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Freeman v. FCA U.S. LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 23, 2017

LEWIS GENE FREEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
FCA U.S. LLC, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant FCA U.S. LLC (“FCA”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff Lewis Gene Freeman, pro se, (“Freeman”) filed a Complaint against FCA, alleging breach of contract and patent infringement. (Filing No. 1.) FCA now seeks to dismiss Freeman's Complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS FCA's Motion to Dismiss. (Filing No. 23.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts derived from Freeman's Complaint and the exhibits attached thereto, are not necessarily objectively true; but, as required when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the Complaint and draws all inferences in favor of Freeman. See Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Freeman worked at Chrysler Corporation, Kokomo Die Casting Plant (“Chrysler”) for thirty-two years as a salary tool and process engineer, before retiring in 1991. During that time period, Freeman patented thirty-three inventions including, a die cast vacuum valve system, filters, as well as vent and filter blocks to be used on Chrysler vehicles. On July 8, 1994, Freeman entered into a licensing agreement with Chrysler, effective May 1, 1994, regarding the die cast vacuum valve system, the filter, as well as Freeman's vent and filter block patents (“the Agreement”). (Filing No. 1-1 at 2-6.) Freeman and Chrysler amended the Agreement once, on July 17, 1995, to include additional inventions, but they did not make any substantive changes regarding the duties of the parties. Id. at 1.

         Over the years, Chrysler went through various changes, including a bankruptcy, and in 2009, FCA acquired Chrysler's assets and became the assignee of the Agreement. At some point after FCA acquired Chrysler, Freeman learned that FCA hired outside vendors to produce a certain vehicle component for FCA, known as a casting. On July 2, 2015, Freeman sent a letter to the CEO of FCA, Sergio Marchionne, requesting royalty payments for each casting produced by outside vendors that used Freeman's patents. (Filing No. 1-6.) FCA refused to make royalty payments and informed Freeman that it has been, and continues to be, in compliance with the terms of the Agreement. (Filing No. 1-7.)

         On November 16, 2015, Freeman filed a Complaint seeking money damages, asserting that FCA breached the Agreement by utilizing outside vendors to manufacture castings that included Freeman's patents. (Filing No. 1.) The Complaint also alleges that FCA breached the Agreement by failing to seek legal remedies on Freeman's behalf against those who infringed upon his patents. Id. Freeman is proceeding in forma pauperis (“IFP”) (Filing No. 9). FCA now seeks to dismiss Freeman's Complaint, arguing that the Agreement permits FCA to contract with outside vendors to make products for FCA. (Filing No. 23.) FCA also argues that the Agreement does not mandate it to enforce Freeman's patents. Id.

         II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint that fails to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepts all factual allegations as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). However, courts “are not obliged to accept as true legal conclusions or unsupported conclusions of fact.” Hickey v. O'Bannon, 287 F.3d 656, 658 (7th Cir. 2002).

         While a complaint need not include detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff has the obligation to provide the factual grounds supporting his entitlement to relief; and neither bare legal conclusions nor a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will suffice in meeting this obligation. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Stated differently, the complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation and quotation marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         Additionally, “[a] document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, the Court notes that:

[I]t is also well established that pro se litigants are not excused from compliance with procedural rules. [T]he Supreme Court has never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel[.] Further, as the Supreme Court has noted, in the long run, experience teaches that strict adherence to the procedural requirements specified by the legislature is the best guarantee of evenhanded administration of the law.

Loubser v. United States, 606 F.Supp.2d 897, 909 (N.D. Ind. 2009) (citations and quotation ...


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