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Chambers v. Simon Property Group, Lp

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

May 10, 2013



ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Myesha Chambers brought suit against Defendants Simon Property Group, L.P., and IPC International Corp. for allegedly discriminatory treatment she received while shopping at the Towne East Square Mall in Wichita, Kansas. Chambers alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, public accommodation discrimination, and negligent hiring and supervision. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, request that Chambers submit a more definite statement of her claims. Because Chambers has failed to present plausible claims, the Court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff Myesha Chambers alleges the following facts in her lawsuit against Defendants Simon Property Group, L.P., and IPC International Corp. Chambers visited the Towne East Square Mall on the afternoon of September 11, 2010. While shopping, a male Caucasian security guard employed by Defendants approached Chambers as she was leaving a department store and told her to pull up her pants. Chambers asserts that her pants "conformed with acceptable societal norms and did not expose any body parts." Chambers walked away from the security guard, who allegedly followed her down the hallway making "ridiculing comments" to other patrons and saying that Chambers was "taking the walk of shame.'" When Chambers attempted to board an elevator, the guard blocked her path and attempted to physically turn her in another direction. The guard followed Chambers to an escalator "while continuing to barrage her with words and actions of derogatory, insulting, belittling, and offensive nature." The guard then handcuffed Chambers, who began to make a scene in the hopes that another patron would come to her aid. Two or three other male security guards tackled Chambers to the ground and brought her to an office within the mall, where the guards searched her belongings while denying Chambers access to her phone.

When Chambers's mother came to the mall to pick her up, the guards took Chambers's photograph and removed the handcuffs. The guards informed Chambers that she was prohibited from entering the mall and the surrounding businesses for a period of one year. Chambers alleges that she "was wrongfully touched, handled, and detained by the adult male security guards" and that she suffered lacerations, bruises, "offensive contact, " and emotional pain and suffering.

Chambers filed her initial Complaint against Defendants on May 16, 2011. Chambers asserts three grounds for recovery: (1) racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (2) public accommodation discrimination; and (3) negligence (seemingly in the form of negligent hiring and respondeat superior).

Defendants filed their first motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, alternatively, motion for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e).[1] Defendants first argued that Chambers did not establish a claim under § 1981 because Chambers did not allege facts sufficient to show (1) that Defendants intended to discriminate against Chambers on the basis of race, and (2) that the discrimination interfered with a protected activity. Second, Defendants contended that Chambers's claim of "public accommodation discrimination" is not a recognized cause of action. Finally, Defendants argued that Chambers has not properly pleaded a claim of negligence because she did not specify how Defendants breached any duty of care.

Chambers filed a response to the initial motion to dismiss, and she also moved to amend her Complaint, which the Court granted. Chambers filed an Amended Complaint on August 8, 2012. The Amended Complaint mirrors the initial Complaint with the sole exception being that Chambers correctly named Simon Property Group, L.P., as a defendant, rather than Simon Property Group, Inc. Defendants then filed a second motion to dismiss and referred the Court to their earlier memorandum for legal arguments.

II. Legal Standard

Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may move for dismissal of any claim for which the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[2] Upon such motion, the court must decide "whether the complaint contains enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"[3] A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads facts sufficient for the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct.[4] The plausibility standard reflects the requirement in Rule 8 that pleadings provide defendants with fair notice of the nature of claims as well the grounds on which each claim rests.[5] Under 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, but need not afford such a presumption to legal conclusions.[6] Viewing the complaint in this manner, the court must decide whether the plaintiff's allegations give rise to more than speculative possibilities.[7] If the allegations in the complaint are "so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'"[8]

III. Analysis

Defendants contend that Chambers failed to allege facts sufficient to establish her three claims for relief: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1981, (2) public accommodation discrimination, and (3) negligence. For the following reasons, the Court agrees and finds that Chambers's claims must be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6).

A. Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981

Chambers claims that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981 when the white guards mistreated Chambers, a black customer. Section 1981 guarantees "the same right... to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens."[9] To state a claim under § 1981, a plaintiff must allege facts that support each of the following three elements: (1) the plaintiff is a member of a racial minority; (2) the defendant intended to discriminate on the basis of the plaintiff's race; and (3) the discrimination concerned one or more ...

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