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Rogers v. The Tallahatchie Gourmet, LLC.

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

January 3, 2020



         Presently before the court are the separate motions of the Defendants to dismiss the Plaintiffs claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon due consideration, the court finds that the motions should be denied.


         Defendant Tallahatchie Gourmet, LLC, owns and operates a restaurant in New Albany, Mississippi. The Plaintiff, Russell Rogers ("Rogers"), alleges that on February 9, 2019, Defendant Torrey Mitchell ("Mitchell"), who at the time was on duty as the manager and bartender of the restaurant, negligently created and failed to defuse a hostile and unsafe environment that led to non-party Lane Mitchell, Torrey's son, stabbing Rogers in the neck with a knife and causing serious injuries and damages, while Rogers was present as a patron of the restaurant. Rogers asserts that Tallahatchie Gourmet, as Mitchell's employer, is liable both for Mitchell's negligence and for negligently failing to train Mitchell to defuse or control the situation; Rogers further avers that Mitchell is liable for his own negligence related to the incident. Rogers filed his Complaint [1] on June 28, 2019, and an Amended Complaint on October 1, 2019 [22].


         When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court is limited to the allegations set forth in the complaint and any documents attached to the complaint. Walker v. Webco Indus., Inc., 562 Fed.Appx. 215, 216-17 (5th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (citing Kennedy v. Chase Manhattan Bank USA, NA, 369 F.3d 833, 839 (5th Cir. 2004)). "[A plaintiffs] complaint therefore must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Phillips v. City of Dallas, Tex., 781 F.3d 772, 775-76 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting 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 is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

         In other words, "plaintiffs must allege facts that support the elements of the cause of action in order to make out a valid claim." Webb v. Morella, 522 Fed.Appx. 238, 241 (5th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (quoting City of Clinton, Ark v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 632 F.3d 148, 152-53 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "[C]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Id. (quoting Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "Dismissal is appropriate when the plaintiff has not alleged 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face' and has failed to 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Emesowum v. Hous. Police Dep't 561 Fed.Appx. 372, 372 (5th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiffs Claims Against Defendant Torrey Mitchell

         Rogers asserts a claim for negligence against Defendant Mitchell. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Rogers has, at this juncture, adequately set forth a valid claim for relief against Mitchell.

         Mitchell was the bartender and on-site manager of the subject Tallahatchie Gourmet restaurant in New Albany on the evening of February 9, 2019, while Rogers was present on the premises as a patron or business invitee. See Amd. Compl., Doc. 22, at p. 2. Rogers alleges that Mitchell was negligent in several respects on that date, including consuming alcohol and failing to defuse a hostile environment towards Rogers in the restaurant, and that Mitchell's negligent acts led to Rogers' injuries, which were a foreseeable result of Mitchell's negligence.

         In order to recover on a negligence claim under Mississippi law, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached a particular duty owed to the plaintiff and that the breach of duty proximately caused damages. Adams v. Hughes, 191 So.3d 1236, 1240 (Miss. 2016). As the Fifth Circuit has held, Mississippi law imposes on every person who undertakes an action "a duty of reasonable care to protect against causing injury to others." Foradori v. Captain D's, L.L.C., 523 F.3d 477, 486 (5th Cir. 2008); Dr. Pepper Bottling Co. of Miss. v. Bruner, 245 Miss. 276, 148 So.2d 199, 201 (Miss. 1962). While this duty requires that precautions be taken only against foreseeable risks, it is clear that a plaintiff can establish that the risk of injury is foreseeable when the sustained damages "reasonably could be expected to flow from the defendant's negligence." Foradori, 523 F.3d at 486; Glover ex rel. Glover v. Jackson State Univ., 968 So.2d 1267, 1278 (Miss. 2007) (citing City of Jackson v. Estate of Stewart ex rel Womack, 908 So.2d 703, 715 (Miss. 2005) and Gulledge v. Shaw, 880 So.2d 288, 293 (Miss. 2004)). As for intervening acts and foreseeability, Mississippi law has long held that a cause of injury is not superseding if it is foreseeable. See, e.g., Glover, 968 So.2d at 1279-80 ("where the intervening cause of injury was foreseeable, it cannot supercede the liability of the defendant"); O'Cain v. Harvey Freeman & Sons, Inc. of Miss., 603 So.2d 824, 830 (Miss. 1991) ("[A]n independent intervening cause is one that could not have been reasonably foreseen by the defendant while exercising due care"). As the Mississippi Supreme Court has confirmed, even a criminal act by a third party is not a superseding cause if it was foreseeable. See Glover, 968 So.2d at 1279-80 (finding that a rape was not a superseding cause of injury when it was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of defendant's negligence).

         Utilizing these principles in the case sub judice, the Court finds that Rogers has stated a plausible claim for relief against Mitchell for negligence - Rogers alleges that Mitchell, who was the managing employee of the subject restaurant on the night in question and was acting in the course and scope of his employment, negligently created, or failed to prevent or control, an atmosphere of hostility towards Rogers by consuming alcohol while on duty, inflaming a hostile atmosphere towards Rogers, and furnishing the weapon that was used to stab Rogers, and that Rogers suffered foreseeable injuries and damages as a result of Mitchell's negligence. See Amd. Compl., Doc. No. 22, at pp. 2-3.

         Based on the facts averred in Rogers' Amended Complaint and Mississippi law as it relates to claims of negligence, the Court finds that, at this juncture, Rogers has set forth a plausible claim for relief against Mitchell for negligence, and Mitchell's motion to dismiss the pending negligence claim against him pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) shall therefore be denied.

         B. Plaintiffs Claims against Defendant ...

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