Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

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.

Cleland v. Academy Sports and Outdoors

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

August 26, 2013



KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss [6] of the Defendant Academy Sports and Outdoors ("Academy")[1] and the Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint ("Motion for Leave") [17] of the Plaintiff Eddie Cleland. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the record and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion to Dismiss [6] should be granted and that the Motion for Leave [17] should be denied.


Academy hired Eddie Cleland as a manager in training in September of 2010 to work at its Hattiesburg, Mississippi store. Cleland began working at this store as a department manager in November of 2011. Louis Tenney was the store director and Cleland's immediate supervisor at this location. Cleland's employment with Academy was terminated on November 6, 2012.

On December 12, 2012, Cleland filed suit against Academy and Tenney in the Circuit Court of Lamar County, Mississippi, asserting numerous state law claims relating to the termination of his employment. ( See Compl. [1-2].) Cleland alleged that he was treated unfairly and harassed by Tenney because of his political beliefs: Cleland is a conservative Republican, whereas Tenney is a liberal Democrat. ( See Compl. [1-2] at ¶¶ 8-9, 21.) Cleland further asserted, inter alia, that Tenney asked him to forge information on ATF Form 4473, which must be completed for an individual to purchase a firearm from Academy. ( See Compl. [1-2] at ¶ 14.) Cleland complained to Tenney and to upper management about Tenney's alleged discriminatory, unethical and illegal actions. ( See Compl. [1-2] at ¶¶ 16-18.) Academy terminated Cleland for poor work performance, which, according to Cleland, was a pretext for his refusal to participate in criminal and unethical activity; his reporting of illegal and unethical activity to Academy supervisors; and his political beliefs. ( See Compl. [1-2] at ¶¶ 19-21.)

On January 14, 2013, Cleland filed an Amended Complaint [6-1] in the state court asserting the following causes of action: defamation (against Academy and Tenney); malicious interference with employment (against Tenney); intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress (against Academy and Tenney); discharge in violation of public policy (against Academy); breach of contract/good faith and fair dealing (against Academy); negligent retention/supervision (against Academy); and negligence per se (against Academy).

On January 18, 2013, Academy and Tenney removed the proceeding to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship jurisdiction under Title 28 U.S.C. § 1332. ( See Notice of Removal [1].) On February 6, 2013, Plaintiff moved for the remand of this action to the Circuit Court of Lamar County. ( See Mot. to Remand [8].) Plaintiff argued that complete diversity of citizenship was lacking in light of his and Tenney's Mississippi citizenship. On May 9, 2013, the Court entered its Opinion and Order Denying Motion to Remand [16], finding that Tenney had been improperly joined and dismissing him from the litigation without prejudice.

Currently pending are Academy's Motion to Dismiss [6] and Cleland's Motion for Leave [17]. The Motion to Dismiss [6] was filed on February 5, 2013, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2] Cleland's Motion for Leave [17] was filed on May 13, 2013, pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court has fully considered the parties' submissions and is ready to rule.


I. Academy's Motion to Dismiss [6]

A. Standard of Review

To withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 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.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). "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.; see also In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010) ("To be plausible, the complaint's [f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'") (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint containing mere "labels and conclusions, or a formulaic recitation of the elements" is insufficient. Bowlby v. City of Aberdeen, Miss., 681 F.3d 215, 219 (5th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Although courts are to accept all well-pleaded facts as true and view those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, courts are not required "to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as factual allegation." Randall D. Wolcott, M.D., P.A. v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d 757, 763 (5th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Ultimately, the court's task "is to determine whether the plaintiff has stated a legally cognizable claim that is plausible, not to evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success." In re McCoy, 666 F.3d 924, 926 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010)), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 192 (2012).

B. Analysis

The Court now considers whether the claims asserted against Academy in the Amended Complaint [6-1] measure up to the preceding standard. Cleland's malicious interference with employment allegation will not be considered since it was only asserted against Tenney, who has been dismissed from this litigation. ( See Order [16].)

1. Defamation

Cleland asserts "that all pre-textual reasons put forward by Defendants for terminating... [him] are knowingly and intentionally false", and that his employment "record and reputation have now been permanently defamed and harmed...." (Am. Compl. [6-1] at ¶ 23.) The following four elements must be proven in order for Cleland to recover on his defamation claim:

(1) a false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff; (2) an unprivileged publication to a third party; (3) fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher; and (4) either actionability of the statement irrespective of special ...

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.