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Adams v. Mutual Savings Life Insurance

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 8, 2019

SANDY ADAMS, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court upon review of plaintiff Sandy Adams' pro se amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons discussed below, plaintiff will be directed to file a second amended complaint according to the instructions set forth herein.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “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.” Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must “accept as true the facts alleged, but not legal conclusions or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016). See also Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 372- 73 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating that court must accept factual allegations in complaint as true, but is not required to “accept as true any legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”).

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A “liberal construction” means that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, the district court should construe the plaintiff's complaint in a way that permits his or her claim to be considered within the proper legal framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). However, even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). See also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (stating that federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint”). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).


         Plaintiff filed this pro se civil action on March 12, 2019, naming Mutual Savings Life Insurance as the defendant. (Docket No. 1). The complaint was on a Court form, but was missing the statement of claim and contained no factual allegations. The complaint also failed to include an amount in controversy, though plaintiff asserted diversity of citizenship as the basis of the Court's jurisdiction. Due to these defects, plaintiff was ordered to file an amended complaint. (Docket No. 5). He duly filed his amended complaint on April 4, 2019. (Docket No. 6).

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff's amended complaint is on a Court-provided civil complaint form and names Mutual Savings Life Insurance Company as defendant. (Docket No. 6 at 1). Plaintiff asserts diversity of citizenship as the basis of this Court's jurisdiction. (Docket No. 6 at 3). Once again, however, he fails to provide a jurisdictional amount.

         In the statement of claim section, plaintiff alleges that in 2018, he did not receive his “socioeconomic death benefits.” (Docket No. 6 at 5). Rather, defendant appears to have sent him only “$660 in settlement closing.” Plaintiff states that his injury consists of “disappointment (depression).” He does not request any specific relief from the Court.


         Plaintiff's has filed an amended complaint in accordance with the Court's order of March 25, 2019. However, the amended complaint is deficient in two respects. First, plaintiff has not established any basis for this Court's jurisdiction. Second, his vague and conclusory allegations do not state a claim. As plaintiff is proceeding pro se, he will be given an opportunity to file a second amended complaint, according to the instructions set forth below.

         A. Jurisdiction

         Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court's power to decide a certain class of cases. LeMay v. U.S. Postal Serv., 450 F.3d 797, 799 (8th Cir. 2006). “Federal courts are not courts of general jurisdiction; they have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto.” Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). See also Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013) (“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by Constitution and statute”). The presence of subject matter jurisdiction is a threshold requirement that must be assured in every federal case. Kronholm v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 915 F.2d 1171, 1174 (8th Cir. 1990). See also Sanders v. Clemco Indus., 823 F.2d 214, 216 (8th Cir. 1987) (“The threshold requirement in every federal case is jurisdiction and we have admonished the district court to ...

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