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Barnes v. Omega Laboratories, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

March 24, 2017

CHAQUITA BARNES PLAINTIFF
v.
OMEGA LABORATORIES, INC. DEFENDANT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is “Omega Laboratories, Inc.'s Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Chaquita Barnes's Original Complaint.” Doc. #4. For the reasons below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I Factual Allegations and Procedural History

         During the spring 2016 semester, Chaquita Barnes was enrolled in the Medical Laboratory Technology Health Science Program at Mississippi Delta Community College (“MDCC”). Doc. #1 at ¶¶ 7, 8. On March 29, 2016, in accordance with MDCC's randomized drug screening policy, Barnes submitted a hair sample to be screened for drug use. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. Barnes' hair sample was sent to Omega Laboratories, Inc. for testing. Id. at ¶ 9.

         On or about April 4, 2016, Barnes' drug screening results returned “showing a positive result for large amounts of Cocaine.” Id. at ¶ 11; Doc. #1-1. As a result, on April 7, 2016, MDCC informed Barnes that “she would be dismissed from the program.” Doc. #1 at ¶ 12. The same day, Barnes, who had never used illegal drugs, [1] went to the Greenville Family Medical Clinic and obtained a second hair follicle test from LabCorp, Inc. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 13. The results from this second drug screening returned negative for all tested drugs, including cocaine. Id. at ¶ 14; Doc. #1-2.

         Barnes notified the Vice President of Student Services at MDCC of the negative results and asked to be retested but her request was denied. Doc. #1 at ¶ 17. Barnes appealed her dismissal from MDCC but the dismissal was upheld. Id. at ¶¶ 17-18; Doc. #1-3. Due to her dismissal, Barnes did not receive credit for the spring 2016 semester and was not reimbursed for fees and tuition paid. Doc. #1 at ¶ 20. To reapply for admission into the program, Barnes must “undergo a 10-week drug rehabilitation program at her own expense, even though she has never taken or used any illegal drugs.” Id. at ¶ 19.

         On June 13, 2016, Barnes filed a complaint in this Court against Omega, alleging causes of action for negligence, and “defamation and slander.” Doc. #1. Barnes seeks “to recover the full amount of monetary damages under Mississippi law, ” including damages for past and future mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life. Id. at ¶ 29. On August 1, 2016, Omega filed a motion to dismiss Barnes' complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. #4. On August 15, 2016, Barnes responded in opposition to the motion to dismiss, Doc. #14; and Omega replied on August 22, 2016, Doc. #19.

         II Standard

         “The pleading standards for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss are derived from Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides, in relevant part, that a pleading stating a claim for relief must contain ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In re McCoy, 666 F.3d 924, 926 (5th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 12(b)(6), “[t]he central issue is whether, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid claim for relief.” Taylor v. Shreveport, 798 F.3d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2002)). Under this standard, a court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true.” New Orleans City v. Ambac Assurance Corp., 815 F.3d 196, 199-200 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation mark omitted). However, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do so.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). Rather,

[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544) (internal citations omitted).

         III Discussion

         Omega has moved to dismiss Barnes' claims for negligence and “defamation and slander.”

         A. Negligence

         In order to state a claim for negligence under Mississippi law, a plaintiff must allege the following elements: “(a) duty or standard of care, (b) breach of that duty or standard, (c) proximate causation, and (d) damages or injury.” Arnona v. Smith, 749 So.2d 63, 66 (Miss. 1999).

         In her complaint, Barnes alleges that Omega owed her a duty “to exercise reasonable care in the performance of an accurate hair drug screening and to accurately report the results to MDCC.” Doc. #1 at ¶ 21. She contends Omega breached this duty when it conducted the hair drug screening in a manner “that left room for erroneous results, including, but not limited to the failure to complete and provide chain-of-custody documentation;” reported to MDCC incorrect hair drug screening results; failed to advise her and MDCC “of the risk of ...


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