Hatcher v. TM Associates, Inc. et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge James P. Jones on 11/13/17. (flc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
TM ASSOCIATES, INC., ET AL.,
Case No. 1:17CV00019
By: James P. Jones
United States District Judge
Shamsiddeen Hatcher, Pro Se Plaintiff; Timothy McConville and Luke
Archer, Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C., Reston, Virginia, for Defendant TM
Associates Management, Inc.
The plaintiff in this case, Shamsiddeen Hatcher, proceeding pro se, seeks
damages for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act. Because I find that the
Second Amended Complaint fails to state a viable claim, I will grant the
defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.
Hatcher alleges in his Second Amended Complaint that in June of 2006, the
former property managers of the Woodland Apartments complex (“Woodland”) in
Bristol, Virginia, barred him from the premises for creating a disturbance. He
further alleges that on the day he was barred from the premises there were no
disturbances, only a “peaceful basketball game.” Second Am. Compl. 3, ECF No.
26. He asserts that he was barred and forced to vacate his apartment as a result of
racial profiling and discrimination.
TM Associates Management, Inc. (“TMAM”) is the current property
manager of Woodland. Hatcher alleges that despite his repeated requests to be
removed from the barred list, TMAM and its property manager, Kayla Sutherland, 1
refuse to remove Hatcher’s name from the list, which prohibits him from being a
tenant or visiting friends and family who reside at the apartment complex. He
seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
TMAM has moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, asserting a number of grounds for
dismissal.2 The motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for decision.3
“The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a
complaint. . . .” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999).
The plaintiff also attempted service of process on defendant Kayla Sutherland at
the address of the apartment complex. However, according to the manager on duty at the
time of service, no one by that name is employed with the business. Therefore, the
summons was returned unexecuted.
TMAM also argues that the Second Amended Complaint should be dismissed as
untimely. Because I find that the complaint fails to state a claim, it is unnecessary to
address this argument.
I will dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are
adequately presented in the materials before the court and argument would not
significantly aid the decisional process.
A motion to dismiss “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). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must
regard as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and must view those facts in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 406 (2002).
“Where, as here, the motion to dismiss involves a civil rights complaint, [I] must
be especially solicitous of the wrongs alleged and must not dismiss the complaint
unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under
any legal theory which might plausibly be suggested by the facts alleged.” Rios v.
Veale, 648 F. App’x 369, 370 (4th Cir. 2016) (unpublished).4 Furthermore, where
the plaintiff is proceeding without a lawyer, the court has an obligation
to construe the complaint liberally. See Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th
Rule 12(b)(6) does “not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but
only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim 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.”
I have omitted internal quotation marks, alterations, and citations here and
throughout this opinion, unless otherwise noted.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Further, “the tenet that a court must
accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal
conclusions.” Id. at 678. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a
complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. at 679.
The Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3613, grants a private right of
action for an alleged discriminatory housing practice. Such action thus arises
under federal law for purposes of the federal question jurisdiction statute. 28
U.S.C. § 1331.
TMAM argues that the Second Amended Complaint must be dismissed
because Hatcher again fails to sufficiently plead his FHA claim. Specifically,
TMAM asserts that despite this court’s instructions to “provide adequate factual
allegations supporting the claim of discriminatory motivation,” Hatcher v. TM
Associates, Inc., 1:17CV00019, 2017 WL 4079536, at *2 (W.D. Va. Sept. 14,
2017), Hatcher’s claim again fails to allege facts showing that the defendants were
motivated by a discriminatory animus. The FHA prohibits discriminatory practices
regarding the sale or rental of housing. See 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a) (prohibiting the
refusal “to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to
negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a
dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or
national origin.”). Section 3604 of the FHA also provides that it is unlawful “[t]o
discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or
rental of a dwelling . . . because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or
national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b). “A plaintiff may demonstrate a prima facie
case of discrimination by showing that the challenged practice was motivated by a
discriminatory purpose or had a discriminatory impact.” Sudduth v. Vasquez, No.
1:08CV1106, 2009 WL 211572, at *2 (E.D. Va. Jan. 26, 2009) (citing Betsey v.
Turtle Creek Assocs., 736 F.2d 983, 986 (4th Cir. 1984)).
As was the case for Hatcher’s prior complaint, the Second Amended
Complaint contains minimal facts and falls short of the pleading standard. Indeed,
Hatcher alleges no new facts. Instead, he simply asserts that “the court overlooked
or misunderstood the amended complaint.” Second Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 26.
Hatcher again alleges that he is African American. His allegations supporting
discrimination on account of his race relate to a 2006 incident which involved the
prior apartment manager. He claims that as a result of the incident, the former
manager barred him and “all of the African Americans” involved in the incident
from the premises. Id. at 3. Hatcher further claims that TMAM has violated the
FHA and his constitutional rights by continuing to enforce this “discriminative
policy.” Id. He has not alleged any additional facts to support his claim that the
actions of TMAM or its employee were motivated by a discriminatory purpose.
Such conclusory allegations of discrimination, absent factual support, cannot
withstand TMAM’s Motion to Dismiss. I previously directed that Hatcher must
provide adequate factual allegations of discriminatory motivation. Hatcher has
failed to do so. He simply restates the same facts and conclusory allegations that
he alleged previously. Accordingly, Hatcher’s Second Amended Complaint will
be dismissed for failure to state a claim.
Dismissal of all claims against the defendants will be with prejudice, and
further leave to amend is denied. The Second Amended Complaint is Hatcher’s
third complaint. I directed Hatcher as to the specific factual allegations that must
be set forth when I granted him leave to amend his Amended Complaint. Hatcher
was therefore on notice of the applicable pleading standard, had multiple
opportunities to meet it, and has failed to do so. See Allen v. FCA US LLC, No.
6:17-CV-00007, 2017 WL 1957068, at *4 (W.D. Va. May 10, 2017) (denying
leave to amend and dismissing complaint with prejudice where plaintiff had
“multiple opportunities” to adequately allege her claim and was “on clear notice
that she was required to do so”). In light of the above, I will grant TMAM’s
Motion to Strike and Dismiss and dismiss Hatcher’s claims with prejudice.
A separate final order will be entered forthwith.
DATED: November 13, 2017
/s/ James P. Jones
United States District Judge
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