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Simpkins v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

September 3, 2019

Richard J. Simpkins, Plaintiff,
Terri Simpkins Wright, Defendant.

          Jill Parrish District Judge


          Cecilia M. Romero Magistrate Judge

         This matter is referred to the undersigned in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) from Judge Jill Parrish. (ECF 32). Pending before the court are three motions: Plaintiff Richard J. Simpkins, who is proceeding pro se, filed a Motion to Amend/Correct (ECF 14) and a Motion to Change Venue (ECF 34), and Defendant Terri Simpkins Wright filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF 28). Plaintiff originally filed this case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee and it was transferred to this district in April 2019. (ECF 20).

         Both Plaintiff's Complaint and the proposed Amended Complaint center on events surrounding the death of Richard E. Simpkins, who died intestate in Nicaragua. Richard E. Simpkins (the decedent) is father to Plaintiff Richard J. Simpkins and Defendant Terri Simpkins Wright is Plaintiff's half aunt. The decedent left approximately $80, 0000 dollars in a bank account that upon his death transferred to Defendant. The transfer of this money and circumstances surrounding the transfer are at the heart of this case. Having considered the parties' respective motions and the relevant case law, the court recommends that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss be granted and Plaintiff's motions be denied.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed his original Complaint (ECF 1) in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on December 21, 2018. In response, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss on January 16, 2019. (ECF 8). Defendant sought dismissal due to a lack of personal jurisdiction, lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the federal probate exception and asserted Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In opposition, Plaintiff moved for leave to amend (ECF 14) and filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss.

         On March 18, 2019, Magistrate Judge Barbara Holmes recommended the court deny Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without prejudice and transfer the case to this district. (ECF 18). In opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff argued for transfer of the suit to either the Middle District of Florida or the District of Utah. (ECF 18 p. 4). Magistrate Judge Holmes adopted Plaintiff's position and recommended that the matter be transferred to the District of Utah because Defendant resides in this district. A ruling on Plaintiff's Motion to Amend was reserved for future disposition. Of interest to the instant motions, Magistrate Judge Holmes also notified the parties that if they contested moving the matter to this district, then they “may file an appropriate objection.” (ECF 18 p. 5). Neither party filed an objection and the case was transferred to this district on April 8, 2019. (ECF 19).

         Legal Standards

         In deciding a motion to dismiss the court must determine whether the factual allegations made in the Complaint, if true, would entitle a plaintiff to a legal remedy. To state a viable claim “[t]he complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide ‘plausible grounds' that discovery will reveal evidence to support plaintiff's allegations.” Shero v. City of Grove, 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007). “Factual allegations [in a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). In other words, the complaint must provide “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id.“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         “A court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint presumes all of plaintiff's factual allegations are true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109, (10th Cir. 1991). A pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594 (1972). “[T]his rule means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. The court need only accept as true a plaintiff's well-pleaded factual contentions and not their conclusory allegations. See Dunn v. White, 88 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989). Finally, often a pro se litigant is given an opportunity to remedy the defects in their pleadings, see, e.g., Reynoldson v. Shillinger, 907 F.2d 124, 126 (10th Cir. 1990), but such an opportunity is unnecessary “when it is ‘patently obvious' that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged, and allowing . . . an opportunity to amend [the] complaint would be futile.” McKinney v. Oklahoma, 925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991).


         I. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss should be granted

         Based on either of Plaintiff's Complaints, [1] Plaintiff is seeking to inherit certain funds from his deceased father, who died intestate, after moving to Nicaragua. Before moving to Nicaragua, the decedent sold his home and placed the funds from the sale into a bank account at a Bank of America branch in Florida. See Complaint p. 5. The bank account “had a balance in excess of eighty thousand dollars ($80, 000.00) at the time of [the decendent's] death.” Id. (ECF 1), Amended Complaint p. 7 (ECF 14-1). Defendant Terri Simpkins Wright is listed as co-owner on the account. See Bank of America Statement, attached as exhibit A to Defendant's motion.[2]After decedent passed away, Ms. Wright withdrew the money from the bank account. See Decl. of Terri Wright p. 1 attached to Defendant's Op. to Pla.'s Mtn. to Transfer (ECF 37-1). Defendant intends to distribute the money to decedent's grandchildren. See Id. p. 2.

         Plaintiff argues Defendant has a “fiduciary duty to the rightful and legitimate heirs of [decedent] and has maliciously, recklessly and wantonly breached this fiduciary duty and engaging in tortious interference with expected inheritance.” Complaint p. 7. The violations of this duty has caused “catastrophic financial damages in terms of multifaceted lost opportunity cost” to Plaintiff. Id. at p. 8. In construing Plaintiff's Complaints broadly, it appears Plaintiff seeks to bring the following causes of action: tortious interference; a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, see Complaint p. 10; breach of a fiduciary duty; and negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, see Complaint p. 9 (alleging Defendant's actions “caused Plaintiff Richard J. Simpkins great aggravation and emotional distress by complicating his death related grief”). In response to ...

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