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Woods v. Wadeson

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 30, 2014

RONALD J. WOODS, Plaintiff,


ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ronald J. Woods ("Plaintiff") seeks monetary damages, both compensatory and punitive, against Defendants Lisa Wadeson, Alan Buchanan, and Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance ("Defendants") for damages allegedly arising out of a traffic citation issued to Plaintiff's daughter. This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The facts in this case are sparse at best and border on non-existent. Even the most careful reading of Plaintiff's Complaint reveals very little as to what, exactly, is at issue. It appears that Plaintiff's teenage daughter was involved in a traffic accident for which she received a moving violation. At some point, this violation was reduced to a non-moving violation.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas on March 14, 2014, alleging a claim arising out of a violation of civil or equal rights, privileges, or immunities accorded to cities of, or persons within the jurisdiction of, the United States, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1343. On that same day, Plaintiff filed motions to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 3) and for the appointment of counsel (Doc. 4). On March 31, 2014, Magistrate Judge Karen M. Humphreys granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis but denied his motion for the appointment of counsel (Doc. 5). Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration on April 2, 2014, which Magistrate Humphreys denied on May 14, 2014 (Doc. 13). Plaintiff then filed a Notice of Interlocutory Appeal to the Tenth Circuit (Doc. 14). The Appellate Court denied Plaintiff's motion on June 11, 2014, citing lack of jurisdiction (Doc. 18). While Plaintiff's interlocutory appeal was pending, on May 13, 2014, Defendants filed this motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (Doc. 11). Plaintiff did not respond.

II. Legal Standard

Under Rule 12(b)(6), 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.[1] 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.'"[2] 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.[3] The plausibility standard reflects the requirement in Rule 8 that pleadings provide defendants with fair notice of the nature of the claims as well as the grounds upon which each claim rests.[4] Under Rule 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.[5] Viewing the complaint in this manner, the court must decide whether the plaintiff's allegations give rise to more than speculative possibilities.[6] 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.'"[7]

III. Analysis

In their motion to dismiss, Defendants cite three possible grounds for dismissal, each of which, in its own right, could be sufficient to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. In the interest of thoroughness, the Court discusses two of these grounds in detail below, although not necessarily in the order as presented by Defendants.

A. Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

Defendants allege that Plaintiff failed to properly serve any Defendant in this matter, as Plaintiff simply sent the Complaint, via certified mail, to Farm Bureau's Regional Office in Manhattan, Kansas. According to Defendants, the mailings were signed for by someone in Farm Bureau's shipping and receiving department.[8]

Pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal court lacks personal jurisdiction over a defendant if service of process is insufficient.[9] Upon challenge to a court's jurisdiction, a plaintiff bears the burden to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that jurisdiction exists.[10] "The parties may submit affidavits and other documentary evidence for the Court's consideration, and plaintiff is entitled to the benefit of any factual doubt."[11]

With regard to Buchanan and Wadeson, Rule 4(e)(1) dictates that service upon an individual may be made by following the law of the state where the district court is located or where service is made or by:

(A) delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the individual personally; (B) leaving a copy of each at the individual's dwelling or usual place of abode with someone of suitable age and discretion who resides there; or (C) delivering a copy of each to an agent ...

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