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Wec Carolina Energy Solutions, LLC v. Willie "Mike" Miller

February 3, 2011

WEC CAROLINA ENERGY SOLUTIONS, LLC,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIE "MIKE" MILLER, EMILY KELLEY, AND ARC ENERGY SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cameron Mcgowan Currie United States District Judge Columbia, South Carolina

AMENDED OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Willie "Mike" Miller ("Miller"), Emily Kelley ("Kelley"), and Arc Energy Services, Inc. ("Arc Energy") (collectively "Defendants). Dkt. Nos. 19 & 20. Through their motions Defendants first seek dismissal of the claim for violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("the CFAA"), 18 U.S.C. § 1030 et seq., asserted by Plaintiff WEC Carolina Energy Solutions, LLC ("WEC"). See Dkt. No. 1 (complaint filed October 27, 2010). Assuming the CFAA claim is dismissed, Defendants seek dismissal of the remaining state-law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) because the CFAA claim provides the sole basis for the assertion of subject matter jurisdiction.

For the reasons set forth below, the court grants Defendants' motions to dismiss the CFAA claim and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims. The latter are, therefore, dismissed without prejudice.

STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) should be granted only if, after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of its claims that entitles it to relief. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). Although the court must take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it "need not accept the legal conclusions [the plaintiff would draw] from the facts." Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Eastern Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000)). The court may also disregard any "unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Id.

The Rule 12(b)(6) standard has often been expressed as precluding dismissal unless it is certain that the plaintiff is not entitled to relief under any legal theory that plausibly could be suggested by the facts alleged. See Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Markari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). Nonetheless, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) (quoted in Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 302); see also Wolman v. Tose, 467 F.2d 29, 33 n.5 (4th Cir. 1972) ("Under the liberal rules of federal pleading, a complaint should survive a motion to dismiss if it sets out facts sufficient for the court to infer that all the required elements of the cause of action are present.").

Thus, in applying Rule 12(b)(6), the court also applies the relevant pleading standard. Despite the liberal pleading standard of Rule 8, a plaintiff must include more than mere conclusory statements in support of its claims. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

Expounding on its decision in Twombly, the United States Supreme Court stated in Iqbal:

[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require "detailed factual allegations," but it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement."

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." 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, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 556, 557, 570) (citations omitted); see also Bass v. Dupont, 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (holding that "[w]hile a plaintiff is not charged with pleading facts sufficient to prove her case, as an evidentiary matter, in her complaint, a plaintiff is required to allege facts that support a claim for relief.").

BACKGROUND

The complaint alleges that Miller and his assistant Kelley, while employed by WEC, were in contact with Arc Energy, a competitor of WEC. Dkt. 1 at ¶ 11. At Arc Energy's direction, Miller and Kelley allegedly downloaded a substantial number of WEC's confidential documents and emailed the documents to Miller's personal email address. Id. at ¶¶ 12-14. After resigning from WEC, Miller used the confidential documents to benefit Arc Energy at the expense of WEC. Id. at ¶ 15.

Based on these allegations, the complaint asserts ten causes of action against Defendants including one based on federal law: a claim that Defendants violated the CFAA by obtaining confidential information from WEC without authorization or in excess of their authorization. Id. at ¶ 32. As to this claim, WEC alleges that although Miller and Kelley had permission to access the confidential documents (Id. at ¶ 8), WEC's policies prohibit (1) downloading confidential and proprietary information to a personal computer and (2) using any confidential information or trade secret unless authorized by WEC. Id. at ¶¶ 12 and 32. ...


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