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Chapman v. Yellow Cab Cooperative

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

November 28, 2016



          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Thomas Edward Chapman (“Chapman”), proceeding pro se, filed a complaint against Defendants alleging various causes of action arising from his termination from employment as a taxicab driver. Chapman filed his original complaint on May 4, 2015. (Docket #1). Defendants moved to dismiss that complaint, and the Court granted that motion on February 24, 2016. Chapman v. Yellow Cab Cooperative, Case No. 15-C-533, 2016 WL 756533, at *5-6 (E.D. Wis. Feb. 24, 2016). In its order, the Court gave Chapman leave to file an amended complaint in order to cure the deficiencies the Court identified in the original complaint. Id. Chapman then filed two documents purporting to be a first and second amended complaint, respectively. See (Docket #43 and #44). In April 2016, Defendants again moved to dismiss the case on various grounds. See (Docket #54, #55, and #61). Chapman initially failed to respond to these motions, so the Court ordered him to do so. (Docket #73). He thereafter responded to the motions to dismiss in one omnibus filing on August 18, 2016, and Defendants replied on September 1, 2016. (Docket #74 and #75). Without permission of the Court, Chapman filed what appears to be a sur-reply, consisting of a letter and exhibits thereto, on September 16, 2016. (Docket #77). The motions to dismiss are fully briefed and, for the reasons stated herein, they will be granted.

         1. BACKGROUND

         1.1 Relevant Facts

         The following facts are drawn from the allegations in Chapman's Second Amended Complaint.[1] Chapman alleges that he worked for Yellow Cab Cooperative, a cooperative organization of taxicab drivers, as a cab driver for a period of seven years. (Docket #44 at 1-2). Chapman drove a licensed cab owned by Dennis Edwards (“Edwards”), who is not a defendant in this action. Id. at 3. He paid rent on the cab to Defendant Parashu Giri (“Giri”), who leased it from Edwards. Id.

         On January 30, 2013, he filed a wage complaint against Yellow Cab Cooperative with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division (“ERD”), alleging that he was not being paid the minimum wage. Id. at 3. Yellow Cab Cooperative was informed of that complaint by letter on February 19, 2013. Id.

         On March 4, 2013, Chapman went to Giri's home to pick up his taxicab in order to start his work shift. Id. at 1. Chapman alleges that he and Giri used the same cab, with Chapman taking a day shift and Giri working through the night. Id. When he arrived at Giri's home that morning, however, he did not start his shift as usual. Id. Instead, Giri informed Chapman that the president of Yellow Cab Cooperative, Defendant Ali Mohamed (“Mohamed”), had fired him. Id. Chapman alleges that he heard from Giri that Mohamed decided to fire Chapman because Chapman had filed his wage complaint. Id. at 1-2. Chapman further states that in his seven years with the company he “had a good work record and no compliants [sic] from any customers or the public.” Id. at 2.

         Though the balance of the Second Amended Complaint is hard to parse, Chapman appears to assert the following legal theories. First, Chapman claims that Defendants Yellow Cab Cooperative, [2] Mohamed, and Giri violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3), by terminating him in retaliation for engaging in “protected activity” under the statute-that is, filing his wage complaint. Id. at 3-4. Second, Chapman asserts, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983, that Defendant State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (“DFI”) violated his First Amendment right to petition the government when DFI ignored a 2011 complaint from Chapman about Yellow Cab Cooperative's failure to comply with its corporate duties. Id. at 5-6.

         Third, Chapman makes a “1991 claim” against Yellow Cab Cooperative arising from what appears to be a break-in at the company's dispatch center in June 2010. Id. at 10. Based on allegations found later in the complaint, it appears Chapman is attempting to refer to the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Id. at 26. Fourth, Chapman states that “African” managers at Yellow Cab Cooperative discriminated against him on the basis of his race. Id. at 17. Finally, Chapman appears to allege that some unidentified person or entity subjected him to “peonage”-involuntary servitude-in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. Id. at 21.

         1.2 Procedural History

         Defendants Yellow Cab Cooperative, Mohamed, and Giri filed a motion to dismiss on April 13, 2016, arguing that Chapman's complaint failed to state a claim against any of them and that Giri was never properly served with process. (Docket #54 and #55). That same day, Chapman filed a document captioned “Additional Exhibits” to his Second Amended Complaint. (Docket #58). The document is replete with incoherent statements, legal argument, and photocopied pages from various books. On April 19, 2016, Defendant DFI filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Docket #61).

         Chapman thereafter filed several more documents, some of which purported to be further exhibits to his Second Amended Complaint or asserted new claims Chapman believes he has against Defendants. See (Docket #62, #63, #64, #65, #66, and #67). These documents, like the first set of “Additional Exhibits” Chapman filed, consist primarily of incoherent arguments interspersed with photocopied pages from books and from the administrative record in Chapman's ERD proceedings. None of these filings was captioned as a response to the motions to dismiss, and based on the Court's review of each filing, none of them appreciably responds to Defendants' arguments.

         As a result, after this matter was reassigned to this branch of the Court in August 2016, the Court ordered Chapman to file responses to the motions to dismiss, (Docket #73), which he did on August 18, 2016, (Docket #74). Yellow Cab Cooperative, Mohamed, and Giri filed a reply on September 1, 2016. (Docket #75). DFI did not file a reply. On September 16, 2016, Chapman filed yet another document purporting to contain additional exhibits to his Second Amended Complaint. (Docket #77). Review of the document, however, reveals that it is a sur-reply to Yellow Cab Cooperative, Mohamed, and Giri's reply brief. Although sur-replies are not authorized by the Court's local rules, see Civil L. R. 7, the Court will not strike Chapman's filing because the Court does not find that its contents affect the disposition of the present motions.

         2. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of complaints which fail to state a viable claim for relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To state a viable claim, a complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In other words, the complaint must give “fair notice of what the…claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). The allegations must “plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level[.]” Kubiak v. City of Chicago, 810 F.3d 476, 480 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         In reviewing Chapman's Second Amended Complaint, the Court is required to “accept as true all of the well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Id. at 480-81. However, a complaint that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must identify allegations “that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. The Court is obliged to give Chapman's pro se allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         3. DISCUSSION

         As explained below, the majority of Chapman's allegations in his Second Amended Complaint are wholly without merit. The only claim that appears colorable is his FLSA retaliation claim, but even there, the Court finds that he must provide more detailed and thorough allegations before the claim can be permitted to proceed. The Court will analyze each claim in turn, but first pauses to address the matter of Chapman's numerous post-complaint filings.

         3.1 Chapman's Additional Exhibits

         Chapman has repeatedly filed documents that purport to be additional exhibits to his Second Amended Complaint. These documents are incoherent, unintelligible, and contain mostly legal argument and speculation, not factual material. The Court will not ...

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