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HALSTEAD v. MOTORCYCLE SAFETY FOUNDATION INC.

October 29, 1999

JOSEPH HALSTEAD
v.
MOTORCYCLE SAFETY FOUNDATION INC., ET. AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, J.

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This civil action has been brought before the Court again by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation ("PennDot") and its three employees, Stephen Madrak, Michael Kistler and Rebecca Bickley, all of whom Plaintiff sued in their individual and official capacities. Specifically, PennDot, Madrak, Kistler and Bickley seek to dismiss the Amended Complaint against them with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and for want of sufficient subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons set forth below, PennDot's motion shall be granted in its entirety and the motion of the individual defendants granted in part.

History of the Case

According to the Amended Complaint, despite these representations, MSF did not offer Plaintiff the position of State Coordinator for the Motorcycle Safety Program ostensibly because of an interview which he gave to a publication known as the Citizen's Voice on August 13, 1998 and because he informed Defendants that MSF's Proposal Project Director, Roberta Carlson, the former State Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program when it was being overseen by Millersville University, was inappropriately using insider information gathered while she was a Millersville employee for the benefit of MSF.

Plaintiff thereafter instituted this suit seeking damages for breach of contract, invasion of privacy, defamation, tortious interference with third party and prospective contractual relations, punitive damages and for violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, 43 P. S. § 1421, et. seq. Through these motions, PennDot, Madrak, Kistler and Bickley seek to dismiss the Amended Complaint against them in its entirety, with prejudice.

Standards Governing Motions to Dismiss

The rules governing the pleading of cases in the district courts are clear. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a),

  "A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief, whether an
  original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party
  claim, shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the
  grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends, unless
  the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new
  grounds of jurisdiction to support it, (2) a short and plain
  statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
  to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the
  pleader seeks. Relief in the alternative or of several
  different types may be demanded.

It is equally clear that the issue of the sufficiency of a pleading may be raised by the filing of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or through a motion for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e). In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court primarily considers the allegations in the complaint, although matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to the complaint may also be taken into account. Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pennsylvania Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3rd Cir. 1990). In so doing, the court must accept as true the facts alleged in the complaint, together with all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3rd Cir. 1990); Hough/Lowe Associates, Inc. v. CLX Realty Co., 760 F. Supp. 1141 (E.D.Pa. 1991). The court's inquiry is directed to whether the allegations constitute a statement of a claim under Rule 8(a) and whether the plaintiff has a right to any relief based upon the facts pled. Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim is therefore limited to those instances where it is certain that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved. Ransom v. Marazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3rd Cir. 1988); Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities,Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3rd Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 935, 106 S.Ct. 267, 88 L.Ed.2d 274 (1985).

Subject matter jurisdiction, on the other hand, may be challenged by filing a motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A district court can grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion based on the legal insufficiency of the claim but dismissal is proper only when the claim appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or is wholly insubstantial or frivolous. Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1408-09 (3rd Cir. 1991). See Also: Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, 414 U.S. 661, 666, 94 S.Ct. 772, 776, 39 L.Ed.2d 73 (1974). Unlike a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where the plaintiff is entitled to have all reasonable inferences drawn in his favor, when jurisdiction is challenged under Rule 12(b)(1), the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that jurisdiction exists and the courts are not limited in their review to the allegations of the complaint. Doe v. William Shapiro, Esquire, P.C., 852 F. Supp. 1246, 1249 (E.D.Pa. 1994).

Similarly, any evidence may be reviewed and any factual disputes resolved regarding the allegations giving rise to jurisdiction, since it is for the Court to resolve all factual disputes involving the existence of jurisdiction. Sitkoff v. BMW of North America, Inc., 846 F. Supp. 380, 383 (E.D.Pa. 1994). In contrast, if the attack to jurisdiction is facial, that is, to the allegations of jurisdiction stated in the complaint, the factual allegations of the complaint are presumed to be true and the complaint is reviewed to ensure that each element necessary for jurisdiction is present. Id. If jurisdiction is based on a federal question, the pleader claiming federal jurisdiction must show that the federal claim is not frivolous. Radeschi v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 846 F. Supp. 416, 419 (W.D.Pa. 1993), citing Bartholomew v. Librandi, 737 F. Supp. 22 (E.D.Pa.), aff'd, 919 F.2d 133 (3rd Cir. 1990). Only if it appears to a certainty that the pleader will not be able to assert a colorable claim of subject matter jurisdiction may the complaint be dismissed. Kronmuller v. West End Fire Co. No. 3, 123 F.R.D. 170, 172 (E.D.Pa. 1988). See Also: Mortensen v. First Federal Savings and Loan Ass'n., 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3rd Cir. 1977).

Discussion

A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity.

Defendants first argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against them by virtue of the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.*fn1 That Amendment states that:

  The Judicial power of the United States shall not be
  construed to extend to any suit in law or equity commenced or
  prosecuted against any one of the United States by Citizens
  of another State, ...

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