Eatman v. Jefferson County Department of Health
MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Chief Judge Karon O Bowdre on 10/15/14. (SAC )
2014 Oct-15 AM 09:03
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
KRISTAL S. EATMAN,
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
CASE No. 2:14-cv-00472-KOB
This matter comes before the court on Defendant’s “Motion to Dismiss or, in the
Alternative, Motion for More Definite Statement.” (Doc. 9). Plaintiff Kristal Eatman brings
claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 1983, and § 1981, alleging racial
discrimination and retaliation arising out of Eatman’s employment at Jefferson County
Department of Health (“JCDH”). (Doc. 1). Defendant’s motion, brought pursuant to Rules
12(b)(6) and 12(e), presents a variety of arguments for why this court should dismiss the
complaint or, alternatively, enter an order directing Eatman to file a more definite statement.1
(Doc. 9). For the following reasons, the court finds that the motion to dismiss is due to be
granted as to some claims, and that the alternative motion for a more definite statement is due to
be granted as to the remaining claims.
Defendant’s motion addresses claims asserted by Eatman against both JCDH and Dr.
Teri Chafin. However, Dr. Chafin was dismissed as a defendant in this case, and all claims
against her were dismissed without prejudice. (Doc. 16). Therefore, the court finds Defendant’s
motion moot to the extent that it addresses claims against Dr. Chafin.
STATEMENT OF THE FACTS
Plaintiff Kristal Eatman, a black female, was hired by Defendant Jefferson County
Department of Health as a medical clerk on April 9, 2007. (Doc. 1). On January 28, 2012,
Eatman was promoted to the position of Administrative Assistant III. Eatman alleges that
following her promotion, she began to experience “racial hostility” from her supervisor, Dr. Teri
Chafin, a white female. At the time of the alleged discriminatory actions, Dr. Chafin was the
Director of Dental and Community Health for the Jefferson County Department of Health.
During February 2012, Eatman complained to the JCDH Director of Human Resources,
Delores Johnson, about what she believed to be Dr. Chafin’s disparate treatment of black and
white employees. Johnson never responded to Eatman’s complaint, and Eatman states that she
began to suffer increased discriminatory treatment from Dr. Chafin after lodging her complaint.
Specifically, Eatman states that Dr. Chafin refused to allow her to be trained for her position as
an Administrative Assistant III, restricted her job duties, and threatened her with termination.
In July 2012, Eatman filed another complaint with JCDH, this time with Rodney Holmes,
a JCDH official. Eatman alleges that following her filing of the second complaint, Dr. Chafin
approached her and stated, “training you is going to be like training a monkey.” Eatman further
alleges that Dr. Chafin continued to retaliate against her by continuing to deny her training,
belittling her in private and in public, and refusing to assign her work, which stunted her
professional growth and adversely affected her suitability for other employment positions within
JCDH. On November 16, 2012, Eatman was involuntarily assigned work at the Clinical Services
Department of JCDH. As a result, Eatman is required to travel to two different JCDH job sites
and has had to bear the financial costs of paying for her own fuel.
Eatman filed a claim with the EEOC on November 14, 2012, and received a right to sue
letter on December 19, 2013.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
Generally, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “‘a short
and plain statement of the claim’ that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff’s
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)). A plaintiff must provide the grounds of her entitlement, but Rule
8 generally does not require “detailed factual allegations.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47). It does, however, “demand[ ] more than an
unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely
upon “labels or conclusions” or “naked assertions” without supporting factual allegations.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557.
The Supreme Court explained that “[t]o 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 (quoting and explaining its decision in Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
To be plausible on its face, the claim must contain enough facts that “allow[ ] the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678. Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’” the
complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant’s
liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.’”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
The Supreme Court has recently identified “two working principles” for the district court
to use in applying the facial plausibility standard. The first principle is that, in evaluating
motions to dismiss, the court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded factual allegations;
however, the court does not have to accept as true legal conclusions even when “couched as 
factual allegation[s]” or “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The second principle is that “only a
complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 679. Thus,
under prong one, the court determines the factual allegations that are well-pleaded and assumes
their veracity, and then proceeds, under prong two, to determine the claim’s plausibility given the
well-pleaded facts. That task is “context-specific” and, to survive the motion, the allegations
must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense. . . to infer more than
the mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. If the court determines that well-pleaded facts, accepted
as true, do not state a claim that is plausible, the claim must be dismissed. Id.
“Shotgun” Pleadings and Rules 8(a)(2) and 8(d)(1)
JCDH asserts in its motion to dismiss that Plaintiff’s complaint is a “shotgun pleading”
that is too vague to allow for the Defendant to prepare a response. The Eleventh Circuit has
frequently condemned shotgun pleadings for violating the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See,
e.g., Chapman v. Al Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1027 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Rule 8(a)(2)
requires a pleading to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim” that shows that the
pleader is entitled to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of this requirement is to “give
the defendants fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rule 8(d) also demands that “[e]ach
allegation [in a pleading] must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d)(1). Shotgun
pleadings, however, are neither “short and plain,” nor “simple, concise, and direct.” A shotgun
pleading requires a defendant, as well as a court, to “sift through the facts presented and decide
for [itself] which were material to the particular cause of action asserted.” Pelletier v. Zweifel,
921 F.2d 1465, 1518 (11th Cir. 1991). Such pleadings fall short of the pleading requirements of
Rule 8. Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284–85 (11th Cir. 2001) (holding that a shotgun
pleading is “in no sense the ‘short plain statement of a claim’ required by Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure”).
Eatman’s complaint does not satisfy the pleading standards of Rule 8(a)(2) and Rule
8(d)(1) because it lacks the details necessary to discern the factual support of each of Eatman’s
claims. Eatman’s complaint contains two counts. In her first count, Eatman combines claims for
race discrimination under Title VII, § 1983, and §1981. In her second count, Eatman combines
claims for retaliation under Tile VII, § 1983, and § 1981. Under each count, Eatman presents a
“formulaic recitation of elements,” but fails to cite any specific facts supporting her claims. See
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The bulk of facts contained in
Eatman’s complaint are contained in the “Statement of Facts” section, and Eatman simply “realleges and incorporates by reference” all of the proceeding paragraphs into each of her two
counts. This approach to pleading is a quintessential example of “shotgun pleading” and requires
the Defendant to divine the nature of and facts supporting each of Eatman’s claims. See
Anderson v. District Bd. Of Trs. Of Cent. Fla. Cmty. Coll., 77 F.3d 364, 366 (11th Cir. 1996)
(Plaintiff’s “complaint is a perfect example of ‘shotgun’ pleading in that it is virtually impossible
to know which allegations of fact are intended to support which claim(s) for relief.”) (internal
citation omitted). Because Eatman’s complaint does not provide sufficient notice of the factual
basis for each claim, this court will GRANT JCDH’s motion for a more definite statement.
Although this court will grant JCDH’s motion for a more definite statement, because
Eatman cannot state claims against JCDH under § 1983 or § 1981, the court finds that these
claims are due to be DISMISSED.
Section 1983 Claims
In her complaint, Eatman asserts claims of race discrimination and retaliation against the
JCDH under § 1983. Section 1983 does not create any substantive rights, but only creates a
remedy for violation of a separate federal law. Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441
U.S. 600, 617–18 (1979). To obtain relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must show both that she was
deprived of a federal right and that the deprivation was caused by a person who was a state actor.
Patrick v. Floyd Med. Ctr., 201 F.3d 1313, 1315 (11th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added). State
agencies, such as the JCDH, are not “persons” for the purposes of § 1983. See Will v. Mich.
Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Taylor v. Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 142 F. App’x 373,
374–75 (11th Cir. 2005) (holding “state agencies . . . are not ‘persons’ for the purposes of § 1983
and . . . enjoy the same Eleventh Amendment immunity as [a state]”). Therefore, this court will
DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Eatman’s claims against JCDH for race discrimination and
retaliation under § 1983.
Eatman’s complaint also asserts claims of race discrimination and retaliation against the
JCDH under § 1981. Section 1981 prohibits race discrimination in making and enforcing
contracts and is a statutory remedy available in both the private and public sectors. 42 U.S.C. §
1981; Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454, 459–60 (1975). However, as
Eatman concedes in her response to the JCDH’s motion to dismiss, (Doc. 14, ¶ 8), Section 1981
suits against states agencies, such as JCDH, are barred by a state’s Eleventh Amendment
immunity. See Sessions v. Rusk State Hosp., 648 F.2d 1066, 1069 (11th Cir. 1981). Therefore,
this court will DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Eatman’s claim against JCDH for race
discrimination and retaliation under § 1981.
For the reasons discussed above, the court finds that Defendant JCDH’s motion to
dismiss will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The court will GRANT the
motion as to the § 1983 and § 1981 claims against JCDH for race discrimination in Count I and
retaliation in Count II. The court will DENY the motion to dismiss as to the Title VII claims
against JCDH for race discrimination in Count I and retaliation in Count II. The court will also
GRANT the motion for a more definite statement as to the remaining claims.
DONE and ORDERED this 15th day of October, 2014.
KARON OWEN BOWDRE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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