United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
DER-YEGHIAYAN, DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on Defendant Linda Ryan's
(Ryan) motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, the
motion to dismiss is denied.
William Jenkins (Jenkins) was allegedly employed by Defendant
Illinois Central Railroad Company (IC) and Defendant Canadian
National Railway (CNR) (collectively referred to as CN). On
February 13, 2015, Jenkins allegedly had a verbal altercation
with James Fuchs (Fuchs), who was the CN Assistant
Superintendent in Chicago. Fuchs allegedly indicated that he
intended to see that Jenkins' employment was terminated.
On February 10, 2016, Jenkins allegedly engaged in another
verbal altercation with Ryan, who was a co-worker. A formal
CN investigation was allegedly initiated regarding the verbal
altercation between Jenkins and Ryan. Fuchs allegedly
conducted the investigation hearing (Hearing) and Ryan
attended as a witness. Jenkins claims that Fuchs and Ryan
conspired prior to the Hearing and agreed that Ryan would
provide false testimony indicating that Jenkins had made
racial slurs. In March 2016 CN allegedly terminated
Jenkins' employment based on the investigation results.
Jenkins also alleges that the transcript of the Hearing with
the alleged false statements were disseminated to other
parties. Jenkins includes in his second amended complaint a
slander claim brought against Ryan (Count I), a civil
conspiracy claim brought against Ryan and Fuchs (Count II), a
respondeat superior claim brought against Defendant
Renzenberger, Inc. (Count IV), respondeat superior claims
brought against CNR and IC (Count IV), and negligent
entrustment claims brought against CNR and IC (Count V). Ryan
now moves to dismiss all claims brought against her.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (Rule 12(b)(1)) requires a
court to dismiss an action when it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); see also Ezekiel v.
Michel, 66 F.3d 894, 897 (7th Cir. 1995)(stating that
when reviewing a motion to dismiss brought under Rule
12(b)(1), the court “must accept as true all
well-pleaded factual allegations, and draw reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff”). When subject
matter jurisdiction is not apparent on the face of the
complaint and is contested, “the district court may
properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the
complaint . . . to determine whether in fact subject matter
jurisdiction exists.” Sapperstein v. Hager,
188 F.3d 852, 855-56 (7th Cir. 1999)(internal quotations
omitted)(quoting United Transportation Union v. Gateway
Western Railway Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir.
1996)). The burden of proof in regards to a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion is on the party asserting that the court has subject
matter jurisdiction. Id.
ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Rule 12(b)(6)), the court must
draw all reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff,
construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all
well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint.
Appert v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Inc., 673 F.3d
609, 622 (7th Cir. 2012); Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of
Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir.
2002). A plaintiff is required to include allegations in the
complaint that “plausibly suggest that the plaintiff
has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a
‘speculative level'” and “if they do
not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court.”
E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496
F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting in part Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007));
see also Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Inc., 673 F.3d
at 622 (stating that “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss,
the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face, ” and that “[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”)(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662 (2009))(internal quotations omitted).
argues that Jenkins has failed to show that this court has
subject matter jurisdiction in this matter. Ryan also argues
that Jenkins has failed to allege sufficient facts to state a
valid defamation or conspiracy claim.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
argues that Jenkins is relying upon diversity subject matter
jurisdiction and that Jenkins has not shown that there is a
diversity of citizenship. A district court has diversity
jurisdiction in “civil actions . . . between . . .
citizens of different States. . . .” 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1). Ryan argues that Jenkins has failed to establish
a diversity of citizenship because Ryan presented his
jurisdictional allegations with the phrase on
“information and belief.” The mere fact that
Jenkins couched his jurisdictional allegations in such terms
does not mean that they are deficient. It is true that it is
a plaintiff's burden to show the court that a court has
subject matter jurisdiction, but there is no rule that
mandates how to present jurisdictional allegations.
Jurisdiction is a matter that is made based upon evidence
rather than based on a hyper-technical evaluation of
jurisdictional allegations in a pleading. Many pro
se complaints, for example, contain no jurisdictional
section in them. Yet the court may still have subject matter
jurisdiction in such cases.
case, Jenkins is not vague or evasive in terms of the
parties' citizenship. Nor does Jenkins rely upon
information such as her residence, which is not dispositive
in regard to citizenship. Jenkins specifically alleges that
she is a “citizen of the State of Georgia.” (SA
Compl. Par. 1). Jenkins has further indicated the potential
states of citizenship of the Defendants and has indicated
that none of the Defendants are citizens of Georgia. Such
allegations are sufficient at this juncture to indicate
diversity of citizenship. It is worth noting that Ryan
herself has not come forth with any evidence that would show
that any of Ryan's jurisdictional allegations are
inaccurate or to show that this court does not have subject
matter jurisdiction. It is also worth noting that none of the
other Defendants in this case have contested subject matter
jurisdiction. The court notes that the issue of subject
matter jurisdiction can be raised in a proceeding at any time
and Defendants are free to reraise this issue in the future.
Sufficiency of Facts
argues that Jenkins has not pled sufficient facts to state a
valid defamation or conspiracy claim. The court notes that
although Jenkins has titled her claim as a slander claim,
slander and libel causes of action under Illinois common law
are now both evaluated as defamation claims. Bryson v.
News Am. Publications, Inc., 672 N.E.2d 1207, 1215 (Ill.
1996)(stating that “[a]t common law, libel and slander
were analyzed under different sets of standards, with libel
recognized as the more serious wrong” and that
“[l]ibel and slander are now treated alike and the same
rules apply to a defamatory statement regardless of whether
the statement is written or oral”). Ryan indicates that
she is pursuing both defamation per se and
defamation per quod claims. A plaintiff pursuing a
defamation claim under Illinois law must establish: (1) that
“the defendant made a false statement about the
plaintiff, ” (2) that “the ...