Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Barrett v. Viacom

January 23, 2009

JOHN BARRETT, WILLIAM BRADSFORD, GEORGE CHAMBERS, JAMES CHISOLM, LOUIS DANNECKER, RONALD DELONG, TRENTON DOANE, ROBERT DURR, DANA GABEL, JOSEPH GIACOMIN, DELLA HAMILL, RALPH ITZO, CHARLES KIEHL, LEROY MILLER, VIRGINIE RAVAREAU, LEENDERT RINGLEVER, NIZAM SHAIKH, FRANK SNYDER, JOHN WAGLE, III, JAMES WEST, MELVIN WILKERSON, DOROTHY WILLIAMS, TERRY WOOD, RONALD ZINSKI, AND JOSEPH ZOLKOWSKI PLAINTIFFS,
v.
VIACOM, INC., SUCCESSOR BY MERGER TO CBS CORPORATION, FORMERLY KNOWN AS WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC CORPORATION DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

Following an initial challenge to the timeliness of their claims asserted under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), the Plaintiffs filed a Third Amended Complaint invoking the equitable tolling doctrine.*fn1 Defendant Viacom, Inc. ("Viacom") now challenges this Third Amended Complaint. See Docket No. [42].

Viacom contends that the allegations concerning equitable tolling are deficient and, in the alternative, that the Plaintiffs' claims should be severed from each other because they cannot meet the permissive joinder requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a). For the reasons set forth below, I reject Viacom's arguments.

Standard of Review

A Motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is treated under the same standards as is a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Stanton v. The County of Allegheny, Civ. No. 7-56, 2008 WL 678704 at * 1 (W.D. Pa. March 12, 2008). That is, a complaint will be dismissed if it does not allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Stanton, 2008 WL 678704 at * 1, citing, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (May 21, 2007). Further, I may consider the allegations in the complaint, attached exhibits, matters of public record and factual allegations within documents described or identified in the complaint. Id. at * 2.

Analysis

A. Equitable Tolling

There are two issues before me: (1) whether the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) apply to Plaintiffs' demand for equitable tolling; and (2), if so, whether Plaintiffs have satisfied those pleading requirements. I find both that the requirements of Rule 9(b) do apply and that Plaintiffs have satisfied the requirements. Accordingly, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is denied on this ground

As to the first issue, case law convinces me that, even where the underlying cause of action is one of age discrimination, not fraud, Rule 9's pleading mandates must be met where the timeliness of Plaintiffs' administrative claim depends upon the application of the equitable tolling doctrine. See Davis v. Grusemeyer, 996 F.2d 617, 624 n. 13 (3d Cir. 1993), abrogated on other grounds, Rolo v. City Inv. Co. Liquidating Trust, 155 F.3d 644 (3d Cir. 1988); Byrnes v. DeBolt Transfer, Inc., 741 F.2d 620, 626 (3d Cir. 1984) and McComb v. Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc., Civ. No. 7-1049, 2007 WL 4150786 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 19, 2007).

As to the second issue, I find Viacom's reading of the case law to be too restrictive. The Third Circuit court applies Rule 9(b) in a more flexible manner than the approach suggested by Viacom: under Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b), plaintiffs must plead with particularity the "circumstances" of the alleged fraud. They need not, however, plead the "date, place or time," of the fraud so long as they use an "alternative means of injecting precision and some measure of substantiation into their allegations of fraud." Seville Indus. Machinery v. Southmost Machinery, 742 F.2d 786, 791 (3d. Cir. 1984).

Rolo v. City Investing Company Liquidating Trust, 155 F.3d 644, 658 (3d. Cir. 1998). Though not the approach advocated by Viacom, the Third Amended Complaint does use an "alternative means of injecting precision and some measure of substantiation" into their allegations of equitable tolling.

Equitable tolling requires proof: (1) of active misleading by the defendant; (2) which caused the plaintiff's failure to timely file; and (3) that plaintiff "could not, by the exercise of reasonable diligence, have discovered essential information bearing on his or her claim." Ruehl v. Viacom, Inc., 500 F.3d 375, 384 (3d Cir. 2007). Here the Plaintiffs "inject precision" into their allegations that Viacom had a systemic policy of age discrimination and that it engaged in a series of deceptive and actively misleading acts regarding the actual reason it discharged the Plaintiffs by identifying various provisions of the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act ("OWBPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 626(f)(1). Specifically, the Plaintiffs reference a failure to provide "demographic data" to persons involved in a reduction of force as well as the failure to inform those employees, either verbally or in writing, that the demographic data was available at another location or upon request. See Third Amended Complaint, ¶ 32-34. The statutory sections to which the Plaintiffs refer provide the remaining details:

(H) if a waiver is requested in connection with an exit incentive or other employment termination program offered to a group or class of employees, the employer ... informs the individual in writing in a manner calculated to be understood by the average individual eligible to participate as to -

(I) any class, unit, or group of individuals covered by such program, any eligibility factors for such program, and any time ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.