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Howard v. Whataburger

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

May 7, 2019

JACKIE D. HOWARD PLAINTIFF
v.
WHATABURGER; DETECTIVE BRIAN TRIBBLE; SERGEANT ZACHERY WHITE; and LISA GOODWIN, Manager Whataburger DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Susan O. Hickey Chief United States District Judge

         This is a civil rights action filed by Jackie D. Howard pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The case is before the Court for preservice screening under the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Pursuant to the PLRA, the Court has the obligation to screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action pro se on April 3, 2019. (ECF No. 1). His application to proceed in forma pauperis was granted the following day. (ECF No. 4). Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction, Ouachita River Unit, in Malvern, Arkansas.

         Plaintiff has named Whataburger, Detective Brian Tribble, Sergeant Zachery White, and Lisa Goodwin as Defendants. Plaintiff alleges Defendants Whataburger and Lisa Goodwin falsely accused him of stealing a laptop from the Whataburger restaurant. Specifically, Plaintiff states:

I was accused of stealing out of a business by and employee, which had resulted me being incarcerated based on charges that were eventually nolle prossed; Im mentally & physicaly injury from this I take med as of now; the footage alone will show that its not me or that I never was at the place of business…The 14 Amendment was violated, false accusations of accusing me of stealing out of a business ‘Equal Protection' Life, Liberty.

(ECF No. 1, pp. 4-5).

         Plaintiff is suing Defendants in their personal and official capacities. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. (ECF No. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff also requests, “Free Whataburger for life, stock options, Trust fund awareness to fight Against Human Right's and Action's Taken upon them for my Incarceration, one million dollars…for relief.” Id.

         Plaintiff acknowledges in his Complaint that he previously filed another lawsuit in 2018, dealing with the same facts involved in the instant action. Civil No. 4:18-cv-04131 (ECF No. 1). In the 2018 lawsuit, Plaintiff named Lisa Goodwin, Detective Tribble and Sergeant White as defendants but did not specifically name Goodwin's employer, Whataburger, as a defendant.[1]On December 17, 2018 Plaintiff's claims against Lisa Goodwin, the manager of Whataburger, were dismissed with prejudice. Civil No. 4:18-cv-04131 (ECF No. 23). The Court found that Defendant Goodwin was not a state actor and, that even if she had been, Plaintiff had failed to state a claim against her for slander or defamation because these are not cognizable claims under section 1983. Id. at p. 5. Plaintiff's claims against Detective Tribble and Sergeant White in the 2018 lawsuit are currently pending before this Court.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen this case prior to service of process being issued. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (1) are frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or, (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         A claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “In evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded ... to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). However, even a pro se Plaintiff must allege specific facts sufficient to support a claim. Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendants ...


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