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Lee v. Northwestern Human Services

June 28, 2006

CATHERINE V. LEE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTHWESTERN HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the entirety of Plaintiff's Complaint. (Docket No. 4). Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Opposition. (Docket No. 7). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, said Motion (Docket No. 4) is granted in part and denied in part as more fully set forth below.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Catherine V. Lee, filed a four count Complaint against her employer, Northwestern Human Services, Defendant. (Docket No. 1). Count I is a claim of race discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Count II is a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Count III is a claim for age discrimination pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §621, et seq. Count IV is a claim that Plaintiff was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment presumably pursuant to Title VII. Defendant asserts that Counts I and III should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege that Defendant engaged in state action and because Plaintiff has failed to show that she possesses an enforceable private right under 42 U.S.C. §1983. (Docket No. 5, pp. 13-20). Defendant further asserts that Count II should be dismissed for failure to allege a physical injury and because the Workers' Compensation Act, 77 Pa.C.S.A. §481, bars a claim by an employee against an employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Finally, Defendant asserts that Count IV should be dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff, through her counsel, responded by filing, in essence, a five (5) page brief in opposition. (Docket No. 7). The issues are now ripe for review.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all the factual allegations as true, and must view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 664-65 (3d Cir.1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1065 (1989). I may dismiss a complaint only if it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff fails to offer any factual basis to support its allegations. Craftsmen Local 6 of N.J. Welfare Fund v. Wettlin Assoc., Inc., 237 F.3d 270, 272 (3d Cir. 2001). In ruling on a motion for failure to state a claim, I must look to whether the pleaded facts are sufficient to determine that the complaint is not frivolous and provides defendants with adequate notice to frame an answer. Colburn, 838 F.2d at 666.

While the Court will accept well-pleaded allegations as true for the purposes of the motion, it will not accept unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. See Miree v. Dekalb County, Ga., 433 U.S. 25, 27 n.2 (1997). In addition, the information plaintiff supplies must be sufficient to outline the elements of the claim, or to permit the inference that these elements exist. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45 (1957). With this standard in mind, I now turn to the issues in this case.

B. Count I - Race Discrimination and Count III - Age Discrimination

Defendant asserts that Counts I and III should be dismissed for failure to state a valid §1983 claim. (Docket No. 5, pp. 13-20). Specifically, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's Complaint might be attempting to assert causes of action under §1983. In response to the Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff does not address the §1983 issue or attempt in any way to cure the obviously insufficient pleading to allege that Defendant is a state actor. To the contrary, in response, Plaintiff sets forth the elements for a prima facie case of a Title VII violation and an ADEA violation. After a review of the Complaint and Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition, I find that Plaintiff's Complaint, as it now stands, is not asserting any cause of action under §1983. Consequently, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied as moot.

Defendant has not, and I will not sua sponte, address the viability of Plaintiff's Title VII and ADEA claims. As a result, these claims survive.

C. Count II - Intentional Infliction of Emotion Distress ("IIED")

Defendant asserts that Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed for two reasons: 1) Plaintiff has failed to allege a physical injury; and 2) the claim is barred by Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Act "WCA." (Docket No. 5, pp. 10-13). Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition fails to address these arguments. See, Docket No. 7. Defendant is correct that a claim for IIED must allege a physical injury. Rolla v. Westmoreland Health Sys., 651 A.2d 160, 163 (Pa. Super. 1994), quoting, " Hart v. O'Malley, 647 A.2d 542, 554 (Pa. Super. 1994)("[I]t is clear that AAA in order to state a claim under which relief can be granted for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiffs must allege physical injury."); Atkinson v. City of Phil., Civ. A. No. 99-1541, 2000 WL 793193, *6 (E.D. Pa. June 20, 2000), quoting Corbett v. Morgenstern, 934 F.Supp. 680, 684 (E.D.Pa.1996) ("A plaintiff must allege a 'physical injury, ...


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