United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
TERRI G. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
ANTHONY COPELAND, et al ., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
G. Martin sued the City of East Chicago, its mayor, and three
other individuals in connection with her employment
termination in October 2015. East Chicago moved for partial
dismissal. (DE 9.) The four individual Defendants also moved
for dismissal. (DE 11.)
Standard for evaluating a motion to dismiss
purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim is to test the sufficiency of the
pleadings, not to decide the merits of the case. See
Gibson v. Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990).
Rule 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” However,
“recitals of the elements of a cause of action,
supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
Supreme Court has stated, “the tenet that a court must
accept as true all of the allegations contained in a
complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”
Id. Rather, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570). A complaint is facially plausible if a court can
reasonably infer from factual content in the pleading that
the defendant is liable for the alleged wrongdoing.
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
Seventh Circuit has synthesized the standard into three
requirements. See Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581
(7th Cir. 2009). “First, a plaintiff must provide
notice to defendants of her claims. Second, courts must
accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true, but
some factual allegations will be so sketchy or implausible
that they fail to provide sufficient notice to defendants of
the plaintiff's claim. Third, in considering the
plaintiff's factual allegations, courts should not accept
as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause
of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id.
alleges the following:
entered into an employment contract on December 17, 2014,
with the East Chicago Board of Health to act as its Director
from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2017. The contract says
Martin may be removed from her position only for cause after
a hearing by the East Chicago Board of Health.
Copeland “looked with disfavor” on Martin's
handling of certain matters-Martin doesn't say why-and as
a result the individual Defendants conspired to terminate
October 13, 2015, Dabertin and Favella delivered a letter to
Martin signed by Browning, terminating Martin's
employment without a hearing. Dabertin and Favella demanded
Martin turn over various items, and they confined her in her
office and intimidated her.
purports to bring § 1983 claims under the First, Fourth,
and Fourteenth Amendments. She claims the contract created a
property interest in her employment protected by the
Fourteenth Amendment. She claims she did not receive a
pre-termination hearing or opportunity to object. She claims
political considerations of the Defendants motivated the
termination. She claims Defendants retaliated against her for
exercising her rights in the performance of her duties.
also purports to bring state claims for intentional tortious
interference with contract, confinement, intimidation, and
Defendant East Chicago's motion to dismiss
East Chicago seeks dismissal of the defamation claim because
the complaint does not state the specific defamatory
statement, nor does the Complaint allege East Chicago
published any statement. In her response, Plaintiff Martin
failed to address these arguments.
Supreme Court of Indiana considers it a matter of hornbook
law that a plaintiff must include the alleged defamatory
statement in the complaint. Trail v. Boys & Girls
Clubs Nw. Ind., 845 N.E.2d 130, 136-37 (Ind. 2006). And
even under the liberal federal pleading standards, Plaintiff
failed to state a defamation claim because she failed to put
East Chicago on notice regarding the claim's basis.
Plaintiff has not alleged who said what, even by way of
Plaintiff waived her defamation claim by failing to respond
to East Chicago's arguments for its dismissal. Bonte
v. U.S. Bank, N.S., 624 F.3d 461, 466 (7th Cir. 2010).
Court therefore dismisses Plaintiff's defamation claim
against Defendant East Chicago.
Tortious interference with contract
East Chicago seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's
tortious-interference claim on the ground that this tort
requires the action of an independent third party. East
Chicago argues it is not an independent third party because
one of the parties to the contract-the East Chicago Board of
Health-is an instrumentality of East Chicago. Therefore, the
argument goes, East Chicago is not an independent third party
whose actions could give rise to a claim for tortious
interference with contract.
Plaintiff addressed this claim in her response to East
Chicago's motion to dismiss, Plaintiff failed to address
the argument that East Chicago cannot be liable for this
claim because it is not a third party with respect to the
contract. Plaintiff presented no argument against East
Chicago's assertion that the East Chicago Board of
Health, which was a party to the contract, is an
instrumentality of East Chicago such that East Chicago is not
a third party.
Supreme Court of Indiana recognizes that a party cannot
interfere with its own contracts, so only third parties can
commit tortious ...