United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND
DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
STEPHAN M. VIDMAR United States Magistrate Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss [Doc. 5], filed October 11, 2016. Plaintiff responded
on October 25, 2016. [Doc. 10]. Defendant did not reply, and
the time for doing so has elapsed. The Court heard oral
argument on the motion on January 12, 2017. [Doc. 15]. Having
considered the record, briefing, oral argument, and relevant
law, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises,
Defendant's motion will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
PART. The motion will be GRANTED as to Plaintiff's claims
based on quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, and violation of
the New Mexico Unfair Trade Practices Act. The motion will be
DENIED as to Plaintiff's claim for breach of contract.
is a physician. [Doc. 1-1] at 1. Defendant provides medical
staffing to hospitals. Id. at 2. In July 2014, the
parties entered into a contract under which Plaintiff agreed
to provide his services as a physician to Defendant's
clients. Id. The claims in this case stem from
Plaintiff's provision of services at Sierra Vista
Hospital in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in December
2015 and January 2016. Id. Plaintiff resides in
Delaware. Id. at 1.
first alleges that Defendant failed to secure his flight
reservations, thereby causing him to miss scheduled shifts at
the hospital on December 24 and 25, 2015. Id. at
2-3. He states that Defendant customarily made his travel
arrangements in advance of his scheduled shifts. Id.
at 2. He alleges that, in this instance, Defendant failed to
book his flight reservation until the day he was scheduled to
leave; consequently, he was bumped from his flight.
Id. at 3. He further claims that Defendant told him
it would rebook his flight, but when he arrived at the
airport his ticket had not been paid for and he was unable to
secure a flight. Id.
next alleges that in January 2016, Defendant terminated his
contract wrongfully and without the required notice.
Id. at 3-4. He claims that Defendant asked him to
perform an additional shift on January 21, 2016, although he
had worked 60 of the previous 72 hours. Id. at 4.
Plaintiff states he was unable to work the shift because he
was physically impaired from lack of sleep. Id. He
alleges that he was scheduled to work subsequent shifts in
January 2016. Id. However, Defendant abruptly
terminated his contract. Id. He alleges that
Defendant failed to provide the 90-day notice required by the
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has failed to pay him for
work he performed in December 2015 and January 2016.
Id. at 4-5. He states that Defendant stopped payment
on two checks he received for work he completed in December
2015 and refused to pay him for work he completed in January
2016. Id. at 4, 14-15. He alleges that Defendant
told him it would withhold all pay until he finished his
paperwork. Id. at 4. He states that Defendant sent
him paperwork in February 2016, which he completed and
returned, but Defendant still refused to pay him.
Id. at 4-5. He alleges that Defendant sent him
additional paperwork later that month. Id. at 5.
Plaintiff initially refused to complete the paperwork until
Defendant assured him it would pay him for his services, but
Defendant declined to make any such assurance. Id.
Subsequently, Plaintiff alleges, he completed all the
additional paperwork and returned it to Defendant on or
around February 21, 2016. Id. He alleges that
Defendant continues to withhold payment and falsely claims
that Plaintiff has outstanding paperwork to complete.
filed this action in state court on September 2, 2016,
alleging breach of contract, quantum meruit, unjust
enrichment, and violation of the New Mexico Unfair Trade
Practices Act (“UPA”). Id. at 5-7.
Defendant removed the action to this Court on October 5,
2016. [Doc. 1]. Plaintiff seeks $155, 400 in compensatory
damages, plus punitive damages, attorney's fees, costs,
and interest. [Doc. 1-1] at 7.
has filed a motion to dismiss. [Doc. 5]. Defendant asserts
that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy the heightened pleading
standard required for special damages, and it requests that
the Court dismiss Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages
or, in the alternative, order Plaintiff to amend his
Complaint. Id. at 3-4. Defendant next asserts that
Plaintiff has failed to satisfy the heightened pleading
standard required for allegations of fraud, and it requests
that the Court dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims premised
on allegations of fraud or, in the alternative, order
Plaintiff to amend his Complaint. Id. at 4-5.
Finally, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff has failed to state
factual allegations sufficient to support his claim under the
UPA, and it asks the Court to dismiss this claim.
Id. at 5-6 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Defendant contends
that the UPA applies only to parties that have engaged in the
sale or lease of “goods or services.”
Id. at 5. The contract in question, Defendant
argues, does not satisfy this requirement, and Plaintiff
therefore has not and cannot allege facts sufficient to state
a claim under the UPA. Id. at 6.
response, Plaintiff argues that he has met the heightened
pleading standard required for special damages. [Doc. 10] at
2-4. Plaintiff further contends that he has made no specific
claim based on fraud, and therefore, Defendant's argument
with respect to the heightened pleading requirement for
allegations of fraud is inapposite. Id. at 4.
Finally, Plaintiff challenges Defendant's narrow reading
of the UPA. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff argues that a
party may bring a claim under the UPA as long as the
defendant makes a misrepresentation in connection with the
sale of goods or services generally, not only when
there has been a transaction between the plaintiff and the
defendant. Id. at 6. Plaintiff contends that
Defendant's provision of services to the hospitals with
which it contracts to provide medical staffing suffices to
bring Plaintiff's claims under the umbrella of the UPA.
See Id. In the alternative, if the Court finds the
Complaint to be deficient, Plaintiff requests that the Court
grant him leave to amend it. Id. at 6-7.
may dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6),
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. at 570). The factual allegations
in the complaint “‘must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.'”
Christy Sports, L.L.C. v. Deer Valley Resort Co.,
555 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Although a court must accept
as true all of the allegations in a complaint, deference is
“inapplicable to legal conclusions, ” and
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
Court will address the arguments raised in the motion in
order of analytical convenience. First, Defendant's
motion will be denied with respect to the breach-of-contract
claim. Plaintiff has stated a claim for punitive damages for
breach of contract with sufficient specificity, and his
breach-of-contract claim does not require Plaintiff to allege
fraudulent conduct. Next, Defendant's motion will be
granted with respect to the claims based on quantum meruit
and unjust enrichment. Plaintiff cannot state a claim for
quantum meruit and unjust enrichment where the dispute is
governed by a contract. Finally, Defendant's motion will
be granted as to the UPA claim. Plaintiff does not have
standing to sue under the UPA because Plaintiff is neither a
consumer of Defendant's goods or services nor a
competitor of Defendant suing to protect its consumers. Nor
has Plaintiff asserted that Defendant made a knowing
misrepresentation beyond the mere failure to fulfill its
has stated a claim for punitive damages with ...