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Braden v. County of Washington

December 5, 2008


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


The Plaintiff, Deborah Braden (hereinafter as "Braden"), brings claims of retaliation and interference with Family and Medical Leave Act (hereinafter as "FMLA") rights under 29 U.S.C. §2615(a)(1) & (2) against Defendants, County of Washington (hereinafter as "County") and the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County (hereinafter as "Court of Common Pleas"). The County and the Court of Common Pleas both move to dismiss Braden's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Additionally, the County moves in the alternative for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Since the Eleventh Amendment's immunity applies to the Court of Common Pleas their motion is granted. Since Braden's Complaint does states a claim upon which relief can be granted with respect to the County and the Complaint is not unintelligible or exceedingly vague, the County's motion is denied.


Unless otherwise indicated, the facts are taken from Braden's Complaint.

Braden was employed as an IRS Coordinator by the defendants. Braden began her employment with the defendants in July of 1990. Both the County and the Court of Common Pleas are political subdivisions of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Braden took family and medical leave for a serious health condition from December 10, 2007 to December 12, 2007. The County had approved Braden's FMLA request on December 11, 2007. Upon Braden's return to work on December 13, 2007, she was terminated based upon allegedly unsatisfactory attendance.

Braden claims that at least some of her absences for which she was allegedly fired, were covered under the FMLA. Braden claims that her termination was retaliation for her exercising her FMLA rights and claims her termination interfered with said FMLA rights.

Legal Standard

In ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim, it must be considered whether the complaint "contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ---U.S. ----,127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969 (2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (requiring a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230-34 (3d Cir. 2008) (analyzing Twombly); Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) ("The allegations of the complaint . . . should 'plausibly suggest' that the pleader is entitled to relief."). In so doing, all factual allegations, and all reasonable inferences therefrom, must be accepted as true and viewed them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. Although a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of her entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65; Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (internal citations omitted). In short:

"stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" the required element. This "does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage," but instead "simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the necessary element.

Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965) (alteration in original).

When ruling upon a 12(b)(6) motion, the court may consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and items appearing in the record of the case. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1195 (3d Cir. 1993). Other matters outside the pleadings should not be considered.

A motion for more definite statement may succeed if a pleading is "so vague and ambiguous "that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e).

The notice pleading standard imposed by the federal rules merely "requires a plaintiff to provide the opponent with fair notice of a claim and the grounds on which that claim is based." Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 175 (3d Cir. 2007). Accordingly, "[m]otions for more definite statement are generally disfavored, and should [be granted only] if a pleading is unintelligible, making it virtually impossible for the opposing party ...

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