Hopper v. Rehau Incorporated
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's motion for partial dismissal 3 is GRANTED. Hopper's claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is DISMISSED with prejudice. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 8/7/2015. (PSM)
2015 Aug-07 PM 02:04
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
RICKY ALLEN HOPPER,
Memorandum of Opinion and Order
Before the Court is Defendant Rehau, Inc.’s motion for partial dismissal
(Doc. 3.) For the reasons explained below, Defendant’s motion is due to be granted.
Plaintiff Ricky Allen Hopper (“Hopper”) brings this action pro se based on
events that occurred while he was employed at Rehau Incorporated (“Rehau” or
“Defendant”). Hopper alleges that Rehau continuously assigned him work outside
of his job classification, while a similarly classified female coworker was not also asked
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court must accept the plaintiff’s well-pled factual
allegations as true and construe them in his favor. See Baloco ex rel. Tapia v. Drummond Co., 640 F.3d
1338, 1345 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010)).
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to perform such work. He further alleges that this female coworker was afforded extra
assistance during her shifts. On August 15, 2014, Hopper asserts that Rehau made him
operate an injection-molding machine without having the proper safety clothing.
Hopper complained to management about being discriminated against based on his
sex, citing: (1) being asked to perform additional work over his female counterpart;
and (2) being asked to work in unsafe conditions. Hopper argues this led to his
Hopper filed his complaint on May 5, 2015, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981a, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1 at 2.) On June 1, 2015,
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Hopper’s § 1983 claim, arguing that Hopper
failed to plead any facts demonstrating that Rehau was a “state actor” under the
statute. Hopper filed a response to Defendant’s motion on June 15, 2015. As
Defendant’s reply brief points out, Hopper’s response contains numerous factual
assertions not found in the original complaint.
Standard of Review
A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2). However, the facts alleged in the complaint must be specific enough that the
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claim raised is “plausible.” See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“To
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.”) (internal
quotations omitted) (emphasis added). “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.’” Pouyeh v. Univ. of Ala. Dep’t of
Ophthamology, No. CV-12-BE-4198-S, 2014 WL 2740314, at *3 (N.D. Ala. June 16,
2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (alteration in original). Conclusory statements
of law may “provide the framework of a complaint,” but the plaintiff is required to
support them with “factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
The process for evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint has two steps. This
Court “begin[s] by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. Conclusory statements
and recitations of a claim’s elements are thus disregarded for purposes of determining
whether a plaintiff is entitled to access discovery. See Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701,
709 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 687). Next, this Court “assume[s] [the]
veracity” of “well-pleaded factual allegations” and “determine[s] whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A complaint’s
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factual matter need not be detailed, but it “must . . . raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
In reviewing the complaint, this Court “draw[s] on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Nonetheless, “[a] well-pleaded complaint
may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of [the facts alleged] is
improbable.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. This Court considers only “the face of the
complaint and attachments thereto” in order to determine whether Plaintiff states a
claim for relief. Starship Enters. of Atlanta, Inc. v. Coweta Cnty., Ga., 708 F.3d 1243,
1252 n.13 (11th Cir. 2013). Generally, the complaint should include “enough
information regarding the material elements of a cause of action to support recovery
under some ‘viable legal theory.’” Am. Fed’n of Labor & Cong. of Indus. Orgs v. City
of Miami, Fla., 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr.
for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683-84 (11th Cir. 2001)).
Harper’s complaint is wholly devoid of facts showing any connection between
Defendant Rehau and a state government, and this Court may not use allegations
found only in Plaintiff’s response to cure this defect. See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues
& Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 323 (2007). However, even considering the assertions
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found only in Plaintiff Hopper’s response to Defendant’s motion to dismiss, Hopper
has failed to state a claim under § 1983. Only in rare circumstances can a private party
be considered a “state actor” under § 1983. Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127, 1130
(11th Cir. 1992). Eleventh Circuit has employed three tests to determine whether the
actions of a private entity are attributable to the state. These tests include:
(1) the public function test, which asks whether the private actors were
performing functions “traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the
state;” (2) the state compulsion test, which applies to situations where
the government coerced or significantly encouraged the unconstitutional
actions at issue; and (3) the nexus/joint action test, which applies where
the state and the private party were joint participants in the common
Brown v. Lewis, 361 F. App’x 51, 54 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting and citing Focus on the
Family v. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Auth., 344 F.3d 1263, 1277 (11th Cir. 2003)).
Though Hopper’s arguments concerning why Rehau is a “state actor” are
unclear, he appears to be asserting that (1) Rehau’s contracts with federal prisons
make it a “state actor” under § 1983; and (2) that unspecified state and federal labor
laws “coerced” Rehau into committing unconstitutional discrimination, thus
somehow imposing § 1983 liability on Rehau. Simply put, these assertions are
insufficient to subject Rehau to § 1983 liability. Past the allegation that these contracts
were with a governmental actor, Hopper does not provide any facts concerning the
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nature of Rehau’s obligations under these contracts. The mere fact that Defendant
Rehau had some government contracts—none of which Hopper alleges formed the
basis of his own job responsibilities or were otherwise implicated in his
termination—is insufficient to establish that Rehau was a “state actor” within the
context of this action.2 Similarly, Hopper’s assertion that Rehau’s wrongful conduct
was the result of unspecified labor laws and regulations is entirely conclusory and
speculative, as Hopper fails to even indicate a specific law that “coerced” the
allegedly unconstitutional discrimination. Furthermore, the Court questions whether
alleging coercion by way of a generally applicable state law is ever sufficient to make
a private entity a state actor under § 1983.
Accordingly, Hopper has failed to state a valid claim for relief with respect to
his § 1983 claim. While the Court usually grants a plaintiff an opportunity to amend
his or her complaint before dismissing any claim, the Court need not give leave to
amend where an amendment to the complaint would be futile. Hopper’s response to
Defendant’s motion to dismiss contains facts that would have formed the basis of any
amended complaint. For the reasons explained above, these additional allegations still
The court further notes that § 1983 imposes liability only against officials acting under color of
state law. To the extent that Hopper suggests that Rehau had a contract with any government actor,
it is, in his own words, the federal prison system and the U.S. Department of Justice. See Dist. of
Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418, 424–25 (1973) (asserting that § 1983 does not apply to federal
actors acting under color of federal law).
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do not establish that Rehau is a “state actor” under § 1983. Accordingly, Hopper’s
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is due to be dismissed with prejudice.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s motion for partial dismissal (Doc. 3) is
GRANTED. Hopper’s claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is DISMISSED with
Done this 7th day of August 2015.
L. SCOTT COOGLER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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