Bell v. Freeman Decorating Services, Inc.
ORDER denying 7 motion to dismiss. The Court DISMISSES Count III of the Complaint (Doc. 1) sua sponte with leave to amend. The Plaintiff may file an Amended Complaint on or before September 28, 2017, if he so wishes. Signed by Judge Gregory A. Presnell on 9/13/2017. (MAF)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
ANTHONY D. BELL,
Case No: 6:17-cv-960-Orl-31DCI
FREEMAN DECORATING SERVICES,
This matter is before the Court on the Defendant’s Partial Motion to Dismiss Count III of
Plaintiff’s Complaint and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (Doc. 7) and the Plaintiff’s
Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant’s Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10).
According to the Complaint (Doc. 1), which for purposes of this Order is taken as true, the
Plaintiff is a former employee of the Defendant and has been a member of Teamsters Union local
# 385 (“Union”) since 2000. This Union has a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the
Defendant. The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant tortiously interfered with a contractual
relationship between the Plaintiff and the Union. Compl. ¶ 42. The Plaintiff claims that the
Defendant knew that the Plaintiff was a member of the Union and was aware of the Plaintiff’s
“contractual relationship” with the Union. Id. ¶ 43. Because the Plaintiff believed he was the
victim of racial discrimination by the Defendant, he pursued grievances against the Defendant
through the Union. Apparently, the Union “initially declined to take action,” until the Plaintiff
pursued a claim with the National Labor Relations Board, after which the Union “pressed the
grievance on behalf of” the Plaintiff. Compl. ¶ 9. The Defendant allegedly persuaded the Union
to avoid providing the Plaintiff with adequate representation in pursuing various grievances
against the Defendant. Id. ¶ 44. The Plaintiff claims that this cost him “significant time and
expense,” as he “was required to press an unfair labor practice against [the Union] over its failure
to provide representation.” Id.
On May 26, 2017, the Plaintiff filed a five-count Complaint; Count III of the Complaint
alleges Tortious Interference with Contract. On July 18, 2017, the Defendant filed the instant
Motion, arguing that Count III should be dismissed because it is dependent on interpretation of the
Collective Bargaining Agreement and is thus preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management
Relations Act, or, alternatively, because the Plaintiff is not a party to the Collective Bargaining
Agreement and is therefore unable to plead “a fundamental element of tortious interference.” Mot.
II. Legal Standard
A Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
tests the sufficiency of the complaint—it does not reach the merits of the case. Milburn v. United
States, 734 F.2d 762, 765 (11th Cir. 1984). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts
factual allegations as true and construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
SEC v. ESM Group, Inc., 835 F.2d 270, 272 (11th Cir. 1988). The Court limits its consideration to
the pleadings and any exhibits attached thereto. Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c); see also GSW, Inc. v. Long
Cty., Ga., 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) mandates that pleadings contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” so as to give the defendant
fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Conley v. Gibson, 35 U.S. 41,
47 (1957), overruled on other grounds, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The
plaintiff must allege facts that raise a right to relief above the speculative level and indicate the
presence of the required elements. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d
1289, 1302 (11th Cir. 2007). Conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual deductions, or legal
conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal. Davila v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 326
F.3d 1183, 1185 (11th Cir. 2003).
In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Supreme Court explained that a complaint need not contain
detailed factual allegations, “but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do.’ Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked
assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’ ” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557) (internal citations omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do
not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.’ ” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.
R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
Both of the Defendant’s arguments incorrectly assume the Collective Bargaining
Agreement—a contractual relationship between the Defendant and the Union—is the contract with
which the Plaintiff alleges tortious interference. The Complaint, however, does not state that the
Defendant tortiously interfered with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Rather, the Complaint
alleges that the Defendant interfered with a contractual relationship between the Plaintiff and the
Union. Compl. ¶ 44. Accordingly, both of the Defendant’s arguments lack merit.
Although those arguments fail, the Court still finds that Count III is insufficiently pled
under Twombly. In order to state a claim for tortious interference with contract, a Florida plaintiff
must allege “(1) [t]he existence of a contract, (2) [t]he defendant's knowledge of the contract, (3)
[t]he defendant's intentional procurement of the contract's breach, (4) [a]bsence of any justification
or privilege, and (5) [d]amages resulting from the breach.” Johnson Enterprises of Jacksonville,
Inc. v. FPL Grp., Inc., 162 F.3d 1290, 1321 (11th Cir. 1998) (citing Fla. Tel. Corp. v. Essig, 468
So.2d 543, 544 (Fla. 5th DCA 1985)). The Complaint alleges that the Defendant “used multiple
avenues to dissuade [the Union] from adequately representing [the Plaintiff] in pursuing
grievances against [the Defendant].” Compl. ¶ 44. Merely alleging that the Defendant
“dissuaded” the Union from taking a course of action—particularly when the Defendant and the
Union had a contractual relationship of their own—is not enough to successfully plead tortious
interference with contract. The Plaintiff fails to indicate that the Defendant’s alleged behavior was
unjustified or that the Defendant intentionally procured a breach of contract between the Plaintiff
and the Union.
Therefore, it is ORDERED that the Defendant’s Partial Motion to Dismiss Count III is
DENIED for the reasons stated, and the Court DISMISSES Count III of the Complaint (Doc. 1)
sua sponte with leave to amend. The Plaintiff may file an Amended Complaint on or before
September 28, 2017, if he so wishes.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers, Orlando, Florida on September 13, 2017.
Copies furnished to:
Counsel of Record
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