Body by Cook, Inc., et al v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, et al.
ORDER AND REASONS granting #157 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and granting #158 Motion to Dismiss. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs' state law claim for negligent hiring and/or supervision is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Susie Morgan. (bwn)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
BODY BY COOK, INC., ET AL.,
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE
INSURANCE, ET AL.,
SECTION: “E” (5)
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court are two motions to dismiss Count Seven of Plaintiffs’ Second
Amended Complaint. 1 Plaintiffs, Body by Cook, Inc., and Robert Cook, oppose the
motions. 2 Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Co. filed a reply to Plaintiffs’
responses in opposition. 3 For the reasons that follow, the motions to dismiss are
FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff Body by Cook, Inc., is an automotive repair shop located in Slidell,
Louisiana, which is owned and operated by Plaintiff Robert Cook (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”). Plaintiffs allege that, on numerous occasions, Robert Cook attempted to
register Body by Cook as a “Direct Repair Shop” through the “Direct Repair Programs”
offered by Defendants State Farm Mutual Automobile Co., Allstate Insurance Co., Liberty
Mutual Insurance Co., Travelers Casualty and Surety Co., GEICO General Insurance Co.,
and Progressive Security Insurance Co. (collectively, “Defendants”). 4 According to
1 R. Doc. 157 (filed by Defendant State Farm Mutual Insurance Co.); R. Doc. 158 (filed by Defendants Allstate
Insurance Co., Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Progressive Security Insurance Co., and Travelers Casualty
and Surety Co.).
2 R. Docs. 160, 161.
3 R. Doc. 164.
4 R. Doc. 109 at 1.
Plaintiffs, despite their qualifications, Body by Cook and Robert Cook have “been refused
entry into the [Direct Repair Programs], and lesser qualified or similarly situated, nonminority owned body shops have been granted access.” 5 Plaintiffs allege the Defendants
discriminated against Body by Cook because Robert Cook, its sole owner, is an AfricanAmerican male. Plaintiffs further allege that the Defendants, due to Robert Cook’s
minority status, conspired with one another to refuse Body by Cook access to their Direct
Repair Programs. In addition, Plaintiffs allege that, since the filing of this lawsuit, they
have been retaliated against by Defendants, who “virtually shut Plaintiffs out from any
customer business of Defendants’ insureds.” 6
Plaintiffs filed this action on June 16, 2015. 7 Plaintiffs have since been granted
leave of court to amend their complaint on two occasions. 8 In their Second Amended
Complaint, Plaintiffs advance seven causes of action: (1) Section 1981 discrimination
(against all Defendants); (2) Section 1985(3) conspiracy (against all Defendants); (3)
Section 1981 retaliation (against all Defendants); (4) Section 1981 retaliation (against the
State Farm Defendants only); (5) Title VII discrimination (against State Farm only); (6)
Title VII retaliation (against State Farm only); and (7) Louisiana state law claims for
negligent hiring and negligent supervision (against all Defendants). 9 The Defendants filed
motions to dismiss with respect to the federal causes of action, which the Court granted
on August 25, 2016. 10 With regard to Plaintiffs’ state law claims, the Court concluded that
because it dismissed all of Plaintiffs’ federal law claims, it could no longer exercise
R. Doc. 109 at 1.
R. Doc. 109 at 16.
7 R. Doc. 1.
8 R. Docs. 14, 109.
9 R. Doc. 109 at 13–22.
10 R. Doc. 135.
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ state law claims. 11 The Court did not address the
merits of Plaintiffs’ state law claims. 12 Plaintiffs appealed the Court’s judgment to the
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. 13
On October 4, 2017, the Fifth Circuit issued a judgment affirming in part and
reversing in part. 14 The Fifth Circuit affirmed this Court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ § 1981
conspiracy claims, § 1981 retaliation claims, and both of Plaintiff Robert Cook’s Title VII
claims. The Fifth Circuit further concluded this Court was correct to dismiss Robert
Cook’s § 1981 contract claim against State Farm and Plaintiffs’ § 1981 contract claims
against all other Defendants, but reversed the dismissal of Body by Cook’s § 1981 contract
claim against State Farm. 15 With regard to the state claw claims, the Fifth Circuit directed,
“[b]ecause we reverse the district court’s dismissal of Body by Cook’s § 1981 claim against
State Farm, we also reverse the district court’s dismissal of the state law claims, and
remand those claims for consideration on the merits.” 16
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a district court may dismiss
a complaint, or any part of it, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
if the plaintiff has not set forth factual allegations in support of his claim that would entitle
him to relief. 17 “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.’” 18 “A claim
R. Doc. 135 at 20-21.
13 R. Doc. 137.
14 R. Doc. 149.
15 R. Doc. 149-1 at 10.
16 Id. at 14.
17 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Cuvillier v. Taylor, 503 F.3d 397, 401 (5th Cir.
18 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” 19
However, the court does not accept as true legal conclusions or mere conclusory
statements, 20 and “conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual
conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.” 21 “[T]hreadbare recitals of
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements” or “naked
assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement” are not sufficient. 22
In summary, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” 23 “[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 pleader is entitled to relief.” 24 “Dismissal is appropriate when the
complaint ‘on its face show[s] a bar to relief.’” 25
LAW AND ANALYSIS
At issue in the present motions is Count Seven, in which Plaintiff asserts a
Louisiana state law tort claim for negligent training and supervision. 26 The negligent
training and supervision claim is based on the employer’s alleged direct negligence. 27 The
claim is generally governed by the same duty-risk analysis used for all negligence cases. 28
21 S. Christian Leadership Conference v. Supreme Court of the State of La., 252 F.3d 781, 786 (5th Cir.
2001) (citing Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass’n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993)).
22 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663, 678 (citations omitted).
23 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
24 Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
25 Cutrer v. McMillan, 308 F. App’x 819, 820 (5th Cir. 2009) (per curiam) (unpublished) (quoting Clark v.
Amoco Prod. Co., 794 F.2d 967, 970 (5th Cir. 1986)).
26 R. Doc. 109 at 21.
27 Griffin v. Kmart Corp., 00-1334 (La. App. 5 Cir. 11/28/00); 776 So.2d 1226. See also Cruz v. Fulton, WL
4543613 (E.D. La. Aug. 31, 2016).
28 See Bourgeois v. Allstate Ins. Co., 02-105 (La. App. 5 Cir. 5/29/02); 820 So. 2d 1132, 1135.
Accordingly, a claim for negligent supervision and training requires a plaintiff to show at
trial (1) the defendants had a duty to conform its conduct to the appropriate standard; (2)
the defendants failed to conform its conduct to the appropriate standard; (3) the
defendants’ substandard conduct was the cause-in-fact of the plaintiff’s injuries; (4) the
defendants’ substandard conduct was a legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and (5) actual
In Count Seven, Plaintiffs allege “Defendants were negligent in failing to properly
train and/or supervise its managerial and/or supervisor employees to act or to make
decisions in a manner as not to discriminate against African-Americans in contracts, in
such a manner as to prevent racial discrimination which proximately caused injury to the
Plaintiffs.” 30 Plaintiffs further allege, “Defendants were negligent in allowing supervisory
and/or managerial employees who harbored racial animus and ill will towards minorities
or people of color and who were in a position of authority to make decisions about the
[direct repair program].” 31 In Plaintiffs’ memoranda in opposition to the motions to
dismiss, they argue the Second Amended Complaint asserts facts that “describe to each
Defendant what is being sued about with details.” 32 Plaintiffs further argue they “[cite]
particulars of correspondence and each action Plaintiffs took with respect to each
Defendant.” 33 Neither Count Seven nor the remainder of the Second Amended Complaint
contains any factual allegations.
The Court finds the Plaintiffs have not pled sufficient factual allegations to make a
plausible claim for negligent training and supervision. Nowhere in Plaintiffs’ pleadings
Detraz v. Lee, 05-1263 (La. 01/17/07); 950 So. 2d 557, 562.
R. Doc. 109 at 21.
32 R. Doc. 160 at 5-6.
33 Id. at 6.
are there any factual allegations that, taken as true, would enable this Court to infer the
Defendants are liable for the conduct alleged. In the Second Amended Complaint,
Plaintiffs do allege they contacted each of the Defendants regarding their respective direct
repair programs, and they do list the names of any employees with whom they spoke or
corresponded. 34. Plaintiffs do not, however, allege any facts suggesting Defendants failed
to train their employees or that they negligently hired or retained employees who
presented a risk of harm to customers, let alone that such training programs resulted in
any harm to Plaintiffs. Rather, Plaintiffs’ claim for negligent training and supervision
merely asserts the conclusion that “Defendants were negligent in failing to properly train
and/or supervise [their] . . . employees.” 35 Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ pleadings fail to contain
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.’” 36
For the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that the Defendants’ motions to
dismiss are GRANTED. 37
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ state law claim for negligent hiring
and/or supervision is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 8th day of December, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
R. Doc. 109 at 5-12.
36 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). Defendants also move to dismiss Count Seven on the grounds that Plaintiffs have impermissibly
“lumped” the Defendants together, thus failing to satisfy Rule 8’s pleading requirements. See R. Doc. 158-1
at 6. The Court does not address this argument, because it finds that even if Plaintiffs collective allegations
against Defendants satisfy Rule 8, Plaintiffs have nonetheless failed to state a claim upon which relief can
37 R. Doc. 157 and 158.
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