Cagle v. Rubley, et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER directing as follows: (1) that the Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 29 ) be and is hereby GRANTED; (2) that the Plaintiffs claims be and are hereby DISMISSED with prejudice; (3) that all pending deadlines are terminated and all pending motions are hereby DENIED as moot; and (4) that the costs of this proceeding be and are hereby taxed against the Plaintiff. Signed by Honorable Judge Charles S. Coody on 10/20/14. (scn, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JILL RUBLEY, et al.,
CIVIL ACT. NO. 3:14cv04-CSC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the court is the motion to dismiss (Doc. 29) filed by Defendants Jill Rubley,
Dr. Paul Jungnickel, Jan Kavookjian, and Jessica Starr. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, the
court has jurisdiction over the Plaintiff’s claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that the
Defendants violated his constitutional rights. The court has supplemental jurisdiction over
the Plaintiff’s state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c)(1) and M.D. Ala. LR 73.1, the parties have consented to a United States Magistrate
Judge conducting all proceedings in this case and ordering the entry of final judgment. For
the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion, the court concludes that the motion to
dismiss is due to be granted and that the Plaintiff’s claims are due to be dismissed with
Standard of Review
Although the court must accept well-pled facts as true, the court is not required to
accept a plaintiff’s legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009) (“[T]he
tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions”). In evaluating the sufficiency of a plaintiff’s pleadings,
the court must indulge reasonable inferences in plaintiff’s favor, “but we are not required to
draw plaintiff’s inference.” Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242,
1248 (11th Cir. 2005). Similarly, “unwarranted deductions of fact” in a complaint are not
admitted as true for the purpose of testing the sufficiency of plaintiff’s allegations. Id.; see
also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681 (stating conclusory allegations are “not entitled to be assumed
A complaint may be dismissed if the facts as pled do not state a claim for relief that
is plausible on its face. See Iqbal, 556 U.S, at 679 (explaining “only a complaint that states
a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss”); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 561-62, 570 (2007) (retiring the prior “unless it appears beyond doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts” standard). In Twombly, the Supreme Court emphasized
that a complaint “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations in
a complaint need not be detailed but “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if
doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555 (internal citations and emphasis omitted).
In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated that although Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 does not require
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint must
state a plausible claim for relief, and “[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.” Id. The mere possibility the defendant acted
unlawfully is insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 679. The well-pled
allegations must nudge the claim “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly,
556 U.S. at 570.
Facts and Procedural History
On January 2, 2014, Plaintiff Jonathan Cagle filed a complaint (Doc. 1) against
Auburn University, Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy, Dean R. Lee Evans,
Kristen Helms, Dr. Paul Jungnickel, Jan Kavookjian, David Riese, Jill Rubley, and Jessica
Starr. Cagle alleged that the Defendants violated Cagle’s constitutional rights, breached a
contract, and committed various torts in conjunction with student disciplinary proceedings
that led to Cagle’s expulsion from the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy.
The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for a more definite
statement. (Doc. 13). On April 9, 2014, after being granted an extension of time to respond
to the motion, Cagle filed his response. (Doc. 19; Doc. 20). On May 12, 2014, the court held
oral argument on the motion to dismiss, and, during this proceeding, the court noted
numerous significant pleading deficiencies in the original complaint. (See Doc. 27). On May
12, 1014, following oral argument, the court dismissed Cagle’s claims against Auburn
University and Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy on grounds of sovereign
immunity. (Doc. 26 ¶ 2). The court also dismissed with prejudice Cagle’s claims alleging
a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g.
(Doc. 26 ¶ 1). As to Cagle’s remaining claims, the court granted the motion for more definite
statement and ordered Cagle to file an amended complaint on or before May 26, 2014. (Doc.
26 p. 2).
On May 27, 2014, Cagle filed an amended complaint against Paul Jungnickel, Jan
Kavookjian, Jill Rubley, and Jessica Starr, but not against any of the other original
Defendants. (Doc. 28). In his amended complaint, Cagle asserts the following claims
against the Defendants:
that, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by causing various alleged
irregularities in the student disciplinary proceedings against Cagle,1
Defendants Jungnickel, Kavookjian, and Starr violated his
constitutional right due process and his alleged constitutional property
At the May 12, 2014 oral argument on the motion to dismiss the original complaint, the court
informed Cagle and his attorneys of the requirements of Twombly and Iqbal, particularly the requirement that
the plaintiff must state the facts giving rise to each cause of action. Nevertheless, the amended complaint falls
so far short of the requirements of Twombly and Iqbal that the court can only guess what factual averments
are supposed to be associated with which causes of action. Although the amended complaint was filed by
an attorney, Cagle is now proceeding pro se and has not had the benefit of counsel in responding to the
motion to dismiss. In fact, despite lenient extensions of time to allow him to do so, Cagle has not responded
to the motion to dismiss at all. The court interprets the amended complaint leniently in light of Cagle’s pro
se status and the circumstances of this case. See. Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(e) (“All pleadings must be construed
so as to do justice.”). However, although “[c]ourts do and should show a leniency to pro se litigants not
enjoyed by those with the benefit of a legal education,” the leniency shown to pro se litigants “does not give
[this] court license to serve as de facto counsel for a party, or to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in
order to sustain an action.” GJR Invs., Inc. v. County of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir.
1998), overruled on other grounds by Iqbal, 550 U.S. 662 (citing Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th
Cir. 1991); Pontier v. City of Clearwater, 881 F. Supp. 1565, 1568 (M.D. Fla. 1995)).
rights to a pharmacy degree (Doc. 28 ¶¶ 28-33);
that, by causing Cagle’s expulsion from the pharmacy school,
Defendants Jungnickel, Kavookjian, Rubley, and Starr negligently
breached a duty to do no harm to Cagle (Doc. 28 ¶¶ 34-36); and
that Defendants Jungnickel, Kavookjian, Rubley and Starr intentionally
interfered with Cagle’s “valid business relationship or business
expectancy” in obtaining a pharmacy degree from Auburn University
by causing a “breach or termination of the relationship or expectancy.”
(Doc. 28 ¶¶ 37-39).
On June 10, 2014, Defendants Jungnickel, Kavookjian, Rubley, and Starr filed a
motion to dismiss the amended complaint. After Cagle’s attorneys withdrew from the case,
Cagle was granted an extension of time to respond to the motion to allow him to obtain an
attorney, although he was advised on several occasions that, regardless of whether he is able
to retain counsel, the court will move this case forward even if he must proceed pro se.
(Doc. 45; Doc. 48).
Cagle did not obtain an attorney, and he also did not respond to the motion to dismiss.
(See Doc. 48 (August 26, 2014, Order directing that “on or before September 16, 2014, the
Plaintiff shall show cause why the motion to dismiss (Doc. 29) should not be granted”)).
Cagle asserts three claims in his complaint: a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging a violation of constitutional rights under color of state law; a claim for negligence,
and a claim for tortious interference with business relations.
The timeliness of a § 1983 action is governed by the personal injury statute of
limitations of the state in which the action arose, which, in Alabama, is two years from the
time the cause of action accrues. Ala. Code 1975 § 6-2-38(l); Jones v. Preuit & Mauldin,
876 F.2d 1480, 1483 (11th Cir. 1989). Generally, a cause of action accrues under § 1983
when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know that he has been injured and who inflicted
the injury. Mullinax v. McElhenney, 817 F.2d 711, 716 (11th Cir. 1987).
Alabama’s two-year statute of limitations also applies to actions for negligence and
tortious interference with business relations. Ala. Code § 6-2-38(l) (“All actions for any
injury to the person or rights of another not arising from contract and not specifically
enumerated in this section must be brought within two years.”); Piazza v. Ebsco Indus., Inc.,
273 F.3d 1341, 1347 (11th Cir. 2001) (“Under Alabama law, claims for negligence are
subject to a two-year statute of limitations. . . . [U]nder Alabama law[,] . . . a negligence
cause of action accrues when the plaintiff can first maintain the action, regardless of whether
the full amount of damage is apparent at the time of the first injury.” (citing Henson v. Celtic
Life Ins. Co., 621 So. 2d 1268, 1274 (Ala.1993)); see Teng v. Saha, 477 So.2d 378 (Ala.
1985) (holding that an action for tortious interference with business relations is an action for
trespass on the case).
Cagle alleges that, following a student disciplinary hearing, he was expelled from
pharmacy school on November 18, 2011. (Doc. 28 ¶ 20). Therefore, any unconstitutional
or tortious actions that the Defendants took to interfere with or deprive him of his “right” to
a pharmacy degree would have taken place on or before November 18, 2011. Further,
according to the allegations of the complaint, Cagle was aware of the injury when it occurred
and he was also aware of the identity of the persons responsible for his expulsion.
Cagle filed his complaint in this case on January 2, 2014, more than two years after
November 18, 2011. (Doc. 1). Accordingly, Cagle’s claims are barred by the applicable
statutes of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice. See Henry L. Clothier, Jr. v.
Counseling, Inc., 875 So.2d 1198, 1200 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003) (holding that a dismissal on
statute-of-limitations grounds is a judgment on the merits (citing Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm,
Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 228 (1995)).
Accordingly, and for the reasons stated, it is
ORDERED and ADJUDGED as follows:
that the Defendants’ motion to dismiss (Doc. 29) be and is hereby GRANTED;
that the Plaintiff’s claims be and are hereby DISMISSED with prejudice;
that all pending deadlines are terminated and all pending motions are hereby
DENIED as moot; and
that the costs of this proceeding be and are hereby taxed against the Plaintiff.
A separate judgment will issue.
Done this 20th day of October, 2014.
/s/Charles S. Coody
CHARLES S. COODY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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