United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the defendant's motion to dismiss. The
plaintiff has responded and the matter is ready for
March 3, 2019, Edward James Hopson's vehicle was broken
into and vandalized while parked at his home in Meridian,
Mississippi. Three weeks later, when the car stalled, Hopson
discovered that the vandal(s) had put sugar and water in his
gas tank. He later confirmed that with his mechanic.
filed a claim with his auto insurer, Safeway Insurance.
Safeway denied the claim. It asserted, apparently, that the
damage was caused by “wear and tear” or that the
vehicle was a “lemon.” Hopson subsequently filed
this verified complaint against “defendants Clint
Cooper et al.” He alleged that the defendant - no one
other than Cooper was named - is liable to him for
racially-motivated insurance denial, for “bad faith,
” and for breaking a promise to policy holders. Hopson
seeks $10, 000 in compensatory damages and $50, 000 in
punitive damages. The present motion to dismiss followed
legal standard is well-established. A complaint “must
contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quotation marks and
citation omitted). “A pro se complaint is to
be construed liberally with all well-pleaded allegations
taken as true. Even a liberally construed pro se . .
. complaint, however, must set forth facts giving rise to a
claim on which relief may be granted.” Johnson v.
Atkins, 999 F.2d 99, 100 (5th Cir. 1993) (citations
review, Cooper's arguments for dismissal must be granted
in part and denied in part, as follows:
First, Hopson has sufficiently invoked a cause of action
giving this Court federal question jurisdiction. Plaintiffs
who claim racially-discriminatory insurance denials have
invoked 42 U.S.C. § 1981, a statute that “protects
the rights of individuals to make and enforce contracts
regardless of race.” Connectors Realty Grp. Corp.
v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 19-C-743, 2019 WL
5064699, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 9, 2019) (quotation marks and
citation omitted). Plaintiffs do not need to expressly cite
the statute to seek its protection. See Johnson v. City
of Shelby, Miss., 574 U.S. 10, 11 (2014) (per curiam).
establish a § 1981 claim for contractual discrimination,
Plaintiffs must allege that (1) they are members of a racial
minority; (2) Defendants intended to discriminate on the
basis of race; and (3) the discrimination concerned one or
more of the activities enumerated in the statute-here, making
a contract.” Body by Cook, Inc. v. State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins., 869 F.3d 381, 386 (5th Cir. 2017) (citations
complaint fails to meet parts (2) and (3) of this standard.
his allegations about racial discrimination are too general
to show that anyone intended to discriminate on the basis of
race. Hopson merely alleges that his claim was denied because
of his race and that it is “obvious.” Docket No.
1-5. But, case law from this Circuit indicates that Hopson
needs something more than naked allegations. Body by
Cook, 869 F.3d at 387. One way he could allege
discriminatory motive, for example, is through circumstantial
evidence, like a description of how “similarly situated
[persons] were treated differently.” Id. at
Illinois case cited above illustrates the problem. There, the
court found that one plaintiff failed to state a § 1981
claim when he alleged that State Farm “called him a
liar, gave him a hard time regarding his financial documents,
and subjected him to an examination under oath.”
Connectors Realty, 2019 WL 5064699, at *6. That was
poor treatment, but it was not racist treatment. In contrast,
a different plaintiff in that case did state a claim
when he alleged that State Farm's agent “used terms
such as ‘homey' and ‘you people' to refer
to African Americans, ” and when the plaintiff
explained how that agent's racial animus “was
connected to State Farm's processing of the claims,
since they were all treated as presumptively fraudulent and
remain unpaid either in full or in part.” Id.
But no such allegations are made here.
Hopson's complaint fails to meet part (3) of the
applicable standard. His insurance contract was with
Safeway-not Cooper. To the extent he was subjected to racial
discrimination in the breaking of a contractual promise, it
was Safeway's contract to break, not Cooper's.
not clear if Hopson will be able to amend his complaint to
overcome these defects. But the law says he should be given
an opportunity to do so, and present his “best
case.” Clay v. Epps, No. 2:06-CV-56-KS-MTP,
2006 WL 2669470, at *4 (S.D.Miss. Sept. 18, 2006) (“As
these allegations, ‘if developed, might state valid
civil rights claims,' dismissal of the complaint without
allowing the plaintiff an opportunity to amend it to state
his best case . . . is premature.”) (collecting cases).
Cooper's motion to dismiss is granted in part, and the
Court grants Hopson an opportunity to amend his complaint as
he sees fit. His amended complaint is due to the Clerk of
Court on or before February 18, 2020. If ...