United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
HERMAN C. KIDD, Plaintiff,
WAL-MART DISTRIBUTION CENTER 6072 and MARTEN TRANSPORT, LTD., Defendants.
NEAL B. BIGGERS, Jr., Senior District Judge.
Presently before this court are defendants', Wal-Mart Distribution Center 6072 and Marten Transport, Ltd's motions to dismiss. Upon consideration of the motions, responses, and applicable authority, and being fully advised in the premises, the court is ready to rule.
Factual and Procedural Background
The plaintiff, Herman C. Kidd, brings this action against Wal-Mart Distribution Center 6072 ("Wal-Mart") and Marten Transport, Ltd. ("Marten"). Mr. Kidd worked as a truck driver for Marten - a contractor under obligation to deliver goods to several Wal-Mart distribution centers in Mississippi.
On March 31, 2014, Mr. Kidd, made deliveries to three different Wal-Mart distribution centers - one of which is located in Cleveland, Mississippi. At the Cleveland distribution center, Mr. Kidd complained of delays while goods were being unloaded from the truck he was driving. After leaving the Cleveland distribution center, the plaintiff called Marten's dispatch to make an oral complaint. As admitted in Mr. Kidd's pleadings, Mr. Kidd stated to the Marten's dispatch operator that "[he] was the only white person back there" and "there were several blacks that weren't try[ing] to get [him] unloaded on a timely schedule."
The following day a Marten representative contacted Mr. Kidd and terminated his employment. Mr. Kidd also states he was banned from the Wal-Mart premises soon thereafter. Mr. Kidd claims that both defendants are equally at fault for his termination and banishment and that he could have continued working in the same capacity until retirement, had his employment not been terminated.
On March 31, 2015, Mr. Kidd filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Union County, Mississippi. On April 24, 2015, Wal-Mart removed the case to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. The plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $400, 000 against each defendant for wrongful termination, wrongful banishment, and defamation of character. On May 1, 2015, Marten filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. Wal-Mart subsequently filed its motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on May 4, 2015.
Standard of Review
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a claim. A complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " and only a complaint which does so can survive a motion to dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). Although the motion to dismiss is "viewed with disfavor and rarely granted, " the motion is ultimately determined by whether the plaintiff presents sufficient factual evidence of a claim to relief. Lowery v. Texas A&M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997). Complaints are "liberally construed in the plaintiff's favor, " but the court will "not accept as true conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions." Priester v. Lowndes County, 354 F.3d 414, 419 (5th Cir. 2004); Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005).
The plaintiff makes several allegations against the defendants throughout his complaint and subsequent answers and amendments to the complaint - including wrongful termination, banishment from Wal-Mart's premises, and defamation of character. The plaintiff additionally alleges a violation of his "human and civil rights" as a result of his termination by Marten. Each of the claims presented by the plaintiff must provide "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547. This court finds no sufficient facts for the claims within the plaintiff's complaint which would present a plausible claim to grant relief.
Mr. Kidd's primary allegation against the defendants is wrongful termination. Mr. Kidd states that his "discharge" from Marten was not proper, and that Marten terminated his employment without just cause. However, the State of Mississippi is an employment-at-will state: "[t]he general rule of employment at will is that a contract for employment for an indefinite period may be terminated at the will of either party, whether the termination is for any reason or no reason at all." Buchanan v. Ameristar Casino Vicksburg, Inc., 852 So.2d 25, 26 (Miss. 2003). Under Mississippi law, there are two narrow exceptions to the general at-will employment standard: (1) an employee discharged for refusing to "participate in an illegal act" at the request of his employer and (2) an employee discharged for "reporting the illegal acts of his employer." McArn v. Allied Bruce-Terminix Co., Inc. 626 So.2d 603, 607 (Miss. 1993). These narrow public policy exceptions are allowed in order to uphold the "employer's duty not to thwart the public interest by terminating employees for speaking the truth." Community Care Center of Aberdeen v. Barrentine, 160 So.3d 216, 220 (Miss. 2015).
The plaintiff's complaint does not support a claim for wrongful termination under Mississippi law, as the public policy exceptions are not invoked by the plaintiff's assertions. Marten may choose to end Mr. Kidd's employment at any point, without justification, excluding the two public policy exceptions mentioned. The plaintiff was not asked by either Wal-Mart or Marten to perform an illegal activity, nor did the plaintiff report any such illegal activity. His termination was not within the bounds of the public policy exceptions provided in McArn. As such, this claim should be dismissed.
Mr. Kidd also believes the defendants to have wronged him by defaming his character. As a result of Mr. Kidd's termination, perceivably based on comments Mr. Kidd relayed to Martin's dispatch, Mr. Kidd believes Wal-Mart "made [him] out to be a racist, " and as such, defamed his ...