Ansah v. Walmart Stores, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by District Judge James C. Cacheris on 02/07/2017. (dvanm, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
RONA ROSEMOND ANSAH,
WAL-MART STORES, INC.,
M E M O R A N D U M
O P I N I O N
This matter is before the Court on the Defendant’s
Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint for Failure to
State a Claim.
For the following reasons, the Court
will grant Defendant’s motion.
This case is brought by pro se Plaintiff Rona Rosemond
Ansah (“Plaintiff” or “Ansah”) against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
(“Defendant” or “Wal-Mart”) for alleged violations of her right
to be free from unlawful search and seizure, her right to
privacy, and her right to self-dignity.
Amend. Compl. at 6-7.
These rights were allegedly violated when one of Defendant’s
employees “set her up for theft.”
Id. at 1.
facts are taken from Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint and, for the
purposes of this motion, are presumed true.
On April 14, 2016, Plaintiff took her automobile, a
2005 Chevrolet Equinox, to a Wal-Mart start located at 5883
Kingstowne Boulevard in Alexandria, Virginia, to obtain
Amend. Compl. at 1.
Plaintiff, she was required to wait for an hour after her
vehicle was ready.
Id. ¶ 3.
While waiting, Plaintiff asked the
cashier if she could purchase two additional items, a cookie and
a facial cleanser, when she paid for her automotive services.
Id. ¶ 4.
The cashier confirmed that she could do so.
When Plaintiff was finally called to the counter to
check out, she alleges that the cashier’s computer experienced a
Amend. Compl. ¶ 6.
call a manager for assistance.
The cashier had to
While waiting for the
manager to arrive, Plaintiff left the counter to browse a
display of car stereos.
Id. ¶ 7.
She alleges that she left the
cookie and facial cleanser at the counter during this time.
Once the manager arrived, Plaintiff returned to the counter to
sign some paperwork and pay.
Id. ¶ 9.
After doing so,
Plaintiff asked the cashier for her car keys, which she alleges
had not yet been returned to her.
Id. ¶ 10.
The cashier stated
to Plaintiff that she had already been given her keys, which she
had put in her purse.
Id. ¶ 11.
To demonstrate that this was
not true, Plaintiff emptied the contents of her purse onto the
No keys appeared.
Id. ¶ 12.
The cashier then
suggested that Plaintiff look for her keys near the car stereos.
Id. ¶ 13.
Plaintiff alleges that, after noticing some store
surveillance cameras, she asked the cashier to call store
She further alleges that the cashier responded
to this request by handing Plaintiff her car keys.
Having obtained her keys and paid, Plaintiff began to
walk out of the Wal-Mart store.
Amend. Compl. ¶ 15.
she realized that the cashier had not charged her for the cookie
and facial cleanser.
with the cashier.
Id. ¶ 15.
She discussed this oversight
It is unclear from the face of her
Amended Complaint whether she ultimately paid for these items,
Plaintiff filed suit in state court on July 19, 2016.
[See Dkt. 1-1.]
On October 28, 2016, Defendant filed a notice
of removal to federal court.
That same day,
Defendant filed its first motion to dismiss.
November 22, 2016, the Court ordered Plaintiff to file a more
particularized Complaint by December 5, 2016.
Plaintiff failed to do so by the deadline, filing her Amended
Complaint on December 21, 2016.
second motion to dismiss on January 5, 2017.
Defendant filed its
Plaintiff filed her response in opposition on January 24, 2017,
[Dkt. 21] to which Defendant replied on January 30, 2017 [Dkt.
Defendant’s motion is now ripe for disposition.
Standard of Review
“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve
contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.”
Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin,
980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted).
Supreme Court has stated that in order “[t]o survive a motion to
dismiss, a [c]omplaint 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 (2009)
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual
content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience
and common sense.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citations omitted).
While legal conclusions can provide the framework for a
complaint, all claims must be supported by factual allegations.
Based upon these allegations, the court must determine
whether the plaintiff’s pleadings plausibly give rise to an
entitlement for relief.
Legal conclusions couched as
factual allegations are not sufficient, Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555, nor are “unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions,
or arguments,” E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P’ship,
213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).
The plaintiff, however, does
not have to show a likelihood of success; rather, the complaint
must merely allege-directly or indirectly-each element of a
“viable legal theory.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562-63.
At the motion to dismiss stage, the court must
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts
asserted therein as true.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
district court does not consider extrinsic materials when
evaluating a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6).
It may, however,
consider “documents incorporated into the complaint by
Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551
U.S. 308, 322 (2007); see also Blankenship v. Manchin, 471 F.3d
523, 526 n.1 (4th Cir. 2006).
In addition, the court may
consider documents attached to the defendant’s motion to dismiss
if those documents are central to the plaintiff’s claim or are
“sufficiently referred to in the complaint,” so long as the
plaintiff does not challenge their authenticity.
Fed. Ins. Co., 164 F. App’x 395, 396–97 (4th Cir. 2006).
The Court construes the pro se Complaint in this case
more liberally than those drafted by an attorney. See Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
Further, the Court is aware
that “[h]owever inartfully pleaded by a pro se plaintiff,
allegations are sufficient to call for an opportunity to offer
supporting evidence unless it is beyond doubt that the plaintiff
can prove no set of facts entitling him to relief.”
Echols, No. 99–6304, 1999 WL 717280, at *1 (4th Cir. 1999)
(citing Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972)).
pro se litigants cannot “be expected to frame legal issues with
the clarity and precision ideally evident in the work of those
trained in law, neither can district courts be required to
conjure up and decide issues never fairly presented to them.”
Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1276 (4th Cir.
Thus, even in cases involving pro se litigants, the
Court “cannot be expected to construct full blown claims from
Id. at 1278.
Further, the Court may not
construct a plaintiff's legal arguments for him or her. See,
e.g., Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417–18 (7th Cir. 1993).
As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that
Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint sixteen days after the
deadline established by its Order entered on November 22, 2016.
[See Dkts. 11, 12.]
In her opposition, Plaintiff claims that
she did not receive a copy of this Order until December 16,
Opp. at 3.
Even so, she waited an additional five days
to file her Amended Complaint.
The Court is
certainly sensitive to the challenges that pro se litigants
However, its Order specifically cautioned Plaintiff that
failure to comply could result in dismissal of her case.
Even if the Court were to excuse Plaintiff’s
untimeliness and consider her Amended Complaint for the purposes
of Defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court would still be
hard-pressed to find any meritorious claims.
Amended Complaint alleges three rights that the Wal-Mart cashier
violated: (1) the right to be free from unlawful search and
seizure; (2) the right to privacy; and (3) the right to selfdignity. 1
Amend. Compl. at 6-7.
Both federal and Virginia state
law do not recognize a cause of action for violations of such
rights by private actors.
See Burdeau v. McDowell, 256 U.S.
465, 475 (1921) (“The Fourth Amendment gives protection against
unlawful searches and seizures, and . . . it applies [as a
restraint upon] governmental action.”); Hayes v. KIK Custom
Prods., No. 7:11-cv-00200, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118943, at *4
(W.D. Va. Oct. 14, 2011) (“Virginia courts do not recognize a
common law cause of action for invasion of privacy.”).
the source of Plaintiff’s alleged injuries was a Wal-Mart
employee (i.e., a private actor), the Court finds that the facts
Plaintiff asserts that the cashier purposefully embarrassed her in public,
which “stressed her further.” Amend. Compl. at 7. She also alleges that she
was “unwilling [sic] turned into a criminal.” The Court is unaware of any
federal or state law that recognizes a right to self-dignity that is framed
in this manner. The Court is also unaware of any cause of action that would
allow Plaintiff to pursue relief for violation of such a right by a private
as alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, under any favorable
construction, do not state a claim upon which relief can be
Thus, the Court will grant Defendant’s motion to
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant
Defendant’s 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff’s case will
be dismissed with prejudice.
An appropriate Order will issue.
February 7, 2017
James C. Cacheris
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
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