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Czapracki v. Commonwealth

December 5, 2008


Judge John E. Jones III



Pending before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiff's Complaint (the "Motion") filed by Defendant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation ("Defendant" or "PennDot") on May 16, 2008. (Rec. Doc. 5). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted.


Plaintiff Paul L. Czapracki ("Plaintiff" or "Czapracki") commenced the instant action by lodging a two-count Complaint against PennDot in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County on April 4, 2008. (Rec. Doc. 1-2). Count One contains a state cause of action for wrongful termination, while Count Two contains federal claims asserting deprivations of his rights to due process and equal protection. (Id.). On May 2, 2008, the Defendant removed the case from state court to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Id.). On May 16, 2008, the Defendant filed the instant Motion and a supporting brief, requesting dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to either Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6).*fn1 (Rec. Docs. 5, 6). The Plaintiff submitted his brief in opposition to the Motion on July 29, 2008, (Rec. Doc. 9), and the Defendant responded with a reply brief the very next day, (Rec. Doc. 16). Since the Motion has been fully briefed, it is now ripe for disposition.


When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), a court must distinguish between facial and factual challenges to its subject matter jurisdiction. See Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). A facial attack challenges whether the plaintiff has properly pled jurisdiction. Id. "In reviewing a facial attack, the court must only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein and attached thereto, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891). A factual attack, in contrast, challenges jurisdiction based on facts apart from the pleadings. Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. "When a defendant attacks subject matter jurisdiction 'in fact,' . . . the Court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself whether it has power to hear the case. In such a situation, 'no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.'" Carpet Group Int'l v. Oriental Rug Importers Ass'n, 227 F.3d 62, 69 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891).

In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, "in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, --- U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 1965. A plaintiff must make "a 'showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief", and "without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only 'fair notice,' but also the 'grounds' on which the claim rests." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 n. 3). "[A] complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct, and the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 1969 n.8. Therefore, "stating a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 n. 3).

On the other hand, "a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits." Id. at 231(citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1964-65, 1969 n.8). Rule 8 "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."Id. at 234.


At all times relevant to the instant action, the Plaintiff was employed by PennDot as a highway foreman in its Luzerne County Maintenance Office. (Rec. Doc. 1-2 ¶ 3). On February 17, 2007, when Plaintiff completed a twelve (12) hour work shift, he returned home expecting to rest and relax until February 20, 2007, his next scheduled day of work at PennDot. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 6). In the comfort of his home, he consumed a few alcoholic beverages and settled in for the weekend. (Id. ¶ 7). However, Luzerne County was then in the midst of what would be a large, crippling snowstorm, and so the Plaintiff's respite was soon interrupted by a late night phone call ordering him to return to work. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 8).

The Plaintiff clocked-in at midnight and continued to work throughout the night in his capacity as a highway foreman. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9). At around 4:45 a.m., the Plaintiff took a break in his PennDot vehicle, which ultimately led to him falling asleep in said vehicle, which was parked on the side of the road in the northbound lane of Route 239. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11). Plaintiff was eventually roused by a Pennsylvania State Police Officer and subsequently escorted to a local hospital under suspicion of driving under the influence ("DUI").*fn3 (Id. ¶ 12). After voluntarily participating in the State Employees Assistance Program and completing two conferences and two evaluations, Plaintiff was suspended pending a PennDot investigation. (Id. ¶¶ 13-17). PennDot notified Czapracki that the investigation revealed evidence supporting various charges.*fn4 Plaintiff was then informed that he had been scheduled to attend a Pre-Disciplinary Conference on March 28, 2007 for the purpose of discussing the allegations and responding in detail to the charges against him. (Id. ¶ 25). Czapracki attended the conference and answered questions posed to him by PennDot officials related to the events of February 17-18, 2007. (Id. ¶ 26). Despite only conducting a brief interview with the Plaintiff and having no other witnesses called to testify and/or produce evidence as to the events in question, PennDot officials subsequently notified Czapracki that the responses he provided at the conference were unacceptable and that his employment was terminated. (Id. ¶ 27).

Plaintiff argues that not only was he deprived of notice and a hearing,*fn5 but also that the conference of March 29, 2007 did not provide him with a fair opportunity to defend himself against the charges which ultimately led to his termination. (Id. ¶ 32). Czapracki urges that not only was there a lack evidence to support the charges lodged against him, meaning that there were insufficient grounds for his termination, (Id. ¶ 28), but also that, in being terminated, he was treated differently than similarly situated individuals,*fn6 (Id. ΒΆΒΆ 36-39). As a result of these wrongs, Plaintiff requests that ...

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