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Williams v. Clayton's Hitch Shop

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 30, 2019

CLAYTON'S HITCH SHOP AND TRAILER REPAIR C/O C. MICHAEL HAMILTON, individually and as the potential owner of Hamilton's Towing, Defendant.


         1. Introduction.

         Plaintiff Leron W. Williams ("Plaintiff') commenced this civil rights action on January 17, 2019. (D.I. 2) He proceeds pro se and has been granted in forma pauperis status. (D.I. 4) Plaintiff filed this action alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) and (c), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000h-2. The Court proceeds to review and screen the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b).

         2. Background.

         It appears that a "friend" of Plaintiff used his 1999 Toyota Forerunner without his authorization, the vehicle was not returned, and Plaintiff reported it stolen. (D.I. 2 at 2) Plaintiff alleges this led to the actual theft of the vehicle. (Id.) Plaintiff explains that he was told that Defendant C. Michael Hamilton ("Hamilton") had towed the vehicle.[1] (D.I. 2 at 2) Plaintiff "went to see about paying to get it out after it was unlawfully stolen."[2] (Id.) He alleges that Hamilton was reluctant to give Plaintiff any meaningful information and it was obvious that Hamilton was "covering up" for an unnamed "local public safety entity." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Hamilton of Hamilton's Towing told Plaintiff that his vehicle was gone and sold as salvage in June 2018. (Id. at 3) Plaintiff alleges that as recently as January 2019, the State of Delaware Division of Motor vehicles states that the vehicle is still registered in Plaintiff's name. (Id.)

         3. Plaintiff alleges that his rights have been violated due to the color of his skin under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3), 1981(c), and 2000h-2. He alleges Hamilton and his unindicted (and unnamed) co-conspirator have caused him damages due to the gross negligence or theft of his vehicle. (Id. at 3) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as a lien on Hamilton's property. (Id.)

         4. Standard of Review.

         A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) if "the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013). The Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). When a plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).

         5. An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), a court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989).

         6. The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to amend his Complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).

         7. A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City of Shelby, 574 U.S. 10 (2014). A complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See id. at 10.

         8. Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps: (1) take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) assume the veracity of any well-pleaded factual allegations and then determine whether those allegations plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         9. Discussion.

         Plaintiff asserts jurisdiction by reason of a federal question. As will be discussed, Complaint does not state federal claims and, therefore, the Court lacks jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff invokes 28 U.S.C. § 1343 that gives federal courts district jurisdiction over election disputes, but such a dispute is not before the Court. Finally, the parties are not diverse and, therefore, jurisdiction is not proper under 28 U.S.C. §1332.

         10. 42 ...

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