42 U.S.C. ...


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