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City of Neodesha v. BP Corporation North America Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 15, 2017

CITY OF NEODESHA, Plaintiff,
v.
BP CORPORATION NORTH AMERICA INC., BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA, INC., and ATLANTIC RICHFIELD COMPANY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          KATHRYN H. VRATIL United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on BP Corporation North America Inc.'s Rule 12(c) Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings (Doc. #21) filed June 6, 2016 and BP's oral motion to dismiss with prejudice under Rule 41(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. Also before the Court are the City Of Neodesha's Second Motion For Remand (Doc. #41) filed April 28, 2017 and the City's oral motion to dismiss the amended complaints without prejudice under Rule 41(a)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P. For reasons set forth below, the Court sustains in part defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismisses plaintiff's claims with prejudice and overrules plaintiff's motion to remand and motion to dismiss without prejudice.

         Legal Standards

         Under Rule 12(c), Fed. R. Civ. P., a party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed as long as the motion does not delay trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when “the moving party has clearly established that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Sanders v. Mountain Am. Fed. Credit Union, 689 F.3d 1138, 1141 (10th Cir. 2012). The standard for dismissal under Rule 12(c) is the same as a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P.

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court assumes as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and determines whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim which is plausible - and not merely conceivable - on its face. Id. at 679-80; Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In determining whether it states a plausible claim for relief, the Court draws on its judicial experience and common sense. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         The Court need not accept as true those allegations which state only legal conclusions. See id.; Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Plaintiff bears the burden of framing its claim with enough factual matter to suggest that it is entitled to relief; it is not enough to make threadbare recitals of a cause of action accompanied by conclusory statements. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Plaintiff makes a facially plausible claim when it pleads factual content from which the Court can reasonably infer that defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Plaintiff must show more than a sheer possibility that defendants have acted unlawfully - it is not enough to plead facts that are “merely consistent with” liability. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         A pleading which offers labels and conclusions, a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement will not stand. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Similarly, where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the Court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but has not “shown” - that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 679. The degree of specificity necessary to establish plausibility and fair notice depends on context, because what constitutes fair notice under Rule 8(a)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P., depends on the type of case. Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1248 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 23-32 (3d Cir. 2008)).

         Procedural Background

         On December 19, 2014, the City filed 821complaints in Neodesha Municipal Court, alleging that BP had violated newly revised provisions of the Neodesha waste ordinance, Section 36-407 of the Neodesha City Code. On January 27 and 28, 2015, BP removed those cases to this Court. See Case Nos. 15-4025-KHV through 15-4844-KHV, and Case No. 15-4847-KHV (Municipal Court Nos. 2014-1202, et seq.).[1] The City filed a motion to remand, arguing that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the cases were not “civil actions” that could be removed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. BP asserted that the complaints were civil in nature. The Court agreed, and ruled that the alleged violations of revised Neodesha Code § 36-407 were “civil actions” for purposes of removal under Section 1441. See Memorandum And Order (Doc. #69) filed March 31, 2016 in Case No. 15-4014 (incorporated herein by reference).

         On April 19, 2016, as a matter of right, the City filed amended complaints in each of the 821 cases. In answer to the amended complaints, BP asserted six counterclaims. See Answer, Affirmative Defenses And Counterclaims Of BP Corporation North America Inc. To City Of Neodesha's First Amended Complaints (Doc. #18) filed May 17, 2016.[2]

         On June 6, 2016, BP filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. See BP Corporation North America Inc.'s Rule 12(c) Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings On The City Of Neodesha's Amended Complaints (Doc. #21). The City responded on July 18, 2016, by filing a motion for leave to file a consolidated second amended complaint. See City's Motion For Leave To File Consolidated Second Amended Complaint (Doc. #31).

         On March 16, 2017, the Court overruled the City's motion for leave to file the consolidated second amended complaint. See Memorandum And Order (Doc. #39). The Court noted that the proposed second amended complaint sought only one form of relief: punishment by a term of confinement in the county jail for up to one month and/or a criminal fine not to exceed $500. The Court observed that “the City [had] cited no authority which would authorize this Court to order defendants to pay punitive municipal fines or serve sentences of confinement in a county jail.” Id. at 9. It concluded that proposed second amended complaint was factually plausible but only demanded relief which the Court could not grant, and that the proposed amendment would be futile. Id.

         On April 28, 2017, the City filed a second motion to remand, which seeks to capitalize on deficiencies in the amended complaints which the Court had called into focus in ruling that the proposed second amended complaint was futile because it ...


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