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York v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 12, 2019

Alison York, Plaintiff,
JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association, et al., Defendants.



         Before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 22), Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 25), and Defendants' Reply (Doc. 26). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         I. Background[1]

         A. Factual Background

         On March 24, 2018, Plaintiff Alison York (“Plaintiff”) went to the drive-through window at the Peoria, Arizona branch location of Defendant JPMorgan Chase Bank (“Chase”). (Doc. 1 ¶ 12.) Plaintiff and Chase were parties to a Deposit Account Agreement (the “Agreement”), which is the governing contract in this case.[2] (Doc. 22-2.) Plaintiff, an African-American woman who was “dressed in her dress that she does not wear in public and with her hair covered in an African-style head wrap” at the time of this interaction, wanted to make credit card payments and to withdraw $1800 in cash. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 1, 12.) Plaintiff gave Defendant Karen Anliker (“Anliker”), the branch's head teller, Plaintiff's Chase Slate credit card, her Arizona driver's license, and a withdrawal slip with both her mailing and billing addresses. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 13-14.) Anliker asked Plaintiff what she wanted to do, and Plaintiff replied, “I would like to make payments to my [two] accounts and [make] a withdrawal.” (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 12, 14.) Anliker then left the drive-through window, and after Plaintiff waited about twenty minutes, Defendant Cullen Keller (“Keller”), the acting branch manager, asked Plaintiff to come inside to verify her identity. (Doc. 1 ¶ 14.)

         Inside the branch, Keller ushered Plaintiff over to his desk and asked Plaintiff what she wanted to do. (Doc. 1 ¶ 15.) Plaintiff provided Keller with her driver's license and Chase Slate credit card and told Keller she wanted to make payments on her credit cards and take out $1800 in cash. (Doc. 1 ¶ 15.) Keller informed Plaintiff of the amounts due on her two credit cards (a Freedom card and the Slate card) and proceeded to make the payments for Plaintiff by transferring money from her checking account to her credit cards. (Doc. 1 ¶ 15.) Because Keller told Plaintiff that she would need to see a teller for the cash withdrawal, Plaintiff “walked up to [Anliker] and asked for the $1800 withdrawal.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 16.) At some point during their encounter, Anliker told Plaintiff that “[she] ha[d] never seen [Plaintiff] at this branch before.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 16.) Having still not received her money, Plaintiff returned to Keller, who printed Plaintiff's signature card and brought it back to Anliker. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 16-17.) Despite now having Plaintiff's signature card, which Keller had verified matched Plaintiff's signature on her driver's license, Anliker repeatedly told Plaintiff that “she did not feel comfortable” giving Plaintiff her money and that she “had the right to refuse service.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 16-17.) Anliker also told Keller, while Plaintiff was standing at the teller station, that Plaintiff needed to “go to another branch.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 17.) During this interaction, Plaintiff accidentally knocked something off the counter, and Anliker raised her voice at Plaintiff and accused her of throwing things. (Doc. 1 ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiff and Keller returned to Keller's desk, and he apologized for Anliker's behavior. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 18-19.) He told Plaintiff that, though he wanted to help her, he could not override Anliker's decision. (Doc. 1 ¶ 19.) He did inform Plaintiff, however, that Anliker would never treat a customer in that manner again. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 18-19.) Keller told Plaintiff that she “did not know how many people came into the bank with fraud and that that someone had just stolen $4, 500 from the Bank.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 18-19.) He printed a copy of Plaintiff's driver's license and a “verification guide” for Plaintiff but informed her that company policy forbade her from having a copy of her signature card, which Plaintiff alleges was a lie. (Doc. 1 ¶ 18.) Keller then told Plaintiff to return to Anliker, who, at that point, completed Plaintiff's $1800 withdrawal. (Doc. 1 ¶ 20.) Plaintiff told Anliker that she was “completely out of line” and that “all [Anliker] had to do was go and look into the computer” to verify her identity. (Doc. 1 ¶ 20.) Anliker responded that Plaintiff's information was “not in the computer, ” which Plaintiff alleges was another lie. (Doc. 1 ¶ 20.) By the end of the interaction, Plaintiff had spent more than an hour at the bank. (Doc. 1 ¶ 20.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On November 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Complaint against Defendants for racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. section 1981 and A.R.S. section 41-1442, conversion, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). (Doc. 1.) On January 4, 2019, Defendants filed this Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 22.) On January 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed her Response.[3] (Doc. 25.) On January 29, 2019, Defendants filed their Reply. (Doc. 26.)

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” such that the defendant is given “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In reviewing a complaint for failure to state a claim, the Court must “accept as true all well-pleaded allegations of material fact, and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031-32 (9th Cir. 2008)). In comparison, “allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences” are not entitled to the assumption of truth, id., and “are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.” In re Cutera Sec. Litig., 610 F.3d 1103, 1108 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Likewise, the court need not accept legal conclusions as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Facial plausibility exists if the pleader pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. Plausibility does not equal “probability, ” but plausibility requires more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent' with a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         A court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim under 12(b)(6) for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory and (2) insufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. See Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Discrimination in the making of a contract

         The Civil Rights Act protects the rights of racial minorities to, among other things, “make and enforce contracts, ” defined by the statute as “the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship.” 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). When racial discrimination impairs a contract, section 1981 entitles a plaintiff who has rights under the contract to relief. Domino's Pizza, Inc. v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470, 476 (2006). “In order to evaluate claims of intentional discrimination where intent itself is generally impossible to prove, [the courts in this Circuit] appl[y] the McDonnell burden-shifting framework, ” which requires that a plaintiff first establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination. Lindsey v. SLT Los Angeles, LLC, 447 F.3d 1138, 1144 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-03 (1973)). To establish a prima facie section 1981 claim, the plaintiff must show that “(1) [she] is a member of a protected class, (2) [she] attempted to contract for certain services, (3) [she] was denied the right to contract for those services, and (4) such services remained available to similarly-situated individuals who were not members of the plaintiff's protected class.” Childs v. Boyd ...

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