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Clarke v. McMurry

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

December 7, 2017

RUSSELL R. MCMURRY, P.E., Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Russell R. McMurry's[1](“Defendant”) Special Appearance Motion to Dismiss [3] (“Motion to Dismiss”) and Motion to Stay Discovery [4]. Also before the Court is Plaintiff Andrew Clarke's (“Plaintiff”) Request for Entry of Default Judgment. ([6]).

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         On April 2, 1996, Plaintiff Andrew Clarke (“Plaintiff”) was struck by a drunk driver while operating a Georgia Department of Transportation (“DOT”) vehicle in a construction zone on I-20 West in Atlanta, Georgia. (Complaint [1] at 4). Plaintiff allegedly suffered “extreme trauma” as a result of the accident, including traumatic brain injury, neurological damage, skeletal damage, and “[e]xtreme emotional distress.” (Id. at 4-5).

         On April 20, 2017, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, commenced this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Defendant in his official capacity as Commissioner of DOT. Plaintiff alleges a deprivation of his right to substantive due process, procedural due process, and equal protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at 2-3). The Complaint also appears to assert a state law claim for fraudulent inducement. (Id. at 5). Plaintiff seeks $10 million in damages. (Id.).

         On November 7, 2017, Defendant filed his Motion to Dismiss based on insufficient service of process, the Eleventh Amendment and sovereign immunity, the statute of limitations, and failure to state a claim under § 1983. ([3.1] at 2). In the alternative, Defendant moves the Court, pursuant to Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to require Plaintiff to submit a more definite statement of his claims. ([3.1] at 2). Defendant also filed, on November 7, 2017, his Motion for Stay of Discovery pending the final resolution of the Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff did not file a response to either of Defendant's Motions, and they are deemed unopposed. See LR 7.1(B), NDGa.

         On November 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Request for Entry of Default Judgment seeking the “Clerk to enter a default against [] [D]efendant, on the basis that the record in this case demonstrates that there has been a failure to plead or otherwise defend as provided by Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”[3]


         A. Motion to Dismiss

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court must “assume that the factual allegations in the complaint are true and give the plaintiff[] the benefit of reasonable factual inferences.” Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010). Although reasonable inferences are made in the plaintiff's favor, “‘unwarranted deductions of fact' are not admitted as true.” Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting S. Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Montalvo, 84 F.3d 402, 408 n.10 (1996)). Similarly, the Court is not required to accept conclusory allegations and legal conclusions as true. See Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (construing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); see also White v. Bank of America, NA, 597 F. App'x 1015, 1018 (11th Cir. 2014) (“[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.”) (quoting Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. V. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002)).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Mere “labels and conclusions” are insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This requires more than the “mere possibility of misconduct.” Am. Dental, 605 F.3d at 1290 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). The well-pled allegations must “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. at 1289 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         B. Pro Se Pleading Standard

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint pro se. “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) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Nevertheless, a pro se plaintiff must comply with the threshold requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Beckwith v. Bellsouth Telecomms. Inc., 146 F. App'x 368, 371 (11th Cir. 2005). “Even though a pro se complaint should be construed liberally, a pro se complaint still must state a claim upon which the Court can grant relief.” Grigsby v. Thomas, 506 F.Supp.2d 26, 28 (D.D.C. 2007). “[A] district court does not have license to rewrite a deficient pleading.” Osahar v. U.S. Postal Serv., 297 F. App'x 863, 864 (11th Cir. 2008).

         III. ...

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