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Satterfield v. Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co.

September 17, 2007


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


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Jesse Lowell Satterfield ("plaintiff") filed this civil action on September 21, 2006, against defendant Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company, Bailey Mine, (Consol Energy, Inc.) ("defendant") alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA") . (Doc. No. 1). The court has jurisdiction in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) and 29 U.S.C. § 626(b)-(c).

Pending before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 2). Defendant seeks to dismiss plaintiff's complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because plaintiff has pled specific facts which show that he cannot state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court will grant defendant's motion to dismiss.

II. Facts Accepted as True for the Purpose of Deciding the Motion

Plaintiff is a resident of Morgantown, West Virginia. (Doc. No. 1 at 1, ¶ 1). Defendant is a private Delaware corporation registered to do business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Id. at 2, ¶ 3). Plaintiff is apparently employed by defendant. Plaintiff's immediate foreman is Bruce C. Armstrong ("Armstrong"), who is Bailey Mine's portal foreman for the shift immediately preceding the shift worked by portal foreman Arnold Wilson ("Wilson"). (Id. at 4, ¶ 15). Plaintiff has never worked for Wilson, and Wilson has never been plaintiff's immediate foreman. (Id.).

On November 29, 2005, Wilson "verbally abused and singled out" plaintiff. (Id. at 3, ¶ 9). Prior to beginning his shift, Wilson went underground and tried to provoke a physical confrontation with Armstrong. (Id. ¶ 10). He invited Armstrong into a fist fight. (Id.). Wilson then pointed to plaintiff and yelled, "What did you do all night?" (Id. at 4, ¶ 11). Wilson started to argue with Armstrong again. (Id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff asked Wilson why he had been singled out for chastisement. (Id. ¶ 13). Wilson responded by trying to provoke Armstrong and plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 14). During this altercation, Wilson told plaintiff that he was not "Smithy" (who had once been plaintiff's immediate foreman), and that he was not afraid of being sued by plaintiff. (Id.). In so stating, Wilson made reference to plaintiff's suit against defendant in Civil Action No. 03-1312, which is currently pending before the court. (Id.). Wilson exclaimed, "Go ahead and sue me. I will gladly go to court." (Id.). Thereafter, Wilson exited the work area "in a rage." (Id.).

After the conclusion of his work shift, plaintiff traveled to the Crabapple Portal of the Bailey Mine and told shift foremen John Figurski ("Figurski") and Bob Strait ("Strait") that he wanted to file a formal complaint against Wilson. (Id. ¶ 16). Figurski told plaintiff that he would get back to him after investigating the situation to determine what had happened. (Id. ¶ 17). Strait indicated that he would be speaking with Armstrong to find out more about the incident. (Id. ¶ 18). Nevertheless, neither Figurski nor Strait ever contacted plaintiff about the incident. (Id. at 5, ¶ 19). Moreover, plaintiff never heard from management regarding the procedure for filing an internal complaint against Wilson. (Id.). Although Wilson's conduct violated defendant's company policy, he was never punished for his conduct. (Id. at 7, ¶ 27).

After exhausting his administrative remedies in accordance with 29 U.S.C. § 626(d), plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on June 24, 2006. (Id. at 3, ¶¶ 6-7). Pursuant to that letter, plaintiff commenced this action against defendant.

III. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court is not opining on whether the plaintiff will be likely to prevail on the merits. Rather, when considering a motion to dismiss, the court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and views them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. U.S. Express Lines Ltd. v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002). "The pleader is required to 'set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist.'" Kost, 1 F.3d at 183 (quoting 5A CHARLES A. WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 1357 (2d ed. 1990)). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only if, accepting as true the facts alleged and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, there is no reasonable reading upon which the plaintiff may be entitled to relief. Vallies v. Sky Bank, 432 F.3d 493, 494 (3d Cir. 2006). Moreover, the court is under a duty to examine the complaint independently to determine if the factual allegations set forth could provide relief under any viable legal theory. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

While this court is mindful that pro se plaintiffs are not held to as high a standard as litigants that are represented by counsel, a pro se plaintiff must still plead the essential elements of his or her claim and is not excused from conforming to the standard rules of civil procedure. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) ("[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel . . . ."); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Thus, plaintiff, even though he is pro se, must set forth sufficient information that would allow the court to infer that, accepting plaintiff's allegations as true, defendant violated plaintiff's federal rights. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require the plaintiff to set out in his or her complaint the specific facts that entitle him or her to relief, but rather only a "short and plain statement of the claim." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). "Bald assertions" or "legal conclusions," however, are not required to be credited in making the determination as to whether or not there is a set of facts on which to determine that a claim has been stated. See Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)("[A] court need not credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss.").

Where the plaintiff's complaint pleads facts beyond the requirements of Rule 8, his claim may be subject to dismissal if the specific facts alleged fail to provide relief under any viable legal theory. Camero v. Kostos, 253 F.Supp. 331, 338 (D.N.J. 1966) (granting motion to dismiss where the plaintiff's complaint pled facts demonstrating the defendant was subject to immunity). In addition, if the plaintiff's complaint does plead specific facts, those facts, taken as true for purposes of deciding the motion to dismiss, may create a defense to his claim. Id.; see ALA, Inc. v. CCAir, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994); 5 CHARLES ALLEN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE ยง 1226 (3d ed. 2004). In fact, where the ...

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