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Taylor v. T-Mobile USA, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 16, 2015

RONALD G. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
T-MOBILE USA, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, District Judge.

In this diversity action, pro se Plaintiff Ronald G. Taylor ("Plaintiff" or "Taylor") asserts causes of action for breach of contract and negligence arising out of the decision of Defendant T-Mobile USA, Inc. ("Defendant" or "T-Mobile") to terminate his cellular phone service. T-Mobile now moves pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss the Complaint. The Court has jurisdiction of this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The Court has carefully considered the parties' submissions, and grants Defendant's motion in its entirety for the reasons stated below.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff first established cellular telephone service with Defendant on or about July 25, 2005, approximately nine years before commencement of this lawsuit. (Compl. ¶ 9; Muzio Dec. ¶ 6.) T-Mobile asserts that, as part of its standard operating procedure, it includes a copy of its terms and conditions, limited warranty, and return policy in the boxes of purchased devices, and that on July 25, 2005, the date on which Taylor activated his T-Mobile account, the 2004 Terms and Conditions ("Terms and Conditions") were in effect and were included in the box with the phone that Plaintiff purchased. (Muzio Dec. ¶¶ 7-8.) Plaintiff acknowledges that the Terms and Conditions were included in his box. (Pl's Resp., ECF Docket Entry No. 9 at ECF p. 5.) The 2004 Terms and Conditions contain a provision stating that T-Mobile "may suspend or terminate [a user's] Service for any reason or no reason upon 3 days notice (unless a longer period is required by law)." (See Muzio Dec., Ex. B. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff maintained his account in good standing. (Compl. ¶ 10.)

In early 2014, Plaintiff commenced an action against T-Mobile in Small Claims Court. That action was settled pursuant to a written settlement agreement (the "Settlement Agreement") drafted by T-Mobile, under which T-Mobile paid Plaintiff $1, 000. (Compl. ¶ 1 at ECF pp. 7-8, ¶ 23; Ex. A to Pl's Resp.) The Settlement Agreement, which was signed by T-Mobile and by Plaintiff on May 1, 2014, and April 30, 2014, respectively, provided that it superseded all prior agreements between the parties, "[e]xcluding the T-Mobile Terms and Conditions and Service Agreement." (Pl's Resp., Ex. A ¶ 3.) The Settlement Agreement contains no provision specifically addressing the continuation or termination of Plaintiff's T-Mobile service. (See Pl's Resp., Ex. A; Compl. ¶ 26.) On or about May 1, 2014, Plaintiff purchased new proprietary telephone equipment from T-Mobile for $847.99. (Compl. ¶ 24; Pl's Resp. Ex. G.)

On or about May 2, 2014, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant stating that his service was being terminated effective May 17, 2014. The letter, which was addressed to Plaintiff, referred to an account number that was not his. (Compl. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff alleges that after receiving the letter, he contacted T-Mobile and was told that his account was in good standing and up to date financially. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Defendant subsequently terminated Plaintiff's service. (See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff alleges that the termination imperiled the well-being of his elderly mother, whose cellular telephone service was provided under Plaintiff's account. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that he now has unusable, "locked" proprietary T-Mobile equipment and alleges generally that T-Mobile has a history of unscrupulous business practices and that it has subjected Plaintiff to such practices. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 27.)

Plaintiff seeks various declarations that Defendant's conduct was wrongful, an award of trebled punitive damages, and attorneys' fees. (Compl. at ECF pp. 13-14.)

DISCUSSION

Defendant moves pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for an order dismissing the Complaint. When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim, the Court assumes the truth of facts asserted in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009) (citing City of New York v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 524 F.3d 384, 392 (2d Cir. 2008)). To survive 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). If the plaintiff has not "nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Because Taylor brings this action pro se, his submission must be held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Nevertheless, even where a Plaintiff appears pro se, "[d]ismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper if the complaint lacks an allegation regarding an element necessary to obtain relief." Geldzahler v. N.Y. Med. Coll., 663 F.Supp.2d 379, 387 (S.D.N.Y.2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a district court may consider "only the complaint and any documents attached thereto or incorporated by reference and documents upon which the complaint relies heavily." Building Indus. Elec. Contractors Ass'n v. City of New York, 678 F.3d 184, 187 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing In re Citigroup ERISA Litig., 662 F.3d 128, 135 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted)). In determining this motion the Court has considered, in addition to the Complaint, the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the T-Mobile Terms and Conditions effective December 2004, and T-Mobile's May 2, 2014, letter to Plaintiff, as submitted by the parties. All of the foregoing documents are integral to the allegations of the Complaint, and their authenticity is undisputed by the parties.

Breach of Contract Claim

Plaintiff claims that T-Mobile's decision to terminate his cellular service constituted a breach of the Settlement Agreement entered into by the parties in April 2014. (Compl. ¶¶ 23-26.) The Complaint alleges, truthfully, that the Settlement Agreement contained no provision stating "that [Defendant] will terminate service with [Plaintiff]." (Compl. ¶ 26.) The Settlement Agreement did not, however, contain any provision promising the continuation of Plaintiff's service, either, and it specifically left in place the 2004 Terms and Conditions governing Plaintiff's account relationship. The Terms and Conditions included the following provision, in a paragraph captioned "Term: Cancellation of Service":

We [T-Mobile] may suspend or terminate your Service for any reason or no reason upon 3 days notice (unless a ...

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