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Roelle v. Cobb County School District

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

September 10, 2014

ROGER J. ROELLE, Plaintiff,
v.
COBB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Cobb County School District's ("Defendant") First Motion to Dismiss [3] and Second Motion to Dismiss [9] ("Motion to Dismiss"), and Plaintiff Roger J. Roelle's ("Plaintiff") Motion for Leave to File Surreply [20] ("Surreply Motion") and Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint [24] ("Motion for Leave").

I. BACKGROUND

In his Second Amended Complaint [6] ("Complaint"), Plaintiff alleges that on January 24, 2011, Plaintiff, while driving his own vehicle, was struck by a school bus driven by Ms. Collette G. Moore ("Moore"), an employee of Defendant (the "Accident"). (Complaint ¶¶ 11-12). Plaintiff alleges that Moore negligently attempted to turn her vehicle left, failed to yield to oncoming traffic, and struck the driver's side of Plaintiff's vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13). Plaintiff alleges that as a direct result of "Defendant's" actions, Plaintiff sustained personal injury, and incurred medical expenses of $60, 500, lost wages in excess of $15, 000, and property losses in excess of $9, 500. (Id. ¶ 14).[1] Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of "Defendant's" acts, Plaintiff "sustained physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, as well as emotional and psychological distress." (Id. ¶ 15).

On January 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed an action in the State Court of Cobb County ("State Court") against the Cobb County School Board of Education based on the Accident. (Id. ¶ 17). The State Court ordered that Defendant be substituted as the proper defendant. (Id.).

On July 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint to substitute Defendant for the Cobb County School Board of Education. On September 5, 2013, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint in State Court, raising additional causes of action against Defendant, including claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On September 12, 2013, Defendant filed its Notice of Removal [1]. On September 16, 2013, Defendant filed its First Motion to Dismiss, and, on September 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint.

In his Complaint, in addition to asserting the factual basis for his injuries, Plaintiff states that he is challenging the "statutory scheme of O.C.G.A. § 36-92-1." Plaintiff challenges the exclusion of "local school system[s]" from the State of Georgia's waiver of sovereign immunity for injuries arising out of claims for the negligent use of a motor vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 1-2). Plaintiff asserts that the Defendant's "official policy" is to "enforce O.C.G.A. § 36-92-1, " and this violates: 1) Plaintiff's Federal and Georgia constitutional right to access the courts (Counts One and Three); and 2) the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Count Two). (Id. ¶¶ 29, 32-34, 36-41).

On October 10, 2013, Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[2] On November 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed his Surreply Motion, and, on December 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed his Motion for Leave to file a third amended complaint.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

1. Standard of Review

The law governing motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is well-settled. Dismissal of a complaint is appropriate "when, on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the factual allegations will support the cause of action." Marshall Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas Dist. , 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts the plaintiff's allegations as true and considers the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Hishon v. King & Spalding , 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ. , 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007); see also Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc. , 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999) ("At the motion to dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff."). The Court, however, is not required to accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions. See Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co. , 578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The Court also will not "accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Ultimately, the complaint is required to contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570.[3]

To state a claim for relief that is plausible, the plaintiff must plead factual content that "allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678. "Plausibility" requires more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, " and a complaint that alleges facts that are "merely consistent with" liability "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 557). "To survive a motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must do more than merely state legal conclusions; they are required to allege some specific factual bases for those conclusions or face dismissal of their claims." Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomms. , 372 F.3d 1250, 1263 (11th Cir. 2004) ("[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.") (citations omitted).[4]

2. Sovereign Immunity and O.C.G.A. § 36-92-1

The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against a State brought by both citizens of another state and the State's own citizens, unless a State waives its sovereign immunity. McClendon v. Ga. Dep't of Cmty. Health , 261 F.3d 1252, 1256-57 (11th Cir. 2001). Immunity under the Eleventh Amendment has two exceptions. "First, Congress can abrogate eleventh amendment immunity without the state's consent when it acts pursuant to the enforcement provisions of section 5 of the fourteenth amendment. Second, a state may waive its immunity expressly through legislative enactment." Carr v. City of Florence, Ala. , 916 F.2d 1521, 1524 (11th Cir. 1990) (internal citations omitted). "[I]n the absence of consent[, ] a [§ 1983] suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment." Carr , 916 F.2d at 1525 (quoting Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman , 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984)). Thus, "the Eleventh Amendment bars a federal court from exercising jurisdiction over a lawsuit against a non-consenting State and its agencies." Vt. Agency of Natural Res. v. United States , 529 U.S. 765, 778 (2000).

The Georgia Constitution states that "sovereign immunity extends to the state and all of its departments and agencies." Ga. Const. Art. I, § II, ¶ IX. Sovereign immunity "can only be waived by an Act of the General Assembly which specifically provides that sovereign immunity is thereby waived and the extent of such waiver." Ga. Const. Art. I, § II, ¶ IX(e).

O.C.G.A. § 36-92-2 provides that "sovereign immunity of local government entities for a loss arising out of claims for the negligent use of a covered motor vehicle is waived" up to specified limits. O.C.G.A. § 36-92-2(a) (emphasis added). O.C.G.A. § 36-92-1(3) defines "[l]ocal government entity" to mean "any county, municipal corporation, or consolidated city-county government of this state. Such term shall not include a local school system." O.C.G.A. § 36-92-1(3) (emphasis added). It ...


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