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B. Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted

As discussed infra, Part IV, A.1., one of the fundamental defects of Plaintiffs' Complaint is lack of standing, as the Complaint fails to allege any constitutionally cognizable injury that is fairly traceable to Defendants. As an additional argument in support of dismissal, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Although the court has dispositively determined that Plaintiffs lack standing to bring the claims raised in their Complaint, and that these claims present a non-justiciable political question, with an abundance of caution, the court will next determine whether the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as an independent basis for dismissal.

*767 The sufficiency of a complaint may be tested in a number of ways pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12: a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6); a motion for a more definite statement of a vague or ambiguous complaint pursuant to Rule 12(e); or a motion to strike redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter in a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(f). In this matter, Defendants have elected to proceed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), challenging whether Plaintiffs' Complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); see also Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517(1993) (discussing “notice pleading” standards under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure). Under this liberal notice pleading standard, “ ‘[a] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.’ ” Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984)).

The main function to be performed by the complaint is to “give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). “While federal notice-pleading allows for a generous reading of a complaint, in order to resist a motion to dismiss, the complaint must at least set out facts sufficient to ‘outline or adumbrate’ the basis of the claim.” Panaras v. Liquid Carbonic Industries Corp., 74 F.3d 786, 792 (7th Cir.1996). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the plaintiff to disclose adequate information regarding the basis of the claim for relief as distinguished from a bare averment that the plaintiff wants relief and is simply entitled to it. See 5 Charles Allen Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 1202 (2d ed.1990). A complaint contains adequate information regarding the basis of the claim for relief if it contains even “the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer.” Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir.2002). To provide a defendant with fair notice, “a complaint must allege facts bearing on all material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Looper Maintenance Service, Inc. v. City of Indianapolis, 197 F.3d 908, 911 (7th Cir.1999) (citation omitted).

[16] Plaintiffs claim that Defendants illegally profited from slavery without identifying the act or acts claimed to support this broad charge. This is insufficient to state a claim even under liberal notice-pleading standards. See Higgs, 286 F.3d at 439. As already indicated, Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to connect any alleged injury of any one of the Plaintiffs or their ancestors to alleged conduct by any one of the Defendants or their predecessors. Rather, Plaintiffs seek to hold Defendants liable for an entire era of history simply because their alleged predecessors were purportedly doing business in nineteenth century America. Plaintiffs' Complaint can be reduced to the following syllogism: Defendants or their predecessors allegedly profited from the unpaid labor of former slaves, and Plaintiffs are descendants of former slaves, therefore, Plaintiffs are entitled to some of Defendants' profits. However, the allegations in a complaint must be those relating to the plaintiff, not *768 those of someone else. See Kyle v. Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448, 455 (7th Cir.1998). The broad allegations of Plaintiffs' Complaint fail to give Defendants fair notice of what conduct is alleged to have injured which persons, in what manner, and when over the past four centuries covered in the Complaint.

In light of this omission failing to link any alleged conduct of Defendants or their alleged predecessors to Plaintiffs or their ancestors, Plaintiffs' Complaint relies in part on a conspiracy theory. Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that Defendants or their alleged predecessors conspired with certain unnamed malefactors to violate the legal rights of certain unnamed victims—presumably all persons held in slavery—and thus are somehow liable based on a theory of third-party liability. However, Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to allege even the faintest outline of this conspiracy, let alone its members and Defendants', or their predecessors', alleged roles in that conspiracy. Even under liberal notice pleading standards, the pleading of a conspiracy requires a plaintiff to “indicate the parties, general purposes, and approximate date, so that the defendant has notice of what he is charged with.” Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005, 1007 (7th Cir.2002). Plaintiffs' conspiracy theory is similar to that in Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 122 F.3d 417, 420–21 (7th Cir.1997), where the plaintiffs alleged a conspiracy, but did not elaborate or provide any other allegations to support the conspiracy.

[17] Plaintiffs' SCAC also brings two new common law claims—replevin and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Replevin is a cause of action “which lies to gain possession of personal chattels which have been taken from the plaintiff unlawfully.” In re Braun, 3 F.2d 247, 249 (7th Cir.1924) (emphasis added). In other words, replevin actions seek the return of tangible items to their rightful owner. See 66 Am.Jur. 2d Replevin § 1 (2004) (“Replevin is a remedy stemming from the common law and it is a proceeding by which the owner or one who has an interest in a chattel taken or detained seeks to recover possession of the chattel”); see also Smith v. United States, 293 F.3d 984, 987 (7th Cir.2002); Ruslan Shipping Corp. v. Coscol Petroleum Corp., 635 F.2d 648, 650 n. 5 (7th Cir.1980); Phillips v. Money, 503 F.2d 990, 993 (7th Cir.1974). In this case, Plaintiffs identify no specific, tangible items that have been taken or detained by Defendants. See SCAC, ¶ 290. To the extent that Plaintiffs seek the return of money from Defendants, such recovery is generally not allowed under replevin.See 66 Am.Jur. 2d Replevin § 9 (2004) (“Money is not subject to replevin unless it is marked or designated in some manner so as to become specific, as it regards the power of identification, such as being in a bag or package”); see also Daenzer v. Wayland Ford, Inc., 193 F.Supp.2d 1030, 1041 (W.D.Mich.2002) ( “replevin is an action used to effect the return of the subject property taken, not for the return of money”). Plaintiffs' new count of Replevin therefore fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See Looper, 197 F.3d at 911.

[18] [19] Claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress can only succeed if the plaintiff can establish that the defendant owed plaintiff a particular, identifiable, duty of care. See Schrott v. Bristol–Myers Squibb Co., 403 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir.2005); Corgan v. Muehling, 143 Ill.2d 296, 158 Ill.Dec. 489, 574 N.E.2d 602, 606 (1991) (finding that a psychologist owed his client such a duty of care). In this case, Plaintiffs fail to allege any facts from which the court could find that Defendants' pre-civil war actions breached any duty of care to the present day Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' new count of negligent infliction of emotional *769 distress therefore fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See Looper, 197 F.3d at 911.

[20] Plaintiffs also, in their SCAC, include new allegations that certain Defendants made “intentional misrepresentations” in connection with alleged violations of various state consumer protection laws. SCAC, ¶¶ 227–256. Plaintiffs, however, still fail to allege a specific, concrete harm or an ascertainable loss as a result of Defendants' alleged violations of these statutes. See SCAC, ¶ 104 (“Some or all of the Plaintiffs are presently consumers of defendants. Due to the unconscionable, fraudulent and deceptive public communications made by defendants, plaintiffs suffered the harm of being misled, confused, and deceived about the roles the defendants played in the enslavement of African people”); SCAC, ¶ 106 (“Some or all of the Plaintiffs have suffered the harm of being unconscionably denied the benefits of a competitive market for the goods and services they purchase from defendants”); SCAC, ¶¶ 321, 331, 339, 348, 357, 365 (alleging that these misrepresentations caused “monetary and other economic damages to Plaintiffs”). Plaintiffs thus fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under the state consumer protection statutes of New York, Texas, Illinois, and Louisiana. See, e.g., Stutman v. Chemical Bank, 95 N.Y.2d 24, 29, 709 N.Y.S.2d 892, 731 N.E.2d 608 (N.Y.2000); Chandler v. Gene Messer Ford, Inc., 81 S.W.3d 493, 501 (Tx.App.2002); Jenkins v. Mercantile Mortg. Co., 231 F.Supp.2d 737, 747 (N.D.Ill.2002); Inka's S'Coolwear, Inc. v. School Time, L.L.C. 725 So.2d 496, 501 (La.Ct.App.1998) (all indicating that plaintiffs must have suffered actual, ascertainable damages in order to sue under state consumer protection statutes).

In addition, Plaintiffs fail to allege that any Defendant made any allegedly false representation to a Plaintiff regarding a specific product or service; Plaintiffs thus fail to state a claim under Illinois' deceptive advertising and misleading trade identification statute. See Lynch Ford, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 957 F.Supp. 142, 147 (N.D.Ill.1997). Plaintiffs also fail to allege any commercial practice with the capacity to mislead any Plaintiff regarding identifiable products or services; Plaintiffs thus fail to state a claim under New Jersey's state consumer protection statutes.See Island Mortgs. v. 3M, 373 N.J.Super. 172, 177, 860 A.2d 1013 (N.J.Super. Ct. Law Div.2004). Finally, Plaintiffs' allegations as outlined in paragraphs 227–256 of the SCAC indicate only that Defendants have responded publicly to Plaintiffs' claims. The making of these public statements in response to a lawsuit is simply not “immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers;” Plaintiffs thus fail to state a claim under California's consumer protection statutes. See Wolfe v. State Farm, 46 Cal.App.4th 554, 561, 53 Cal.Rptr.2d 878 (Cal.Ct.App.1996). The court therefore dismisses all of these state law claims. See Goetzke v. Ferro Corp., 280 F.3d 766, 779 (7th Cir.2002) (“If a state substantive law has denied a plaintiff a remedy for his cause of action, the district court must dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted”).

Plaintiffs' Complaint in its entirety thus fails to meet the notice pleading requirements set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. “This is not a case where the plaintiff has been tripped up by ‘mere technicalities,’ but rather, the plaintiff has omitted the gravamen of his complaint.” Kyle, 144 F.3d at 457. Plaintiffs' Complaint is a pastiche of the generally acknowledged horrors of slavery, totally devoid of allegations of concrete, specific, ascertainable injury to the Plaintiffs or corresponding conduct committed by Defendants. “This glaring gap in the complaint *770 leaves total speculation as the only alternative for the court to come up with any set of facts justifying relief.” Id. at 454. Defendants cannot be deemed to have fair notice of Plaintiffs' claims when they are based solely on speculation. Further, the court cannot indulge this speculation and attempt to determine whether Plaintiffs' Complaint could set forth any set of facts justifying relief, as “[t]hat is not the court's job.” Id. In short, Plaintiffs fail to present a well-pleaded complaint that can withstand scrutiny under Rule 12(b)(6), even under liberal notice pleading standards.

 

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