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Taylor v. Wal-Mart Stores

March 29, 2010

CYNTHIA TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

Reagan, District Judge

A. Introduction & Procedural History

Cynthia Taylor sues Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WalMart) on behalf of her learning-disabled minor daughter (Tabitha), following an incident which occurred when the Taylors visited the Murphysboro, Illinois WalMart store. On February 4, 2009, Cynthia and Tabitha entered the store, where Cynthia purchased a new coat for Tabitha, gave the coat to Tabitha, and left Tabitha at the store under the supervision of her school instructors, who had arrived for a field trip with a group of Tabitha's classmates. While on this school outing, Tabitha, who suffers from Downs Syndrome, was confronted by WalMart employees and accused of theft, as is described more fully below.

The original complaint, filed in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Illinois, contained claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander and conversion -- all premised on the allegation that Tabitha was falsely accused of stealing merchandise and was chastised in a threatening manner in front of the students and instructors.

After the case was timely removed to this Court, the undersigned Judge verified that subject matter jurisdiction lies under the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Defendant WalMart then moved to dismiss and strike under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(f).

On January 12, 2010, the undersigned Judge partially granted WalMart's motion and gave Cynthia Taylor leave to file an amended complaint. Taylor did so on January 29, 2010. The first amended complaint (Doc. 20) contains three claims:

" Count 1 alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress.

" Count 2 alleges slander.

" Count 3 alleges conversion.

Now before the Court, fully briefed, is WalMart's motion to dismiss and strike portions of the amended complaint. WalMart argues that, post-amendment, Count 1 still fails to state a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, meriting dismissal. WalMart further asserts that Counts 2 and 3 contain no allegations supporting an award of punitive damages, so the Court should strike the prayer for punitives in both those counts.

B. Applicable Legal Standards

As noted in the Court's recent Order herein, Rule 12(b)(6) governs motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and Rule 12(f) governs motions to strike. A 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 749 (2009). And Rule 12(f) authorizes a district court to strike from a pleading "an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Thus, a district court can strike allegations devoid of factual basis under Rule 12(f). Delta Consulting Group, Inc. v. R. Randle Const., Inc., 554 F.3d 1133, 1142 (7th Cir. 2009).

WalMart's seeks dismissal of Count 1 of Taylor's amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). The United States Supreme Court explained in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), that Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is warranted if the complaint fails to set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." In making this assessment, the District Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Rujawitz v. Martin, 561 F.3d 685, 688 (7th Cir. 2009); Tricontinental Industries, Inc., Ltd. v. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 824 (2007). See also Hemi Group, ...


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