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Barrett v. McDanel

August 28, 2007

VICKY A. BARRETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VESUVIUS MCDANEL, VESUVIUS, USA, MCDANEL ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

Defendant seeks the dismissal of a former employee's discrimination claims based upon the contention that the entry of summary judgment in its favor in a prior litigation operates as a res judicata bar to the claims in this proceeding and that the employee failed to timely file administrative action. The Motion to Dismiss is granted insofar as all race, gender and retaliation claims which were asserted, or could have been asserted, in the prior litigation are dismissed on the grounds of res judicata. The disability claim, which was not asserted in the prior litigation, however, is not dismissed as untimely asserted or barred under the doctrine of res judicata.

OPINION

Plaintiff Vicky A. Barrett ("Barrett") previously filed an action against her employers Defendants Vesuvius McDanel and Vesuvius, USA (collectively referred to as "Vesuvius") and McDanel Advanced Ceramics Technologies, LLC ("McDanel"), incorrectly identified in the caption as "McDanel Advanced Technologies, Inc." at Civil Action No. 06-994. ("the 2006 Action"). In that action, Barrett claimed that Vesuvius and McDanel had discriminated against her on the basis of her race and gender, had subjected her to a hostile work environment and had retaliated against her, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P. A. § 951 et seq. Following Barrett's repeated failures to prosecute her case and her concessions that she had no evidence with which to defeat the Defendants' summary judgment motions, I entered judgment in favor of Vesuvius and McDanel.

Prior to the resolution of that case, Barrett had initiated this case ("the 2007 Action"), also against Vesuvius and McDanel. In this action, Barrett again contends that she was harassed and discriminated against because of her race and gender, that she was subject to a hostile work environment and that she was retaliated against. She also contends, which she did not in the prior litigation, that she was discriminated against because of her age and disability - or perceived disability - and denied a reasonable accommodation.

McDanel has filed a Motion to Dismiss Or In The Alternative A Motion For Summary Judgment. See Docket No. [19].*fn1 McDanel contends that Barrett's Title VII, ADA and ADEA claims are barred because she failed to timely file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Similarly, McDanel contends that Barrett's PHRA claim is barred based upon the failure to file a timely charge with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"). Finally, McDanel insists that all of Barrett's claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

Barrett concedes that her failure to file a timely charge of age discrimination with the EEOC precludes her from pursuing a claim under the ADEA. See Docket No. [30], p. 3. However, Barrett opposes the Motion on all other grounds. After careful consideration, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.

Standard of Review*fn2

I may dismiss a complaint only if it appears that the plaintiff's claims are implausible. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-69 (2007). "[W]hen the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, "dismissal is proper." Id. at 1966. In other words, "a wholly conclusory statement of a claim will not survive a motion to dismiss." Id. at 1969. Rather, a plaintiff must set forth facts within the complaint that, if true, suggest plausible grounds for relief. Id. at 1965.

ANALYSIS

I. RES JUDICATA

McDanel contends that Barrett's claims are barred under the doctrine of res judicata based upon this Court's grant of summary judgment in its favor in the 2006 Action. Res judicata, or "[c]laim preclusion[,] gives dispositive effect to a prior judgment if 'a particular issue, although not litigated, could have been raised in the earlier proceeding.'" Churchill v. Star Enterprises, 183 F.3d 184, 194 (3d Cir. 1999), quoting, U.S. v. Athlone Indus. Inc., 746 F.2d 977, 984 (3d Cir. 1984). "The purpose of claim preclusion is to avoid piecemeal litigation of claims arising from the same events." Churchill, 183 F.3d at 194, citing, Board of Trustees of Trucking Employees of North Jersey Welfare Fund, Inc. v. Centra, 983 F.3d 495, 504 (3d Cir. 1992). The Third Circuit cautions, however, that "[c]courts should not apply this conceptual test mechanically, but should focus on the central purpose of the doctrine, to require a plaintiff to present all claims arising out of the same occurrence in a single suit." Id., at 194.

For claim preclusion to apply, McDanel must demonstrate that: (1) there has been a final judgment on the merits in a prior suit; (2) the prior suit involves the same parties or their privies; and (3) the subsequent suit is based upon the same cause(s) of action. Id. McDanel easily satisfies the first two requirements. There was a final judgment on the merits in the 2006 Action when summary judgment was entered in favor of all the Defendants and against Barrett. Additionally, the 2006 Action involved Barrett and McDanel, the same parties involved in the present ...


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