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Morgan v. Veterans Canteen Services

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

October 26, 2018

JOHN MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
VETERANS CANTEEN SERVICE, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by Defendant Veterans Canteen Service (“VCS”) (Filing No. 19). Pro se Plaintiff John Morgan (“Morgan”) initiated this action, seeking reimbursement for expenses he incurred on behalf of VCS and relocation expenses. For the following reasons, the Court grants VCS's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts 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 Morgan as the non-moving party. See Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008).

         VCS is part of the Department of Veteran Affairs and “is an instrumentality of the United States, created for the primary purpose of making available to veterans of the Armed Forces who are hospitalized or domiciled in hospitals and homes of the Department, at reasonable prices, articles of merchandise and services essential to their comfort and well-being.” 38 U.S.C. § 7801. Congress has authorized the appropriation of federal funds “from time to time, ” “[t]o finance the establishment, maintenance, and operation of [VCS].” 38 U.S.C. § 7804.

         Morgan worked for VCS. He was asked to travel to Texas for training and was told that he would be reimbursed for travel expenses. He traveled for this training but was never reimbursed for his expenses. He parked his car and it was left in storage for the month her was gone. Morgan was told VCS would reimburse the storage fee, but they did not. On another occasion, Morgan incurred work expenses on behalf of VCS when he purchased a freezer and other products for use at a VCS canteen. However, Morgan was not reimbursed by VCS for purchasing these items. Finally, Morgan moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to work at a different VCS location. He incurred expenses for this relocation, but VCS did not reimburse Morgan for his relocation expenses (Filing No. 1 at 2-4).

         On February 16, 2018, Morgan initiated this lawsuit against VCS and asserted a claim for money damages, requesting payment of $5, 458.00 plus 21% interest for the work expenses he incurred and for travel and relocation reimbursement. Id. at 4. On June 29, 2018, VCS filed its Motion to Dismiss, asserting sovereign immunity and a lack of subject matter jurisdiction (Filing No. 19).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint that has failed 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 accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Bielanski, 550 F.3d at 633. 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).

         The complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the U.S. Supreme Court explained that the complaint must allege facts that are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, mere “labels, ” “conclusions, ” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Id.; see also Bissessur v. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 603 (7th Cir. 2009) (“it is not enough to give a threadbare recitation of the elements of a claim without factual support”). The allegations must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. 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 marks omitted).

         III. ...


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