United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 16, 2005.
JOHN J. COREIA, Plaintiff
SCHUYLKILL COUNTY AREA VOCATIONAL-TECHNICAL SCHOOL AUTHORITY, ET AL. Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN JONES, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:
Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Amended Complaint ("the Motion") (doc. 24) filed by Defendants
Schuylkill County Area Vocational-Technical School Authority,
James Monaghan, Gerald Achenbach, and James S. Fogarty
(collectively "Defendants") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) on June 30, 2005.
For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion will be granted
in part and denied in part.
The plaintiff, John J. Coreia ("Plaintiff" or "Coreia")
initiated this action by filing a complaint in the United States
District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on November 5, 2004 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
28 U.S.C. § 1342, 28 U.S.C. § 1343, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and invoking
the Court's supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). On January 24, 2005 Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's complaint, which was briefed by the parties. On March
24, 2005, we issued an Order directing Plaintiff to file an
amended complaint as Plaintiff attached factual allegations to
his submission that were not contained within the four corners of
his complaint. (See Rec. Doc. 19).
Defendants filed the instant Motion on June 30, 2005, which has
been briefed by the parties. The Motion is therefore ripe for
STANDARD OF REVIEW:
In considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept the
veracity of a plaintiff's allegations. See Scheuer v. Rhodes,
416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also White v. Napoleon,
897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65
(3d Cir. 1996), our Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit added
that in considering a motion to dismiss based on a failure to
state a claim argument, a court should "not inquire whether the
plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are
entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." Furthermore,
"a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim
unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no
set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also District Council 47 v. Bradley,
795 F.2d 310 (3d Cir. 1986).
Plaintiff alleges in his amended complaint that he was employed
by Defendant Schuylkill County Area Vocation-Technical School
Authority ("VOTEC") as a machine trades technology teacher and
was forced to resign effective August 21, 2003. (Am. Compl. ¶
11). His active contracted employment with Defendant VOTEC ended
on or about June 9, 2003. Id. On or about August 15, 2003
Plaintiff was approached by Defendant James Monaghan
("Monaghan"), Director of Education at Schuylkill County VOTEC
and Plaintiff's supervisor, who stated that he was going to send
in the application for Plaintiff to get his emergency teaching
certificate ("ETC"). Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff asserts that he then
gave Monaghan the signed application and money order, assuming
that Monaghan was going to mail the items. Id.
On or about August 18, 2003, Monaghan told Plaintiff that his
application had been denied and gave Plaintiff his application
and money back. Id. ¶ 13. "Monaghan never mentioned to
Plaintiff that he was going to lose his job and Plaintiff
continued to enter his classroom after this date." Id.
Plaintiff noticed that the date of the application and the date
on the denial letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Education were the same. Id.
Two days later, on August 20, 2003, at approximately 11:30
a.m., while Plaintiff was working in his classroom, Monaghan told
Plaintiff that he had to submit a letter of resignation or he was
going to be terminated. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff's decision had to
be made by 3:00 p.m. that day. Monaghan told Plaintiff that if he
was terminated, he would lose all the course credits he had
earned toward his teaching degree and never be able to teach in
Pennsylvania again. Id. Plaintiff asked Monaghan if he could
give his answer after he had an opportunity to speak with the
education department's attorney; however, Monaghan responded that
he could not and stated that Plaintiff had until 3:00 p.m. on
August 20, 2003 to either resign or to be terminated by Monaghan.
Id. ¶ 15.
Plaintiff alleges that he immediately contacted Edward E.
Demyanovich ("Demyanovich"), the president and union
representative of Plaintiff's union of the Pennsylvania State
Educational Association, the Schuylkill County Area Vocational
Technical School Educational Association ("Schuylkill County
AVTSEA") as of June 2002, to seek his union's representation in a
grievance process. Id. ¶ 24. Demyanovich was working in his
classroom in preparation for the new school year and attempted to
contact Martin Herring ("Herring"), the union's attorney in
Philadelphia. "Attorney Herring was not available until the next day, and therefore Demyanovich contacted his more senior
past union contacts and other representatives for advise [sic].
Based upon his contacts and/or lack of contacts, he stated to
Plaintiff that `Jim [Monaghan] being the director of education
must know what he is talking about . . . [that Plaintiff would
loose al [sic] his credits from Temple University and would never
be able to teach in Pennsylvania again] . . . and that we must
trust his judgment.'" Id. ¶ 25.
After speaking with Demyanovich, Plaintiff explained to
Monaghan that the union attorney would not be available under the
next day and asked that Monaghan wait until the next day. Id. ¶
26. The said request was denied and Plaintiff was again told that
if he did not resign before 3:00 p.m., that he would be
terminated that day. Id. ¶ 27. In addition, Plaintiff alleges
that requests to meet or discuss the termination with Dr. Gerald
Achenbach ("Achenbach"), Monaghan's immediate director, were
unsuccessful on August 20, 2003. Achenbach directed Monaghan to
terminate Plaintiff or to have him resign that date by 3:00 p.m.
Id. ¶ 28.
A letter of resignation written by Monaghan was given to
Plaintiff to sign. With no viable options, Plaintiff signed the
letter of resignation. Id. ¶ 16. The following day, Herring and
the Schuylkill County AVTSEA regional Unit-Serve Representative,
Janet Kuykendall ("Kuykendall") told Demyanovich that because
Plaintiff resigned, he was no longer a union member and no
grievance could be pursued on his behalf. Id. ¶ 29.
Plaintiff states that he never received a verbal or written
reminder from anyone regarding the amount of time he had to
receive his Vocational I Certificate. Id. ¶ 17. Moreover,
during his relevant time of employment, Plaintiff asserts that he
was working for Defendants pursuant to an "internship
certificate." On the back of this certificate, it states that it
is valid for a three year period from the date of issuance and
does not indicate a date of expiration. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff was
taking classes at Temple University toward his teaching
We initially note that Plaintiffs' claims are brought pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the basis of alleged constitutional
violations of the Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process and
substantive due process clauses. Section 1983 provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State
. . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any
citizen of the United States or other person within
the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
proper proceeding for redress . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order for a plaintiff to prevail under §
1983 he must establish two elements: (1) that the conduct
complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that the conduct
deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by
the Constitution or laws of the United States. Kost v.
Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176
, 184 (3d Cir. 1993) (citing Parratt v.
Taylor, 451 U.S. 527
, 534 (1981), overruled in part on other
grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327
In the Motion, Defendants initially argue that Plaintiff's
procedural due process claim must be dismissed as VOTEC and the
Schuylkill County AVTSEA, identified by Plaintiff as the contract
in effect between Defendants and himself, provides a grievance
procedure that ends in arbitration. Defendants cite to caselaw in
support of the assertion that access to a grievance procedure
defeats a procedural due process claim. Second, with respect to
Plaintiff's substantive due process claim, Defendants assert that
Plaintiff's tenured public employment does not qualify as a
fundamental property right entitling Plaintiff to substantive due
process protection. Third, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has
failed to state specific claims against the individual
Defendants, Achenbach and James S. Fogarty ("Fogarty") in each of
his § 1983 counts of his amended complaint. Fourth, Defendants
maintain that Plaintiff's claims against all individual
Defendants in their official capacities must be dismissed as
unnecessary because Plaintiff's constitutional claims are
essentially suits against the school district, which is already a named Defendant. Fifth, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages against the VOTEC must be
dismissed. Finally, Defendants assert that the Court should not
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law
We will discuss Defendants' arguments in turn.
A. Procedural Due Process Claims
As we previously explained, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's
access to a grievance procedure in the governing CBA defeats a
claim of procedural due process. Plaintiff, however, argues that
the administrative grievance process proved to be futile and
inadequate to him and that he did not skip the process that was
available to him. Moreover, Plaintiff contends that through their
actions and inaction, Defendants have failed to comply with their
duty of providing Plaintiff with due process of law regarding his
discharge as he was terminated from his employment position
without a hearing, warning, or notice, in violation of the Fifth
and Fourteenth Amendments.
Plaintiff accurately submits that the Third Circuit Court of
Appeals has instructed that although the policy of requiring
exhaustion of administrative remedies is a strong one, various
exceptions have been recognized. Komninos v. Upper Sadle River
Bd. of Educ., 13 F.3d 775 (3d Cir. 1994). Recognized exceptions include the following: (1) lack of notice of
administrative remedies; (2) futility of inadequacy of
administrative remedies; (3) the issue presented is purely a
legal question; (4) the administrative process cannot grant
effective relief; or (5) if requiring exhaustion would work
severe or irreparable harm upon a litigant. Id. at 778; see
also Lester H. v. Gilhool, 916 F.2d 865,869-70 (3d Cir.
1990); Frith v. Galeton Sch. Dist., 900 F. Supp. 706, 710-11
(M.D. Pa. 1995). We note that pursuant to the second exception,
futility or inadequacy of administrative remedies, there is no
requirement to exhaust the administrative process where resort to
this process would be futile or the available administrative
remedies would be inadequate. See Stauffer ex rel. DeMarco v.
William Penn Sch. Dist., 829 F. Supp. 742, 748-50 (E.D. Pa.
As Plaintiff aptly states in his submission and taking
Plaintiff's allegations as true as we must at this juncture, he
was only provided with a period of approximately three and
one-half hours (11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) to decide whether to
submit a letter of resignation or to be terminated and allegedly
lose all course credits that he had earned toward his teaching
degree and never be able to teach in Pennsylvania again. Within
that short period of time, as previously detailed, Plaintiff
immediately contacted Demyanovich, the president and union
representative of Plaintiff's union of the Pennsylvania State
Educational Association, the Schuylkill County AVTSEA as of June 2002, to
seek his union's representation in a grievance process. Id. ¶
24. Demyanovich was working in his classroom in preparation for
the new school year and attempted to contact Herring, the union's
attorney in Philadelphia. "Attorney Herring was not available
until the next day, and therefore Demyanovich contacted his more
senior past union contacts and other representatives for advise
[sic]. Based upon his contacts and/or lack of contacts, he stated
to Plaintiff that `Jim [Monaghan] being the director of education
must know what he is talking about . . . [that Plaintiff would
loose al [sic] his credits from Temple University and would never
be able to teach in Pennsylvania again] . . . and that we must
trust his judgment.'" Id. ¶ 25. After speaking with
Demyanovich, Plaintiff explained to Monaghan that the union
attorney would not be available under the next day and asked that
Monaghan wait until the next day. Id. ¶ 26. The said request
was denied and Plaintiff was again told that if he did not resign
before 3:00 p.m., that he would be terminated that day. Id. ¶
27. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that requests to meet or
discuss the termination with Achenbach, Monaghan's immediate
director, were unsuccessful on August 20, 2003. Achenbach
directed Monaghan to terminate Plaintiff or to have him resign
that date by 3:00 p.m. Id. ¶ 28. Finally, the following day,
Herring and the Schuylkill County AVTSEA regional Unit-Serve
Representative informed Demyanovich that because Plaintiff had resigned, he was
no longer a union member and no grievance could be pursued on his
behalf. Id. ¶ 29.
Following Defendants' argument, Plaintiff should have enlisted
the assistance of the union and properly filed a grievance within
a three hour period, which would not only have been absurd, but
quite likely impossible under the circumstances, and which would
elevate form over substance. The remedy itself, filing a
grievance with the union, was doomed to fail in any event as it
is clear that Plaintiff was going to be terminated within the
next three hours regardless of whether he filed a grievance.
Plaintiff was therefore faced with a Hobson's choice, which we
believe makes Defendants' failure to grieve argument meritless.
We find that although exhaustion of administrative remedies is
a strong policy, taking Plaintiff's allegations as true as we
must, Plaintiff has demonstrated that the administrative process
was futile or inadequate under the circumstances of this case.
See Lester H., 916 F.2d at 869-70; Frith,
900 F. Supp. at 710-11; Stauffer ex rel. DeMarco, 829 F. Supp. at 748-50. We
therefore do not find, contrary to Defendants' assertions, that
the mere fact that Plaintiff had access to a grievance procedure
under the CBA defeats his claim of a procedural due process
Accordingly, our procedural due process inquiry does not end.
We must determine whether Plaintiff has stated a procedural due process
claim upon which relief can be granted. The Third Circuit has
stated that when a plaintiff sues under § 1983 for a state
actor's failure to provide procedural due process, a court
employs a "two-stage analysis" inquiring (1) whether the asserted
individual interests are encompassed within the Fourteenth
Amendment's protections of life, liberty or property; and (2)
whether the procedures available provided the plaintiff with due
process of law. Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 116 (3d Cir.
First, Defendants do not contest, for purposes of the instant
Motion, that Plaintiff had a property right in his employment.
(Defs.' Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 5, n. 1). Therefore, the
pertinent inquiry is whether the procedures available provided
Plaintiff with due process of law. In that regard, Plaintiff
asserts that Defendants, through their actions and inactions,
have failed to comply with their duty of providing due process of
law to Plaintiff regarding his discharge as he was terminated
without notice, a hearing, an opportunity to be heard, and other
procedural guarantees. "The deprivation of Plaintiff's employment
without any opportunity to speak or respond in a meaningful
pre-termination hearing amounted to a deprivation of a
constitutionally protected property interest without due process
of law." (Am. Compl. ¶ 38).
In response, although Defendants argue that pursuant to Dykes
v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority,
68 F.3d 1564 (3d Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 517 U.S. 1142 (1996),
Plaintiff had the right to request the union take his grievance
to arbitration and if the union failed to do so, Plaintiff could
have sued the union for violation of his duty of fair
representation, we find that case to clearly be factually
distinguishable from the instant case, for the reasons that
In Dykes, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals analyzed whether
the plaintiff could bring a valid Fourteenth Amendment claim for
deprivation of a property interest in his job without due process
of law. Dykes, 68 F.3d at 1570-72; see also Harris v.
SEPTA, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16199 (E.D. Pa. 2005). The
plaintiff in Dykes "had available to him a three step grievance
process which could have been followed by arbitration. The
grievance process was exhausted and, when the union determined
not to carry the matter to arbitration, [plaintiff] did not
pursue a state court action alleging breach of the duty of fair
representation." Dykes, 68 F.3d at 1571. The Third Circuit
noted in Dykes that "where a due process claim is raised
against a public employer, and grievance and arbitration
procedures are in place . . . those procedures satisfy due
process requirements `even if the hearing conducted by the
Employer . . . [was] inherently biased.'" Id. (quoting
Jackson v. Temple Univ., 721 F.2d 931 (3d Cir. 1983)). In
addition, the Third Circuit explained that the plaintiff could have asked a court of common pleas to order
arbitration pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement,
thereby assuring him of the due process to which he was entitled
and concluded that because he chose to not do so, plaintiff is
unable to prove a violation of § 1983. Id. at 1572.
In the case sub judice, as Defendants submit and as in
Dykes, the CBA in effect during the relevant time period in
this action between the VOTEC and Schuylkill County AVTSEA has a
grievance procedure that ends in arbitration. In Dykes, the
grievance procedure was exhausted and the union determined not to
carry the matter to arbitration. Following Defendants' argument,
Plaintiff should have enlisted the assistance of the union and
properly filed a grievance within a three hour period, which as
noted is an absurdity. Within the extremely short period of time
within which Plaintiff was to decide whether to resign or to be
terminated by his employer, Plaintiff engaged in the series of
steps outlined above which commenced with immediately contacting
the president and union representative to seek his union's
representation in a grievance process and concluded with the
denial of union grievance sponsorship based upon Plaintiff's
resignation. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24-30). Moreover, we have
already determined that taking Plaintiff's allegations as true as
we must, Plaintiff has demonstrated that the administrative
process available to him was futile or inadequate, based on the circumstances of this case. As Plaintiff submits, in stark
contrast to the facts of this case, there was no issue in Dykes
concerning the adequacy or effectiveness of the union procedures
available. We therefore find the Dykes case to be factually
distinguishable from the above-captioned case.
Taking Plaintiff's allegations in the amended complaint as true
as we must at this juncture, we find that Plaintiff has stated a
procedural due process cause of action upon which relief can be
granted. Defendants' Motion is accordingly denied with respect to
Plaintiff's procedural due process claim.
B. Substantive Due Process Claim
In Count 3 of his amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts a
substantive due process claim. Defendants assert that Plaintiff's
tenured public employment was not a fundamental property right
and therefore he was not entitled to substantive due process
protection. (Defs.' Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 7). In response,
Plaintiff contends that in usurping the Department of Education's
power and terminating Plaintiff over a certification issue,
coupled with a complete denial of a due process hearing, reveal
that there was government action motivated by some improper
purpose, bad faith, or bias and that Plaintiff was deliberately
and capriciously deprived of a property right. (Pl.'s Br. Opp.
Mot. Dismiss at 9).
To prevail on a substantive due process claim based on a
non-legislative or executive decision, Plaintiff must show the deprivation of that
"certain quality" of property or liberty interest as is
recognized as worthy of substantive due process protection.
Nicholas v. Pennsylvania State Univ., 227 F.3d 133, 140 (3d
Cir. 2000). In addition, the action causing the alleged
deprivation must be so egregious that it "shocks the conscience."
County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846 (1998);
United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. v. Twp. of Warrington,
Pennsylvania, 316 F.3d 392, 399-401 (3d Cir. 2003). For
Plaintiff to prevail on his substantive due process claim with
regard to his employment position with Defendant VOTEC, he must
establish that he has a property interest protected by the
Fourteenth Amendment. The right to property is an interest
protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's substantive due process
clause; however, not all property rights fall within the rubric
of the substantive component of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Dennison v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 268 F.Supp.2d 387, 400 (M.D.
Pa. 2003) (citing Nicholas, 227 F.3d at 139-40). In determining
whether a certain property interest embodies this "particular
quality," the Third Circuit has carefully reviewed the applicable
case law. The Third Circuit concluded that it is not determined
by reference to state law, but depends on whether that interest
is "fundamental" under the Constitution. See Nicholas,
227 F.3d at 140. The substantive component of the Fourteenth
Amendment therefore only applies to fundamental property interests. Id. at 140-41.
The Third Circuit has limited review of property interests
under the substantive due process clause to claims involving real
property ownership, which has historically been protected by the
Constitution and is considered fundamental to American society.
See Dennison, 268 F.Supp.2d at 400 (citations omitted).
Plaintiff's claim is not one in real property, rather, it is a
claim stating a property interest in a job. It is not, therefore,
a fundamental property interest protected by the substantive
component of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. Additionally, as
Defendants submit and the great majority of courts of appeals,
including the Third Circuit have held, tenured public employment
is not a fundamental property right. See Nicholas,
227 F.3d at 142 (listing group of cases that support this proposition).
Moreover, Plaintiff's amended complaint reveals that during the
relevant time period of this action, Plaintiff was working for
Defendants pursuant to an "internship certificate" which included
a notation asserting its validity for a three year period. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 18).
Accordingly, after a careful review of the record, we hold that
Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that Defendants have
interfered with one of his constitutionally protected fundamental
property interests. Defendants' Motion is granted with respect to
Plaintiff's substantive due process claim. C. Section 1983 Claims Against Defendants Achenbach and
Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims against the individual
Defendants, Achenbach and Fogarty, in each of his amended
complaint § 1983 Counts must be dismissed as Plaintiff has failed
to allege specific conduct sufficient to meet the heightened
pleading standard articulated in Colburn v. Upper Darby
Township, 838 F.2d 663, 666 (3d Cir. 1988), cert. denied,
489 U.S. 1065 (1989), in cases brought against government
officials in their individual capacities.
It is important to first note that contrary to Defendants'
assertions regarding the fact that the federal courts abandon
notice pleading and apply a heightened pleading standard in cases
brought against government officials in their individual
capacities, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has in fact
abandoned a heightened pleading requirement for civil rights
actions. See Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir.
2004) ("Fundamentally, a heightened pleading requirement for
civil rights complaints no longer retains vitality under the
Federal Rules."). Although once enforced in several circuits,
including ours, a fact-pleading requirement for civil rights
complaints has been rejected by the Supreme Court in no uncertain
terms, as we will discuss below.
In Evancho v. Fisher, 2005 WL 2179883 (3d Cir. Sept. 12,
2005), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals provided a detailed
analysis concerning the heightened pleading standard, in which reference is made to Leatherman v.
Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit,
507 U.S. 163 (1993). In Leatherman, the Supreme Court addressed the
question of "whether a federal court may apply a `heightened
pleading standard' more stringent than the usual pleading
requirement of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure-in civil rights cases alleging municipal liability."
Id. at 164. The Supreme Court held that it may not and noted
that Rule 8(a)(2) requires "a complaint [to] include only a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." Evancho, 2005 WL 2179883, at *4 (quoting
Leatherman, 507 U.S. at 168). Since Leatherman, which was
decided in 1993, the Third Circuit has applied the more liberal
notice pleading standard set forth in Rule 8(a) in civil rights
cases. See, e.g., Abbott v. Latshaw, 164 F.3d 141 (3d Cir.
1998) (involving § 1983 complaint filed by a husband against his
ex-wife, a city constable, and three police officers); Weston v.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 251 F.3d 420 (3d Cir. 2001)
(involving a hostile work environment sexual harassment complaint
filed by an employee against his state employer and his
co-workers). Moreover, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the
application of the liberal notice pleading standard of Rule 8 in
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506 (2002), in the context of
an employment discrimination complaint filed by an employee
against a former employer. Based upon clear precedent as noted above, we find that
Plaintiff's § 1983 amended complaint is to be considered under
the more liberal standards of notice pleading, as opposed to
pursuant to a heightened pleading requirement. Although
Defendants contend that Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient
conduct in the amended complaint regarding Defendants Achenbach
and Fogarty, under the more liberal standards of notice pleading
and Federal Rule 8, it is premature to dismiss the aforementioned
Defendants from the case at this juncture. The Court reserves the
right to revisit this ruling if Defendants interpose similar
arguments in a properly filed motion for summary judgment, after
discovery has been conducted.
D. Claims Against all Defendants in their Official
In the Motion, Defendants argue that to the extent that
Plaintiff has sued each individual Defendant "individually" and
in his "official capacity," such a claim is redundant and should
be dismissed. In that vein, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's
constitutional claims against the Defendants in their official
capacities are "unnecessary because they are essentially suits
against the school district, which is already a named Defendant."
(Defs.' Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 9). In response, Plaintiff
states that the claims asserted against the three individual
Defendants in their individual and official capacities must
remain and cites to one case in support of the proposition that
where a suit is brought against a public officer in his official capacity, the suit is treated as if the
suit were brought against the governmental entity of which he is
an officer. (Pl.'s Br. Opp. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss at 11).
Defendants accurately assert that there is no longer a need to
bring official capacity actions against local government
officials because pursuant to Monell v. New York City Dept. of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), a local government can be
sued directly for damages and injunctive or declaratory
relief.*fn1 Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 14;
see also Satterfield v. Borough of Schuylkill Haven,
12 F.Supp.2d 423, 432 (E.D. Pa. 1998). In addition, in his official
capacity, a public official is "legally indistinct from the
municipality which he serves." Satterfield, 12 .Supp.2d at
431-32 (internal citations omitted). Therefore, the official
capacity suits against Defendants Monaghan, Achenbach, and
Fogarty are unnecessary because they are essentially suits
against the VOTEC, which is already a named Defendant. Id. at
432. As the United States District Court for the Eastern District
of Pennsylvania explained in Satterfield, although we recognize
that we are not required to do so, see Crighton v. Schuylkill
County, 882 F. Supp. 411 (E.D. Pa. 1995), we will exercise our discretion and grant
Defendants' Motion to dismiss the official capacity claims
against Defendants Monaghan, Achenbach, and Fogarty. In doing so,
we emphasize that the suit against the VOTEC is premised upon the
misconduct of its employees and that the VOTEC is liable for the
misconduct of each VOTEC employee acting in his or her official
capacity. Accordingly, granting Defendants' Motion in this
respect will not substantially affect Plaintiff's claims. See
Satterfield, 12 F.Supp.2d at 432.
E. Punitive Damages Against VOTEC
Next, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's claim for punitive
damages against the VOTEC must be dismissed as punitive damages
are not allowed against a municipality unless expressly
authorized by statute. In response, Plaintiff concedes that
punitive damages are not permitted against "the municipality
school," Defendant VOTEC, or the individual Defendants in their
official capacities. (Pl.'s Br. Opp. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss at 12).
Plaintiff, however, asserts that the individual Defendants may be
held liable in their individual capacities for compensatory and
punitive damages pursuant to § 1983 as their actions were
allegedly motivated by evil motive or intent, and involved
reckless or callous indifferent to Plaintiff's federally
protected rights. Id.
We are in agreement with the parties that punitive damages are
not available under the civil rights statutes against a municipality. Crawford
v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 2003 WL 22169372, at *11 (M.D.
Pa. Sept. 12, 2003); see also City of Newport v. Fact
Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247 (1981); Gentry v. Resolution Trust
Corp., 937 F.2d 899 (3d Cir. 1991). Both parties concede that
the Defendant VOTEC is a municipal school. Therefore, to the
extent that Count 5 of the amended complaint asserts a claim for
punitive damages against the Defendant VOTEC, punitive damages
are not permitted under § 1983.*fn2 Furthermore, as a
general rule, punitive damages are not available against a
municipality unless specifically authorized by statute, which
Plaintiff has not established, since such awards are against
"sound public policy" and burden taxpayers who are not
responsible for the wrongdoing. Crawford, 2003 WL 22169372, at
*11 (citing City of Newport, 453 U.S. at 261-63).
Although not directly addressed in Defendants' Motion, we do
note that punitive damages are available as against the
individual Defendants, as Plaintiff submits. See Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 13 (citing Smith v. Wade,
461 U.S. 30 (1983) ("Punitive damages are not available under § 1983
against a municipality . . . but are available in a suit against
an official personally[.]")). At this early stage of the case, the Court cannot assume that
Plaintiff will be unable to present evidence in support of a
claim for punitive damages. Defendants therefore reserve the
right to raise arguments regarding punitive damages as against
the individual Defendants when a more fulsome record is before
Defendants' Motion is granted to the extent that Plaintiff's
claim for punitive damages against Defendant VOTEC must be
F. Jurisdiction over Supplemental State Law Claims
The Supreme Court has instructed that although district courts
may not exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis, it is
well established, in certain classes of cases, that once a court
has original jurisdiction over some claims in the action it may
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over additional claims that
are part of the same case or controversy. Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Allapattah Servs., 2005 U.S. LEXIS 5051, at *13 (2005) (citing
Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715 (1966)). As we have
determined that Plaintiff's procedural due process claim states a
cause of action upon which relief can be granted, we have
discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
remaining state law claims. We will address those claims in turn.
i. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
In the Motion, Defendants argue that Count 6 of Plaintiff's
amended complaint which alleges a negligent infliction of emotion
distress ("NIED") claim is barred by the Political Subdivision
Tort Claims Act ("PSTCA"), 42 Pa.Cons.Stat. § 8541, et seq. In
response, Plaintiff argues that the PSTCA does not apply to acts
that intentional torts amount to actual malice or willful
misconduct and that Defendants' actions have resulted in serious
Section 8541 of the PSTCA provides, as follows:
Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, no
local agency shall be liable for any damages on
account of any injury to a person or property caused
by any act of the local agency or any employee
thereof or any other person.
42 Pa.Cons.Stat. § 8541. Defendants accurately submit that with
the exception of eight areas of activity, the PSCTA reinstates
the general grant of immunity to all local agencies for damages
caused by acts of an agency or its employees.*fn3
Pa.Cons.Stat. § 8542. Section 8542 provides that a "local agency
shall be liable for damages on account of an injury to a person
or property within the limits set forth in this subchapter if
both of the following conditions are satisfied and the injury
occurs as a result of one of the acts set forth in subsection
(b)." (emphasis added). Although Plaintiff's claim of NIED is a
permissible cause of action under 42 Pa.Cons.Stat. § 8542(a)(1) and assuming, arguendo that
Plaintiff's injury was caused by the negligence of Defendants or
an employee thereof acting within the scope of his office or
none of the eight enumerated exceptions to
governmental immunity set forth in 42 Pa.Cons.Stat. § 8542(b)
apply to Plaintiff's NIED claim against Defendants in this case.
Accordingly, Defendants' Motion is granted to the extent that
Defendants are immune from Plaintiff's NIED claim and Count 6 of
Plaintiff's amended complaint will be dismissed.
ii. Employment Contract
In the Motion, Defendants argue that Count 7 of Plaintiff's
amended complaint, breach of employment contract, should be
dismissed as Plaintiff has failed to specifically identify
Defendants' alleged breach of the employment contract. (Defs.'
Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 11).
To plead a claim for breach of contract, a plaintiff must
allege: (1) the existence of a valid and binding contract; (2)
the contract's essential terms; (3) that he complied with the
contract's terms; (4) that the defendant breached a duty imposed by the contract; and (5) damages resulting from the
breach. Gundlach v. Reinstein, 924 F.Supp. 684, 688 (E.D. Pa.
1996), aff'd, 114 F.3d 1172 (3d Cir. 1997).
In Count 7 of the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his
employment contract with Defendants, as well as the rules and
regulations used by Defendant VOTEC in its overseeing of
teachers, "indicates that all issues regarding certification fall
under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Department of Education,
not the Defendant school." (See Am. Compl. ¶ 54). Plaintiff
asserts that Defendants breached the contract and constructively
discharged him from employment by failing to honor the authority
and responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Education
("DOE") to withdraw his teaching certification, to decertify him
from teaching, or to fail to reissue his certification of
verification. Id. Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
VOTEC improperly and illegally usurped the Pennsylvania DOE's
authority by requiring Plaintiff to either resign or to be
terminated. Id. ¶ 55.
Taking all of Plaintiff's allegations in the amended complaint
as true as we must at this juncture, and at this early stage of
the litigation, we do not find that Plaintiff has failed to state
a cause of action for breach of contract. Accordingly,
Defendants' Motion is denied in that respect. iii. Statutory Violation Claim
Finally, in the Motion, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's
statutory due process rights were not violated for the same
reasons Defendants asserted that Count 2 of Plaintiff's amended
complaint, his procedural due process claim, should be dismissed.
(Defs.' Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 12).
As we have determined that Plaintiff has stated a cause of
action upon which relief can be granted with regard to his
procedural due process claim for the abovecited reasons, we
likewise hold that Plaintiff has stated a cause of action upon
which relief can be granted concerning the violation of his
statutory due process rights in the case sub judice.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint (doc. 24) is granted in part and denied in
part to the following extent:
a. Defendants' Motion is granted with respect to
Plaintiff's substantive due process claim (Count 3).
Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages against
Defendant VOTEC shall be dismissed. Plaintiff's
official capacity claims against Defendants Monaghan,
Achenbach, and Fogarty shall be dismissed. Also, Count 6 of Plaintiff's
amended complaint, addressing negligent infliction of
emotional distress, shall be dismissed based upon
b. Defendants' Motion is denied with respect to
Plaintiff's procedural due process claim (Count 2),
breach of contract claim (Count 7), and statutory due
process claim (Count 8).
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