Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Brown v. Great Circle

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

December 4, 2019

MARIA PYUL BROWN, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
GREAT CIRCLE, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Turner and Elder Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Johnston Paint and Decorating moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Doc. 51. Plaintiffs' complaint alleges eight counts, including five counts against Johnston Paint for Conspiracy, Tortious Interference with Parental Relationship, Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligent Supervision, and Defamation. Doc. 50. Plaintiffs' claims arise out of an alleged conspiracy between the Defendants to interfere with the parental relationship between Maria Brown and her son, P.A.T., a minor. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Alleged Facts

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Johnston Paint failed to properly supervise Defendant Joshua Turner, P.A.T.'s father, and that Turner used Johnston Paint's business resources “to influence or otherwise alter investigations and/or reports concerning abuse of Plaintiff P.A.T. to ward custody of the child.” Doc. 50 (Second Amended Complaint), ¶¶ 7, 38.g. (alleging use of business resources including phones to discuss Social Services investigation), 44 (alleging use of time, money, and resources). Plaintiffs further allege that Johnston Paint “either did not know, properly supervise, and/or wanted the abuse allegations of their employee Defendant Joshua Turner deflected to avoid public scrutiny, harm to their business and/or family reputation.” Doc. 50, ¶ 44.c. The complaint also asserted that Johnston Paint “knowingly or unknowingly aided other Defendants with their materials and/or resources in their effort to alter the [Social Services] report . . . to refute Plaintiff P.A.T.'s allegations of abuse for their employee Defendant Turner, ” Doc. 44.e., and that as a result of this assistance, there was interference with Plaintiffs' parent-child relationship. Id.

         Plaintiffs also allege that Johnston Paint “in coordination, and/or by and through Defendants Turner and Detmer used their professional capacity and connections to create a conflict of interest by obtaining personal services of law enforcement who[] willing[ly] colluded with Defendant Johnston Paint to circumvent the custody court order for their employee, Defendant Joshua Turner.” Doc. 50, ¶ 46. Lastly, Plaintiffs allege that Johnston Paint “knowingly, unknowingly, and/or recklessly inflicted severe emotional distress and knew or should have known that such distress would result from their conduct.” Doc. 50, ¶ 48.

         II. Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Zink v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim has facial plausibility when its allegations rise above the “speculative” or “conceivable, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007), and where “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. Such a complaint will be liberally construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008). However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. Discussion

         A. Count I - Conspiracy

         Defendant Johnston Paint argues that Plaintiffs did not sufficiently plead the elements required to prove a claim of conspiracy. In order to state a claim for civil conspiracy under Missouri law a plaintiff must plead that there were “(1) two or more persons, (2) an object to be accomplished, (3) a meeting of the minds on the object or course of action, (4) one or more unlawful overt acts, and (5) resulting damages.” Aguilar v. PNC Bank, N.A., 853 F.3d 390, 402- 03 (8th Cir. 2017) (citing Mackey v. Mackey, 914 S.W.2d 48, 50 (Mo.Ct.App. 1996)).

         Plaintiffs' pleadings assert that there were multiple individuals working towards the joint goal of interfering with Social Services investigations to affect the custody determinations which resulted in the claimed harm to Brown's parental relationship with her child. Absent in the pleadings, however, are facts that could establish that there was a meeting of the minds between Johnston Paint and any other alleged conspirators. To show that this element exists, Plaintiffs must show that the alleged conspirators had “a unity of purpose or a common design and understanding.” Rosemann v. St. Louis Bank, 858 F.3d 488, 500 (8th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). As to Johnston Paint, Plaintiffs' complaint asserts only that they may or may not have known that its resources were being used to interfere with Plaintiffs' parental relationship. See, e.g., Doc. 50, ¶ 44.e. (“Johnston Paint . . . knowingly or unknowingly aided other Defendants . . . ”). That a business's resources were used without its knowledge is evidence of passive involvement and not of active participation done with a unity of purpose, common design, or understanding.

         Plaintiffs' other allegations against Johnston Paint stated that they acted “in coordination, and/or by and through Defendants Turner and Detmer” to create a conflict of interest by obtaining the services of law enforcement who willingly “colluded with Defendant Johnston Paint to circumvent the custody order for . . . Joshua Turner.” Id., at ¶ 46 (emphasis added). Though Plaintiffs allege that Johnston Paint may have colluded with Turner and Detmer, Plaintiffs did not specifically plead that there was coordination between the Defendants, nor are there facts that would show there was coordination between these parties. Additionally, the allegations of collusion with law enforcement would relate to a potential separate conspiracy between Johnston Paint and those providing the law enforcement services, a claim that Plaintiffs have not argued.

         Even if Plaintiffs were to succeed in establishing that there was a meeting of the minds, Plaintiffs have not alleged facts which could support a finding that the alleged actions taken by Johnston Paint were unlawful. Plaintiffs' pleadings do not state how the alleged creation of a “conflict of interest” rises to the level of being an unlawful act, nor do they state what this conflict was and how it relates to this case. Further, the pleadings' conclusory statement that Johnston Paint may have colluded with law enforcement to “circumvent the custody court order” does not state what activity was taken, how this action circumvented the court order, and whether that activity was unlawful in any way. Without some factual context, the claim is not plausible.

         Having not pleaded the facts necessary to show that Johnston Paint was aware of the conspiracy to interfere with Plaintiffs' parental relationship, Plaintiff cannot prove ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.