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Bundy v. Madison County

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

April 29, 2015

SAUNDRA DENISE BUNDY, Plaintiff,
v.
MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND

J. DANIEL BREEN, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff, Saundra Denise Bundy's ("Bundy"), motion to file an amended complaint, to which Defendant, Madison County, Tennessee ("Madison County" or "County"), has responded. (Docket Entries ("D.E.") 20, 24.) For the reasons discussed below, the motion is DENIED.[1]

Background

On December 12, 2014, Bundy brought suit alleging violations of her rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and for retaliatory discharge resulting from the filing of an on-the-job-injury claim ("OJI") under the Tennessee Public Protection Act ("TPPA") and Tennessee common law. (D.E. 1.) Madison County moved to dismiss some of the claims. (D.E. 13.) Plaintiff now seeks leave to amend the complaint to add a negligent supervision claim against Defendant under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act ("TGTLA"), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-101, et seq. (D.E. 20-2 at 1-2.)

Legal Standard

Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure directs that courts "should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Among the factors to be considered include whether the amendment would be futile. Williams v. City of Cleveland, 771 F.3d 945, 949 (6th Cir. 2014). When a court denies a party leave to amend based on futility, it is determining that the proposed amendment "could not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.'" Id. (quoting Riverview Health Inst. LLC v. Med. Mut. of Ohio, 601 F.3d 505, 512 (6th Cir. 2010)). Courts must construe the proposed amended complaint "in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all allegations as true." Keys v. Humana, Inc., 684 F.3d 605, 608 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2005)).

Therefore, the dispositive question becomes whether a plaintiff's proposed amended complaint contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Williams, 771 F.3d at 949 (quoting D'Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 383 (6th Cir. 2014)). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets out a liberal pleading standard, requiring only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, "[c]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual allegations will not suffice.'" Bright v. Gallia Cnty., Ohio, 753 F.3d 639, 652 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Eidson v. Tenn. Dep't of Children's Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 634 (6th Cir. 2007)). The proposed amended complaint "must go beyond labels and conclusions' or a mere formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '" to survive a motion to dismiss. SFS Check, LLC v. First Bank of Del., 774 F.3d 351, 355 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

Analysis

I. Futility of Amendment

A. Negligent Supervision Claim

The County insists that Bundy has failed to state a negligent supervision claim that satisfies Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) and the United States Supreme Court's dual holdings in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). (D.E. 24 at 1-2.) Defendant contends that the proposed amended complaint sets forth a formulaic recitation of the elements of a negligent supervision claim that lacks factual support. ( Id. at 2.)

Under the terms of the TGTLA, governmental entities like Madison County are "immune from suit for any injury which may result from the activities of such governmental entities[.]" Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-201(a). This broad rule of immunity codified by the Tennessee legislature is "subject to statutory exceptions in the [TGTLA's] provisions." Limbaugh v. Coffee Med. Ctr., 59 S.W.3d 73, 79 (Tenn. 2001). One such exception is the general waiver of immunity from suit for personal injury claims under Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-205, which states that "[i]mmunity from suit of all governmental entities is removed for injury proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of any employee within the scope of his employment...."

However, a retaliatory discharge claim "is by its very nature an action based on the intent of the employer to discharge the employee for availing [herself] of the statutory remedy under the workers' compensation statutes.... [and] would not be a negligent act or omission and immunity would not be removed at all.'" Baines v. Wilson Cnty., 86 S.W.3d 575, 579 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002) (quoting Montgomery v. Mayor of City of Covington, 778 S.W.2d 444, 445 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1988)). However, the Baines court noted that

[a]nother basis for liability of the government when an intentional tort is involved has been found to exist in specific situations. In some cases, plaintiffs have sued local governmental entities alleging that independent acts of negligence on the part of government employees led to, contributed to, or allowed injuries directly resulting from intentional acts. Those cases involve interpretations of another part of the GTLA. The removal of immunity for injury proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of any employee is ...

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