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Johnson v. Dollar General Corp.

September 20, 2007

JESSE THOMAS JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DOLLAR GENERAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is plaintiff Jesse Johnson's ("Plaintiff") Motion for Reconsideration And/Or New Trial (Doc. No. 15).*fn1 Plaintiff requests the Court reconsider the dismissal of his state-law claims in its Order (Doc. No. 13) granting defendant Dolgencorp, Inc.'s*fn2 ("Defendant") motion to dismiss. Defendant filed a response to Plaintiff's motion, in which it opposed reconsideration (Doc. No. 20), to which Plaintiff filed a reply (Doc. No. 22).*fn3 For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration (Doc. No. 15) and REINSTATE Plaintiff's state-law claims for physical assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA").

I. RELEVANT FACTS

On or about November 3, 2003,*fn4 Plaintiff was hired by Defendant to work at a Dollar General Store in Johnson City, Tennessee (Doc. No. 1, p. 4, pt. III, ¶ 1). While working there, Plaintiff contends Defendant caused him "to be deprived of his civil rights, subjected him to blatant sex discrimination, subjected him to demeaning and continuing sexual harassment, forced him to endure a continuing sexually hostile work environment, unlawfully restrained his person and was ultimately wrongfully and in retaliatory [sic] discharged from Defendant's employment because of his reporting the sexual misconduct of the employer's management and other employees" (Id. at pp. 1-2).

Plaintiff was discharged on December 24, 2003 (id. at p. 12, ¶ 23). Plaintiff's complaint states he "was a 16 year old minor" at the time these acts occurred (id. at p. 3, pt. II). Plaintiff's complaint also states he was 16 years old when employed by Defendant "on or about November 3, 2003" (id. at p. 4, pt. III).

At some point, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (id. at p. 3). On August 14, 2006, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking relief pursuant to "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Sections 1983, 2000e, et seq., 28 U.S.C. Sections 1331 and 1346, the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"), Tenn. Code Ann. Section 4-21-101, et seq., and under Federal and Tennessee Common Law" (id. at p. 1). Plaintiff also alleged physical assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (id. at ¶ 40). Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), Defendant filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 3) all of Plaintiff's claims except the Title VII claim. Defendant's basis for dismissing the state-law claims, specifically physical assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the THRA, was that they were time-barred. Plaintiff filed a response (Doc. No. 7), which did not address whether the claims were time-barred, and the Court granted Defendant's motion (Doc. No. 13). Now, Plaintiff has moved to reconsider the dismissal of the state-law claims on the grounds that Plaintiff's status as a minor tolled the statute of limitations for those claims (Doc. No. 15). Defendant filed a response objecting to reconsideration on the grounds that Plaintiff's previous failure to plead facts and make arguments in support of tolling has waived tolling, or alternatively, Plaintiff should be estopped from relying on the tolling statute (Doc. No. 20). Plaintiff filed a reply, which disputed Defendant's arguments (Doc. No. 22).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration does not cite any rule or law allowing the Court to reconsider its previous order. In Plaintiff's reply, he cites Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(b) and (e) as the relevant rule. Those sections concern altering or amending judgment, so are inapplicable because final judgment was not entered. Instead, the Court will rely on its inherent power and Rule 54(b) to afford relief "as justice requires." Rodriguez v. Tenn. Laborers Health & Welfare Fund, 89 F. App'x 949, 959 (6th Cir. 2004) (unpublished). "District courts have inherent power to reconsider interlocutory orders and reopen any part of a case before entry of a final judgment." Mallory v. Eyrich, 922 F.2d 1273, 1282 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. v. United States, 320 U.S. 1, 47-48 (1943). In addition, Rule 54(b) expressly allows the Court to revise this non-final order at any time before entry of judgment. See Leelanau Wine Cellars Ltd. v. Black & Red, Inc., 118 F. App'x 942, 946 (6th Cir. 2004) (unpublished). Rule 54(b) does not proscribe any standards or bases for revisions. See Al-Sadoon v. FISI*Madison Fin. Corp., 188 F. Supp. 2d 899, 900-01 (M.D. Tenn. 2002). Nor does this Court have a local rule on such matter. See generally E.D.TN. LR. Therefore, motions for reconsideration are at the Court's discretion. Rodriguez, 89 F. App'x at 952; Update Art, Inc. v. Charnin, 110 F.R.D. 26, 38 (S.D.N.Y. 1986) (citing Marconi, 320 U.S. at 47-48).

Assuming the Court decides to reconsider its original ruling, in reviewing the motion for reconsideration of a motion to dismiss, the Court will use the standard for the underlying motion, namely the Rule 12(b)(6) standard. R & J Holding Co. v. Redevelopment Auth., 165 F. App'x 175, 178 n.5 (3d Cir. 2006) (unpublished); cf. Sommer v. Davis, 317 F.3d 686, 691 (6th Cir. 2003) (using summary judgment standard when reviewing a motion for reconsideration of summary judgment). When reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all the complaint's factual allegations as true. Bloch v. Ribar, 156 F.3d 673, 677 (6th Cir. 1998); Broyde v. Gotham Tower, Inc., 13 F.3d 994, 996 (6th Cir. 1994). The Court may not grant a motion to dismiss based upon a disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 377 (6th Cir. 1995) (noting courts should neither weigh evidence nor evaluate the credibility of witnesses); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1199 (6th Cir. 1990). Rather, the Court must liberally construe the complaint in favor of the party opposing the motion and determine whether the plaintiff has pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the question is "not whether [the] plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002) (citations and quotation marks omitted). However, bare assertions of legal conclusions are insufficient. Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988). The "complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Id. (emphasis in original).

III. DISCUSSION

The Court concludes there has been a manifest error of law that warrants modifying its previous Order. In that Order, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's state-law claims for physical assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the THRA because the complaint was filed after the one-year statute of limitations. Plaintiff moves to reconsider on the grounds that the statute of limitations was tolled by Plaintiff's minority and therefore his complaint was timely.

There is a one-year statute of limitations for personal tort actions. Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104. The statute of limitations is also one year for complaints under the THRA. Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-311(d); Mason v. Metro. Dev. and Hous. Agency, No. 01-A-01-9806-CH-00283, 1999 Tenn. App. LEXIS 325, *7-8, 1999 WL 326177, *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 25, 1999). However, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1-106 tolls the statute of limitations until a minor reaches age 18:

If the person entitled to commence an action is, at the time the cause of action accrued, either under the age of eighteen (18) years, or of unsound mind, such person, or such person's representatives and privies, as the case may be, may commence the action, after the removal of such disability, within the ...


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