Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rose v. Rothrock

April 29, 2009

JIMI ROSE, PLAINTIFF, PRO SE
v.
BRUCE ROTHROCK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pratter, J.

MEMORANDUM

Pro Se Plaintiff Jimi Rose complains that Bruce and David Rothrock, as well as their company Lehigh Valley Hospitality Group ("LVHG"), refused to honor a contract to sell him property because of his race. Defendants filed three motions: a Motion to Dismiss, a Motion to Seal the Complaint or Strike the Complaint of Scandalous and Impertinent Material, and a Motion for Sanctions Pursuant to Rule 11. As set forth below in detail, the various motions are granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the Plaintiff's Complaint. Mr. Rose claims that in November 2007 he entered into negotiations with David Rothrock, an owner and operator of LVHG, to purchase real estate at 300 W. Hamilton Street in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He alleges that the parties orally agreed to a price of $1,200,000, which David Rothrock told him was a reduction from $1,600,000. Relying upon this agreement, Mr. Rose secured financing for the purchase of the property. He attaches as Exhibit A to his Complaint a letter that he wrote to David Rothrock which he claims proves that he had an oral agreement with David Rothrock to purchase the property.*fn1

On December 4, 2007, Bruce Rothrock, LVHG's other owner and operator, spoke with Mr. Rose and confirmed the agreement but "unilaterally" changed the price to $2,200,000, claiming that David had been confused about the price. Thus, Mr. Rose claims, the Defendants breached their oral agreement to sell him the property. Mr. Rose believes that Bruce Rothrock raised the purchase price when he discovered that Mr. Rose is African American and was capable of paying the original agreed-upon price. Mr. Rose claims that both Messrs. Rothrock knew that he was black prior to agreeing to the sale. He claims to have witnesses to both the oral agreement and the telephone call during which the price was raised. Mr. Rose also alleges that Bruce and David Rothrock conspired to violate his civil rights with other "unknown persons." Compl. at ¶ 27-28.

Mr. Rose's Complaint provides some very colorful allegations that the Rothrocks' treatment of him was discriminatory. Mr. Rose submits that because the Defendants have not identified any other potential buyers, their refusal to sell to him must have been because of his race, not because of competing offers. He notes that the Defendants paid $400,000 for the property originally. He claims that the family of a young African American who was murdered on Rothrock property "might be filing a wrongful death action against Defendants," and that the Rothrocks blame the loss of their liquor license (presumably for the night club situated at the property involved in this dispute) on the "bad behavior" of African Americans on their property, including the incident related to the alleged murder on their property. Compl. at ¶¶ 33-34. He alleges that he will call "white persons" at trial who will testify that the Defendants' actions with respect to the sale of the property were discriminatory. Mr. Rose further alleges that the Defendants do not employ any minorities and have no history of selling to African Americans.

Mr. Rose originally filed a complaint against the Defendants in state court but later withdrew that complaint when he decided that federal court was a more appropriate forum. He also filed a lis pendens against the property in state court, which was dismissed. Defendants brought suit against Mr. Rose to recover attorneys' fees, presumably with regard to the withdrawn state court action and/or the dismissed lis pendens action, and Mr. Rose cites this as a further attempt by the Defendants to punish him for exercising his constitutional rights under the First Amendment and for being African American.

Mr. Rose's Complaint contains two counts. The first cites violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, and 1985, for which he claims damages, including lost profits amounting to $1,500,000 a year, expenses incurred in securing investors, emotional damages for public humiliation, punitive damages, pre-judgment interest, and costs and fees. In Count 2, Mr. Rose asserts a claim for breach of contract, for which he claims damages for lost profits amounting to $1,500,000 a year, expenses incurred in securing investors, punitive damages, pre-judgment interest, and costs and fees.

The Court will address each of the Defendants' three motions in turn.

A. Motion to Dismiss

LEGAL STANDARD

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 1964-65 (citations omitted). Specifically, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Id. at 1965 (citations omitted).

In making such a determination, courts "must only consider those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of those allegations as true." ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)); see also Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (stating that courts must assume that "all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)"). The Court must also accept as true all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations, and view those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Rocks v. Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). The Court, however, need not accept as true "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences," Doug Grant, Inc. v. Greate Bay Casino Corp., 232 F.3d 173, 183-84 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 n.13 (3d Cir. 1998)), or the plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions," Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d. 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

To evaluate a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record and records of which the Court may take judicial notice. See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rts., 127 S.Ct. 2499, 2509 (2007); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

In the case of pro se pleadings, like the Complaint in this case, such pleadings are liberally construed and "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Braithwaite v. Correctional Medical Services, et al., Civil Action No. 07-6, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9821, at *3-4 (D. Del. Feb. 11, 2008) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, --U.S.--, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted)).

1. Section 1981

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, a plaintiff must allege (1) that the plaintiff is a member of a racial minority, (2) an intent to discriminate on the basis of race by the defendants, and (3) discrimination concerning one or more of the activities enumerated in the statute, which includes the right to make and enforce contracts. Brown v. Philip Morris, Inc., 250 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2001). To bring a claim under § 1981, "a contractual relationship need not already exist because § 1981 protects the would-be contractor along with those who already have made contracts." Domino's Pizza, Inc. v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470, 476 (2006).

Defendants argue that Mr. Rose has not sufficiently alleged the second prong--an intent to discriminate on the basis of race by the Defendants. They contend that Mr. Rose's allegation that "[b]oth Rothrocks knew that Plaintiff was black, prior to reaching an agreement with the Plaintiff," Compl. at ¶ 16, contradicts his claim that the Rothrocks raised the purchase price because of his race.*fn2 The Defendants cite Brown, 250 F.3d at 797, as an example of a case in which the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a § 1981 claim when the plaintiffs did not aver that the defendants engaged in a discriminatory refusal to deal or claim that the defendants treated African Americans differently from Caucasians. They also direct the Court to Stehney v. Perry, 101 F.3d 925, 938 (3d Cir. 1996), in which the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of an equal protection claim when the plaintiff failed to allege a discriminatory purpose behind a facially neutral policy.

These cases are easily distinguishable from the case at hand. In Brown, the plaintiffs sued tobacco companies because they claimed that the companies targeted African Americans in their marketing of menthol cigarettes, which is a completely different type of claim than the one here in which Mr. Rose claims that the Defendants refused to honor an agreement to sell real estate to him because of his race. See Brown, 250 F.3d at 793. Thus, while it is true, as Defendants say, that the Brown plaintiffs did not aver that the defendants engaged in a discriminatory refusal to deal or claim that the defendants treated African Americans differently from Caucasians, unlike Mr. Rose the plaintiffs in Brown did not even attempt to allege such claims. As for ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.