Oberschmidt v. Belile et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: As futher set out, defendants' motions to dismiss, 14 and 22 , are GRANTED; plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 02/05/13. (CVA)
2013 Feb-05 AM 09:22
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
KENNETH BELILE, RAMONA
MORRISON, and CROWSON,
MORRISON & SPANN LLC,
Civil Action Number
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Stephanie Oberschmidt brings this action on behalf of her disabled
mother against Kenneth Belile, Ramona Morrison, and Crowson, Morrison &
Spann LLC, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42
U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., arising from a dispute over real estate.1 See doc. 1.
Defendants seek dismissal of the complaint, docs. 12-13, and the motion is fully
briefed and ripe for resolution, docs. 14 and 22. For the reasons stated below, the
court GRANTS the motions.
Since Oberschmidt proceeds pro se, that is, without an attorney, the court liberally
construes her pleading, see Tannenbaum v. U.S., 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998), to also
include a malpractice claim against Ramona Morrison and Crowson, Morrison & Spann LLC
based on Oberschmidt’s allegation that they committed gross negligence and breached a contract
and fiduciary duty. See doc. 1.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed
factual allegations,’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendantunlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are
insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.’” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “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.” Iqbal,556 U.S. at 678
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially
plausible claim for relief “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. (citation omitted). The complaint must establish “more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Bell
Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific
task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
II. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND2
Oberschmidt contends that Belile took “over 1 million dollars in assets
excluding real estate” from her disabled mother. Doc. 1 at 1. In an attempt to
recover these lost assets, Oberschmidt’s mother purportedly hired attorney
Ramona Morrison, of Crowson, Morrison & Spann LLC. Id. Unfortunately,
Morrison was unable to recover these assets. Id. Oberschmidt contends that
Morrison committed malpractice by committing gross negligence and by
breaching her contract and fiduciary duty. Id. Accordingly, Oberschmidt seeks
return of the allegedly stolen real estate, $1 million in assets plus interest, court
costs, and future attorneys fees on behalf of her mother. Id. at 1-2.
“When considering a motion to dismiss, all facts set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint
‘are to be accepted as true and the court limits its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits
attached thereto.’” Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000)
(quoting GSW, Inc. v. Long Cnty., 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993)). However, legal
conclusions unsupported by factual allegations are not entitled to that assumption of truth. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).
Defendants contend that Oberschmidt’s complaint is due to be dismissed for
lack of standing, lack of personal jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim for relief.
See docs. 12, 13, 22. Because Oberschmidt lacks standing to bring suit, the court
declines to address Defendants’ other contentions.
Under Article III of the Constitution, a party seeking review by a federal
court must demonstrate standing, i.e. “a personal injury fairly traceable to the
defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested
relief.” Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984). Defendants assert that
Oberschmidt lacks standing because no injury has occurred and, alternatively, that
the injury is not personal to Oberschmidt, despite her status as power of attorney.
Doc. 22 at 3; doc. 13. A party may sufficiently demonstrate the existence of an
injury by showing “an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete
and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.”
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). However, Oberschmidt
failed to show such an injury.
Oberschmidt contends that her mother suffered an injury in the form of lost
property and assets. Doc. 1. However, it appears that these items are the subject
of a divorce action currently pending before the Circuit Court of Shelby County,
Alabama. Doc. 13 at 1. Since that court has not yet reached a determination
regarding who will retain ownership of the items, Oberschmidt’s mother has not
yet suffered a loss. Until the Circuit Court determines the ownership of these
items, no cognizable injury exists. Moreover, “[s]tanding alone, a power of
attorney does not enable the grantee to bring suit in his own name.” Parris v.
Correctional Medical Services, No. 2:10-cv-225-WHA, 2011 WL 1045223, at *4
(M.D. Ala. March 8, 2011). Instead, a power of attorney must bring suit in the
name of the party with a personal interest in the outcome of the action, here,
Oberschmidt’s mother. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(a)(1) (“An action must be
prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest.”). Therefore, Oberschmidt
failed to show a personal injury and lacks standing to bring suit in her own name
against Defendants. Accordingly, the court GRANTS Defendants’ motions to
Based on the foregoing, Oberschmidt’s claims are DISMISSED without
DONE this 5th day of February, 2013.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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