BATTLES v. WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on September 28, 2017. (lcegs2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
) Civil Action No. 16-1655 (EGS)
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA
TRANSIT AUTHORITY, SUMMON
CANNON and DEVIN WALKER
Plaintiff Sheldon Battles, proceeding pro se, has sued
defendants Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
("WMATA") and two of its employees – Summon Cannon and Devin
Walker (together, "Individual Defendants") – for breach of
contract, wrongful termination in violation of public policy,
defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
negligent infliction of emotional distress. Before the Court are
defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). After careful
consideration of the complaint, the memoranda filed by the
parties, and the applicable case law, the Court grants in part
and denies in part WMATA's motion to dismiss, and grants the
Individual Defendants' motion to dismiss.
Mr. Battles, a Maryland resident, worked for WMATA from
January 1997 until his termination on November 27, 2015. Compl.
¶ 8. Originally hired as a bus operator, Mr. Battles earned a
series of promotions between 2007 and 2015, eventually holding
the position of Assistant Superintendent at the West Ox
The facts that eventually led to Mr. Battles' termination
and this subsequent lawsuit arise out of an approximately twomonth long consensual sexual relationship between Mr. Battles
and a subordinate female employee. Id. ¶ 9. The relationship
began in May 2015, while the employee was on leave. Id. ¶¶ 9-10.
By the time the employee returned to work on July 23, 2015, "the
relationship between the Plaintiff and the subordinate employee
had ceased." Id. ¶ 11.
Shortly after returning to work, the employee "began
exhibiting attendance issues." Id. ¶ 12. As her supervisor, Mr.
Battles disciplined the employee about these issues on October
1, 2015. Id. ¶ 13. That same day, the employee filed a complaint
with WMATA accusing Mr. Battles of sexual harassment. Id. ¶ 14.
Defendant Devin Walker, an investigator in WMATA's Office of
Civil Rights, launched an investigation into the employee's
sexual-harassment allegations. Id. ¶¶ 15, 20. In the course of
the investigation, the employee "admit[ted] that her involvement
in the sexual relationship was  consensual." Id. ¶ 17. At the
conclusion of the investigation, WMATA "found no probabl[e]
cause for sexual harassment" and the Office of Civil Rights
issued a determination letter finding that Mr. Battles had not
"violate[d] any Title VII laws or policies." Id. ¶¶ 15, 18.
Despite finding in favor of Mr. Battles on the sexual-harassment
allegations, Mr. Walker determined that Mr. Battles had violated
WMATA's nepotism/favoritism policy. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. As a result,
defendant Summon Cannon, the Superintendent, fired Mr. Battles
from his position on November 27, 2015. Id. ¶ 22.
Mr. Battles claims that WMATA's stated reasons for
terminating his employment are "false and pretextual." Id. ¶ 8.
According to Mr. Battles, WMATA fired him "in retaliation for
his numerous complaints and reports regarding events and
practices that created an unsafe work environment for him and
create[d] conditions that undermined his ability to effectively
supervise his subordinates." Id. In particular, Mr. Battles
asserts that he was terminated as a result of his "complaints to
administrators about the disparate treatment his female
subordinates received after falsely accusing him of
inappropriate behavior" – e.g., "the female subordinate that
made the false allegations was not even disciplined." Id.
Based on these allegations, Mr. Battles asserts five causes
of action: (1) wrongful termination (breach of contract), id. ¶¶
26-31; (2) wrongful termination (public policy violation), id.
¶¶ 32-37; (3) defamation, id. ¶¶ 38-51; (4) intentional
infliction of emotional distress, id. ¶¶ 52-55; and (5)
negligent infliction of emotional distress, id. ¶¶ 56-57. These
causes of actions are asserted against both WMATA and the
Individual Defendants. Mr. Battles seeks "lost past and future
wages" in an amount to be determined. Id. Prayer ¶ 3. He also
requests damages for "loss of employability, mental pain and
anguish and emotional distress." Id. Prayer ¶ 1. Finally, he
seeks punitive damages and costs available under any applicable
statutory provision. Id. Prayer ¶¶ 2, 4-9.
WMATA and the Individual Defendants filed the instant
motions to dismiss on September 9 and 16, 2016, respectively,
arguing that they are entitled to dismissal on the basis of
sovereign immunity and because Mr. Battles fails to plausibly
allege his claims. See WMATA Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss
("WMATA Mem."), ECF No. 3; Individual Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of
Mot. to Dismiss ("Individual Defs.' Mem."), ECF No. 4. Mr.
Battles timely opposed WMATA's motion to dismiss, and that
motion was fully ripe on September 28, 2016. See Pl.'s Mem. in
Opp. to WMATA's Mot. to Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp."), ECF No. 5;
WMATA's Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss ("WMATA's Reply"), ECF
No. 6. Instead of opposing the Individual Defendants' motion to
dismiss, Mr. Battles moved to strike that motion as untimely
filed and for failure to provide accurate information on the
certificate of service. See Pl.'s Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 7. The
Court declined to strike the Individual Defendants' motion, but
it warned defendants that failure to provide accurate
information could lead to the imposition of sanctions. See
Minute Order (Apr. 4, 2017). The Court further directed Mr.
Battles to file his opposition to the Individual Defendants'
motion by no later than April 21, 2017. Id. Despite this Order,
Mr. Battles did not file any opposition to the Individual
Defendants' motion. Instead, on April 24, 2017, without seeking
leave of the Court, Mr. Battles filed a First Amended Complaint.
See Am. Compl., ECF No. 19. On May 8, 2017, WMATA and the
Individual Defendants moved to dismiss that complaint. See
WMATA's Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 22; Individual
Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 21. To date,
Mr. Battles has not responded to either motion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A. Rule 12(b)(1) – Subject-Matter Jurisdiction
"A federal district court may only hear a claim over which
[it] has subject-matter jurisdiction; therefore, a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion for dismissal is a threshold challenge to a court's
jurisdiction." Gregorio v. Hoover, 238 F. Supp. 3d 37 (D.D.C.
2017) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To
survive a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden
of establishing that the court has jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife,
504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992).
Because Rule 12(b)(1) concerns a court's ability to hear a
particular claim, "the court must scrutinize the plaintiff's
allegations more closely when considering a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) than it would under a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Schmidt v. U.S. Capitol
Police Bd., 826 F. Supp. 2d 59, 65 (D.D.C. 2011). In so doing,
the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in
the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff, but the court need not "accept inferences unsupported
by the facts alleged or legal conclusions that are cast as
factual allegations." Rann v. Chao, 154 F. Supp. 2d 61, 64
In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1),
the court "may consider such materials outside the pleadings as
it deems appropriate to resolve the question whether it has
jurisdiction to hear the case." Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections
& Ethics, 104 F. Supp. 2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000); see also Jerome
Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir.
2005). Faced with motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) and
Rule 12(b)(6), a court should first consider the Rule 12(b)(1)
motion because "[o]nce a court determines that it lacks subject
matter jurisdiction, it can proceed no further." Ctr. for
Biological Diversity v. Jackson, 815 F. Supp. 2d 85, 90 (D.D.C.
2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
B. Rule 12(b)(6) – Failure to State a Claim
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint.
Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A
complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give
the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Despite this liberal pleading standard, 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).
A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled in the
complaint allow the court to "draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The
standard does not amount to a "probability requirement," but it
does require more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully." Id.
"[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss [pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6)], a judge must accept as true all of the
factual allegations contained in the complaint." Atherton v.
D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009)
(internal quotation marks omitted). In addition, the court must
give the plaintiff the "benefit of all inferences that can be
derived from the facts alleged." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16
F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). A "pro se complaint is
entitled to liberal construction." Washington v. Geren, 675 F.
Supp. 2d 26, 31 (D.D.C. 2009) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)). Even so,
"[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action,
supported by mere conclusory statements" are not sufficient to
state a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
A. Amended Complaint
The Court first addresses the propriety of Mr. Battles'
First Amended Complaint, which was filed on April 24, 2017. See
Am. Compl., ECF No. 19.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 sets forth the
circumstances and procedures for amending pleadings. Under that
rule, a plaintiff may amend his complaint once "as a matter of
course" within 21 days of serving it or within 21 days of the
filing of a responsive pleading or certain Rule 12 motions. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1). Otherwise, he must seek consent of the
defendant or leave from the court. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2).
"The court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so
requires." Id. Importantly, Rule 15(a) – and its direction to
courts to freely allow amendment of complaints – "applies only
when the plaintiff actually has moved for leave to amend the
complaint." Belizan v. Hershon, 434 F.3d 579, 582 (D.C. Cir.
2006). Absent such a motion, "there is nothing 'to be freely
Here, Mr. Battles served his initial complaint on WMATA on
August 19, 2016. See Return of Service Affidavit, ECF No. 2. Mr.
Battles served the Individual Defendants a week later on August
25 and 26, 2016. See id. Defendants filed their Rule 12(b)(6)
motions in September 2016. See WMATA Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 3
(filed Sept. 9, 2016); Individual Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF
No. 4 (filed Sept. 16, 2016). As such, there can be no question
that Mr. Battles First Amended Complaint – which was filed on
April 24, 2017, approximately seven months after defendants'
moved to dismiss the initial complaint – was filed long after
the period for amendment "as a matter of course" had passed.
As a result, Mr. Battles was required to obtain defendants'
written consent or seek leave of the court prior to filing his
First Amended Complaint. He did neither. See, e.g., WMATA's Mem.
in Supp. Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 22 ("Not only
has Plaintiff failed to seek consent for filing his Amended
Complaint, he has also failed to seek leave from the Court.").
Accordingly, the Court strikes the First Amended Complaint from
the record. See, e.g., Pinson v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 975 F.
Supp. 2d 20, 28 (D.D.C. 2013) (striking pro se plaintiff's
second amended complaint where plaintiff failed to seek leave
before filing the complaint); cf. Alston v. Flagstar Bank, FSB,
609 F. App'x 2, 4 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (because plaintiff "did not
follow the court's rules governing amendments, it could hardly
have been an abuse of discretion for the district court to deny
leave to amend") (citation and internal quotation marks
B. Mr. Battles' Claims Against WMATA
(1) Mr. Battles' Breach-of-Contract Claim Cannot
Be Resolved on a Motion to Dismiss.
In his first count, Mr. Battles alleges that WMATA breached
an "oral and implied contract" with him by "terminating [him]
The Court notes that the only new allegations in the First
Amended Complaint appear to relate to Mr. Battles' exhaustion of
administrative remedies. Even if Mr. Battles had alleged a claim
under Title VII or some other statutory or other scheme
requiring administrative exhaustion prior to filing suit, "[a]
plaintiff need not plead exhaustion in his complaint" because
"[f]ailure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative
defense." Moore v. D.C., 445 Fed. Appx. 365, 366 (D.C. Cir.
2011). Accordingly, nothing in the First Amended Complaint would
alter the Court's analysis with respect to Mr. Battles' claims
at this stage in the litigation.
for false, pretextual and defamatory reasons in retaliation for
his reports and complaints of disparate treatment." Compl. ¶¶
In its motion, WMATA initially argued that Mr. Battles'
breach-of-contract claim failed because Mr. Battles' position as
an Assistant Superintendent for Bus Service Operations was
considered "middle management." WMATA Mem. at 3. According to
WMATA, under its policy, middle managers are "at-will" employees
who can be discharged "at any time and for any reason, or for no
reason at all." Mem. at 3 (citing Adams v. George W. Cochran &
Co., 597 A.2d 28, 30 (D.C. 1991)).
In his opposition, Mr. Battles asserts that "his employment
with [WMATA] is not at will." Pl.'s Opp. at 3. He further cites
Lance v. United Mine Workers of Am. 1974 Pension Tr., 355 F.
Supp. 2d 358, 360 (D.D.C. 2005), for the proposition that "an
employee handbook or other policy statement" can create an
enforceable contractual right in certain circumstances. Pl.'s
Opp. at 3. Mr. Battles states that, in this instance, an
"Employee Dispute Resolution" policy "create[d] an enforceable
right to the particular disciplinary procedures described
therein." Id. at 4.
WMATA now appears to concede that Mr. Battles was not a
middle-management employee at the time of his termination. See
WMATA's Reply at 1 ("Plaintiff is correct that he was terminated
from his position as an Assistant Superintendent . . . which at
the time was considered a LS-10 position."). Instead, it now
argues that Mr. Battles' reliance on the employee dispute
resolution policy "backfires" because the policy specifically
excepts cases like that of Mr. Battles from the procedures it
sets forth. Id. at 1-2. WMATA further adds that, even if the
policy does apply, Mr. Battles' claim still fails because he
failed to "plead that he exhausted his administrative remedy
first before filing suit." Id. at 2.
addresses WMATA's second argument first. The
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "do not require a plaintiff to
anticipate affirmative defenses which might be raised by a
defendant." Chem-Met Co. v. Metaland Int'l, Inc., No. CIV. A.
96-2548(TAF), 1997 WL 74541, at *2 (D.D.C. Feb. 19, 1997).
Indeed, "the practice of pleading facts in a complaint to defeat
anticipated affirmative defenses is disfavored." Id. Consistent
with this principle, the D.C. Circuit has made clear that "[a]
plaintiff need not plead exhaustion in his complaint" because
"[f]ailure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative
defense." Moore v. D.C., 445 Fed. Appx. 365, 366 (D.C. Cir.
Moreover, the Court declines to convert WMATA's motion to
dismiss into one for summary judgment because WMATA itself has
not provided any proof to support its contention that Mr.
Battles failed to employ the dispute-resolution procedures
outlined in the policy. Instead, WMATA cursorily asserts that
Mr. Battles' "failure to exhaust [his] administrative rights
warrants dismissal of his Complaint." WMATA Reply at 2. This is
insufficient. See Drewrey v. Clinton, 763 F. Supp. 2d 54, 61
(D.D.C. 2011) ("Meager, conclusory allegations that the
plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies will not
satisfy the defendant's burden."). Accordingly, the Court will
not dismiss Mr. Battles' complaint on this ground. See, e.g.,
Kim v. United States, 632 F.3d 713, 719 (D.C. Cir. 2011)(because
plaintiffs "were free to omit exhaustion from their pleadings,"
summary judgment would be the appropriate stage to ascertain
plaintiffs' efforts toward exhaustion); Tapp v. Washington
Metro. Area Transit Auth., No. 15-CV-0768, 2016 WL 7441719, at
*11 (D.D.C. Sept. 30, 2016) ("because [plaintiff]'s amended
complaint does not allege any facts that relate to the
affirmative defense of non-exhaustion, this Court cannot
conclude, as a matter of law, that plaintiff cannot prove any
set of facts entitling him to relief") (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
WMATA's other argument – that the dispute-resolution
procedures set out in the policy specifically exclude cases like
those of Mr. Battles' from their purview – fares no better.
WMATA claims that sexual-harassment complaints "are not eligible
for review" under the dispute-resolution policy. WMATA Reply at
1. According to WMATA, Mr. Battles' termination due to his
alleged failure to comply with the favoritism/nepotism policy
was "directly related" to an investigation of sexual harassment
– and therefore, Mr. Battles had no "right" to have his
dispute resolved pursuant to the policy. Id. at 1-2.
At this stage in the litigation, during which the Court
must draw all inferences in favor of Mr. Battles, the Court
declines to find that Mr. Battles' termination was "directly
related" to the investigation into the sexual-harassment
allegations lodged against him. See Martin v. Washington Metro.
Area Transit Auth., 273 F. Supp. 2d 114, 117 (D.D.C. 2003)
(refusing to dismiss breach of implied contract claim "without
the benefit of affidavits" or other evidence). Although WMATA
may well be right that Mr. Battles has no enforceable contract
rights, the Court does not have sufficient evidence to make that
determination at this juncture. Accordingly, the Court will not
dismiss Mr. Battles' breach-of-contract claim against WMATA.
(2) Mr. Battles' Common-Law Tort Claims Are
Barred By WMATA's Sovereign Immunity.
Mr. Battles also seeks to maintain tort claims for wrongful
termination in violation of public policy, 2 defamation,
Although an employer can generally discharge an at-will
employee at any time, D.C. law recognizes an exception to this
rule in the intentional tort for wrongful discharge. See Herron
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent
infliction of emotional distress against WMATA. WMATA argues
that all of Mr. Battles' tort claims must be dismissed because
"WMATA enjoys sovereign immunity for torts committed in the
performance of its discretionary decision to terminate the
Plaintiff from his employment." WMATA Mem. at 3-4.
The Eleventh Amendment affords each state immunity from
suits brought against it in federal court. Morris v. Washington
Metro. Area Transit Auth., 781 F.2d 218, 222–23 (D.C. Cir.
1986). Although "the immunity is one of the state, some agencies
exercising state power have been permitted to invoke the
Amendment in order to protect the state treasury from liability
that would have had essentially the same practical consequences
as a judgment against the State itself." Morris v. Washington
Metro. Area Transit Auth., 781 F.2d 218, 223 (D.C. Cir. 1986)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). WMATA was
created by a compact enacted by Congress to which the
Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the
District of Columbia are signatories. Jones v. Washington Metro.
v. Fannie Mae, No. CV 10-943 (RMC), 2016 WL 1177918, at *16
(D.D.C. Mar. 8, 2016). Under this exception, "there is a cause
of action for wrongful termination where an at-will employee
acted in furtherance of a public policy and was terminated
solely on the basis of such conduct." Id. (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
Area Transit Auth., 205 F.3d 428, 432 (D.C. Cir. 2000). The D.C.
Circuit has "consistently recognized that in signing the WMATA
Compact, Virginia and Maryland each conferred its immunity upon
Section 80 of the WMATA Compact includes a limited waiver
of immunity for tort claims "committed in the conduct of any
proprietary function" but not for "any torts occurring in the
performance of a governmental function." D.C. Code § 91107.01(80). "Because it is difficult to distinguish between
public and private sector functions with any precision," a court
instead asks "whether the claim seeks to impose liability for
conduct that is discretionary, in which case the claim is barred
by immunity, or ministerial, in which case the claim may
proceed." Banneker Ventures, LLC v. Graham, 798 F.3d 1119, 1138
(D.C. Cir. 2015). "Discretionary duties generally involve
judgment, planning, or policy decisions and are immunized as
reflecting sovereign choices." Id. (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). Ministerial duties, on the other hand,
"involve enforcement or administration of a mandatory duty at
the operational level," and are not immunized. Id.
To determine whether a WMATA activity is discretionary –
and therefore shielded by sovereign immunity – the court must
apply a two-part test. See KiSKA Const. Corp. v. Washington
Metro. Area Transit Auth., 321 F.3d 1151, 1159 (D.C. Cir. 2003).
First, the court must determine "whether any statute,
regulation, or policy prescribes a course of action for [the
decisionmaker] follow." Id. (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted). If so, sovereign immunity does not apply. If the
governing statutes or regulations leave room for the exercise of
discretion – or if there is no governing regulation prescribing
a course of conduct at all – then the court must ask whether the
decisionmaker's "exercise of discretion is grounded in social,
economic, or political goals." Id. If the answer to that
question is affirmative, then the decision at issue is
"susceptible to policy judgement" and thus fits "within section
80's retention of sovereign immunity." Id.
Here, WMATA's decision to terminate Mr. Battles' employment
was an exercise of discretion and therefore shielded from
liability by WMATA's sovereign immunity. As the D.C. Circuit has
explained, "[a]lthough employment decisions are not
quintessential governmental functions – after all, private
entities also hire and fire employees –  decisions concerning
the hiring, training and supervising of WMATA employees are
discretionary in nature, and thus immune from judicial review."
Beebe v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 129 F.3d 1283,
1287 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). This is because the Compact "confers broad powers on
WMATA to . . . provide for the qualification, appointment, [and]
removal" of its employees. Id. Mr. Battles' tort allegations
arise out of an internal investigation conducted by WMATA
through which it determined that Mr. Battles had violated work
policies related to favoritism. Mr. Battles has not pointed to
any "statute, regulation, or policy" that prescribes WMATA's
decision. To the contrary, this type of employment decision
inherently involves an "exercise of discretion . . . grounded in
social, economic, or political goals," "including budgetary
constraints, public perception, economic conditions, individual
backgrounds, office diversity, experience and employer
intuition." Beebe, 129 F.3d at 1287-88 (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
In his opposition, Mr. Battles attempts to avoid immunity
by pointing to the Civil Rights Remedies Equalization Act. Pl.'s
Opp. at 5. That statue provides that
[a] state shall not be immune under the Eleventh
Amendment of the Constitution of the United States
from suit in Federal court for a violation of section
504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, title IX of the
Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination
Act of 1975, title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
or the provisions of any other Federal statute
prohibiting discrimination by recipients of Federal
42 U.S.C. § 2000d–7(a)(1) (2006).
Although it is not wholly clear what argument Mr. Battles
intends to advance, a liberal reading of his opposition suggests
that Mr. Battles believes that Congress intended to waive
WMATA's immunity from claims for discrimination and retaliation
through section 2000d-7. But Mr. Battles has not alleged any
federal causes of action, much less a cause of action under a
"Federal statute prohibiting discrimination by recipients of
Federal financial assistance." See Compl ¶¶ 32-57 (alleging
claims for wrongful termination, defamation, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of
emotional distress). Mr. Battles points to no authority, and the
Court has found none, that suggests WMATA has waived its
immunity from state-law tort claims in federal court through
In short, WMATA is shielded from liability for Mr. Battles'
tort claims stemming from WMATA's decision to terminate Mr.
Battles' employment. See, e.g., Tapp, 2016 WL 7441719, at *9
("any tortious conduct that WMATA may have committed here is
immune from suit because such torts arose out of WMATA's
administration of its personnel system and property, and its
decision in this regard was made pursuant to the exercise of its
discretion") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted);
Malloy v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 187 F. Supp. 3d
34, 45 (D.D.C. 2016) ("WMATA's actions in suspending and
removing Malloy from his position . . . are immune for suit in
tort."); Headen v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 741 F.
Supp. 2d 289, 295-96 (D.D.C. 2010) (dismissing plaintiff's
claims for defamation, wrongful termination, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress because "WMATA is not liable
for torts concerning personnel decisions").
C. Mr. Battles' Claims Against The Individual
Mr. Battles also asserts his contract and tort claims
against Summon Cannon, the superintendent who fired him, and
Devin Walker, the WMATA employee who conducted the investigation
into the sexual-harassment claim lodged against him. Mr. Cannon
and Mr. Walker argue that they are immune from all of Mr.
Battles' claims pursuant to the interstate compact creating
WMATA. Ind. Defs.' Mem. at 2-4. Section 80 of the Compact
provides, in relevant part:
The Authority shall be liable for its contracts and
for its torts and those of its Directors, officers,
employees and agent committed in the conduct of any
proprietary function . . . . The exclusive remedy for
such breach of contracts and torts for which the
Authority shall be liable, as herein provided, shall
be by suit against the Authority.
D.C. Code Ann. § 9-1107.01(80) (emphases added). "In other
words, for torts committed in the course of proprietary or
ministerial functions, WMATA is liable and its employees
immune." Beebe, 129 F.3d at 1288.
Mr. Cannon and Mr. Walker assert that section 80 "makes
WMATA the exclusive defendant for any contractual claims,"
requiring dismissal of Mr. Battles' breach-of-contract claim.
Individual Defs.' Mem. at 2-3. Mr. Cannon and Mr. Walker further
argue that section 80 precludes any tort liability as well
because they were acting within the scope of their official
duties and because "[t]orts arising out of personnel decisions
are discretionary decisions shielded by WMATA's sovereign
immunity." Id. at 3.
Despite being directed to file his opposition to the
Individual Defendants' motion to dismiss by April 21, 2017, see
April 4, 2017 Minute Order, Mr. Battles failed to do so and
accordingly offers no response to this argument. In his
complaint, Mr. Battles does not allege that Mr. Cannon or Mr.
Walker acted outside the scope of their official duties. To the
contrary, Mr. Battles' scant particularized allegations against
these defendants indicate that both defendants were acting well
within the scope of their official duties. See Compl. ¶¶ 15-21
(describing Mr. Walker's involvement in the EEOC investigation
of the sexual-harassment claim filed against Mr. Battles); id. ¶
22 ("[A]s a result of [Mr. Walker's] erroneous finding [that
Plaintiff violated WMATA's nepotism/favoritism policy],
Superintendent Summon Cannon did, on November 27, 2015,
terminate Plaintiff from his position[.]").
Because Mr. Cannon and Mr. Walker were acting within the
scope of their official duties, and because this Court has
already found that they were engaged in discretionary functions,
see supra Part III.B.2, Mr. Cannon and Mr. Walker are immune
from suit. Therefore, all of Mr. Battles' claims against them
must be dismissed.
For the reasons explained above, WMATA's motion to dismiss
is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, WMATA is
immune from liability from Mr. Battles' tort claims, and
therefore Counts II, III, IV, and V against WMATA are dismissed
with prejudice. Mr. Battles' breach-of-contract claim – Count I
– survives WMATA's motion to dismiss. The Individual Defendants
are immune from liability from all of Mr. Battles' claims, and
therefore Counts I, II, III, IV, and V against Mr. Cannon and
Mr. Walker are dismissed with prejudice. WMATA and the
Individual Defendants' motions to dismiss Mr. Battles' amended
complaint are DENIED as moot. An appropriate Order accompanies
this Memorandum Opinion.
Emmet G. Sullivan
United States District Judge
September 28, 2017
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?