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Rickard v. Lion Brewery

November 13, 2007

JACQUELINE D. RICKARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE LION BREWERY, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), or in the alternative to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative to quash for insufficiency of service of process. (Doc. 8.) The Court will deny the Defendant's motion because the argument regarding the improper service of the original summons is moot; the Plaintiff properly exhausted her Title VII and state law gender discrimination claims; and the Plaintiff properly plead a claim for disability discrimination pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act and state law.

The case is brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Subject matter jurisdiction exists under sections 1331 and 1343(a)(4)of Title 28 of the United States Code ("federal question"). The Court also exercises supplemental jurisdiction over the Plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

BACKGROUND

The facts as alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint are as follows.

Plaintiff Jacqueline D. Rickard was hired by the Defendant The Lion Brewery, Inc. ("Lion Brewery") as a Summer helper on March 31, 2001, and became a permanent employee on September 11, 2001. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15, Doc. 6.) On August 24, 2004, the Plaintiff was involved in a car accident, which resulted in neck and back injuries. (Id. ¶ 16.) The Plaintiff was unable to work from August 24, 2004 until July 27, 2005 due to these injuries. (Id. ¶ 17.) On July 27, 2005, the Plaintiff was released to work in a light duty position by her physician. (Id. ¶ 18.) The Plaintiff provided the Defendant with documentation of her medical release. (Id.) On August 17, 2005, the Plaintiff provided the Defendant with additional written documentation regarding her ability to work in a light duty position. (Id. ¶ 19.) As of July 27, 2005, the Defendant had a light duty position available for a New Glass Pasteurizer. (Id. ¶ 20.) Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with a light duty position. (Id. ¶ 21.) In August 2005, the Defendant gave Charles Jones, a male employee, a light duty position after suffering an injury. (Id. ¶22.) The Defendant did not permit the Plaintiff to return to work until June 17, 2006. (Id. ¶ 23.) The Plaintiff alleges counts of gender discrimination pursuant to Title VII, unlawful discrimination pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and unlawful gender and disability discrimination pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act. (Id. ¶¶ 24-34.)

Plaintiff Rickard filed her Complaint against Defendant Lion Brewery on April 25, 2007 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1-1.) The Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the Plaintiff's uncontested motion to transfer the matter to the Middle District of Pennsylvania on May 22, 2007. (Doc. 1-2.) On June 22, 2007, the Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 6.) The Defendant filed the present motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint on July 2, 2007. (Doc. 8.)

This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

I. Rule 12(b)(2) - Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a motion to dismiss for "lack of jurisdiction over the person." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(2). When a party receives a summons which is not signed and sealed by the Clerk of the Court, such a suit is properly dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2). Ayres v. Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A., 99 F.3d 565, 569 (3d Cir. 1996).

II. Rule 12(b)(6) - Failure to State a Claim

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all of the facts alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff has not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1960, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). As a result of the Twombly holding, Plaintiff must now nudge its claims "across the line from conceivable to plausible" to avoid dismissal thereof. Id. The Supreme Court noted just two weeks later in Erickson v. Pardus, --- U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam), that Twombly is not inconsistent with the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only " 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' " Id. (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1959 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47)).

There has been some recent guidance from the Courts of Appeals about the apparently conflicting signals of Twombly and Erickson. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reasoned that "the [Supreme] Court is not requiring [in Twombly] a universal standard of heightened fact pleading, but is instead requiring a flexible 'plausibility standard,' which obliges a pleader to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible." Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157-58 (2d Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original). Similarly, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated that "[t]aking Erickson and Twombly together, we understand the Court to be saying only that at some point the factual detail in a complaint may be so sketchy that the complaint does not provide the type of notice of the claim to which the defendant is entitled under Rule 8." Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007).

Until further guidance, this Court will follow the guidance of the Second and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals, and apply a flexible "plausibility" standard, on a case-by-case basis, in those contexts in which it is deemed appropriate that the pleader be obliged to amplify a claim with sufficient factual allegations.

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1042 (1994). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents where the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached a copy of the document to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume that the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 (3d Cir. 1998), nor credit a complaint's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of the claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred. See Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the ...


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