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Deluca v. Simmons Manufacturing Corporation

April 29, 2009

CYNTHIA DELUCA PLAINTIFF,
v.
SIMMONS MANUFACTURING CORPORATION, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

Two motions, Plaintiff Cynthia DeLuca's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34) and Defendant Simmons Manufacturing Corp., Inc.'s First Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 38), are currently before the Court. For the reasons set forth in greater detail below, the Court will strike Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as untimely, and will grant, in part, and deny, in part, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.

BACKGROUND

The Defendant, Simmons Manufacturing Corp., Inc. ("Simmons") is a manufacturer of premium branded bedding products and operates a manufacturing plant in Hazleton Industrial Park, Hazleton, Pennsylvania.. (Pl.'s Am. SOF, Doc. 66, ¶¶ 1, 5; Def.'s SOF, Doc. 39, ¶¶ 1, 2.)*fn1 Plaintiff Cynthia Ann DeLuca ("DeLuca") was hired as a line seamstress at Simmons' Hazleton facility on January 3, 2006. (Pl.'s Am. SOF ¶ 22; Def.'s SOF ¶ 3.)

For the first year of her employment, DeLuca worked without incident. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 15.) However, in February 2007, DeLuca experienced pain in her hip, running into her leg, when she attempted to lift a bolt of fabric. (Pl.'s Am. SOF ¶ 28; Def.'s SOF ¶ 17.) Upon experiencing this pain, DeLuca sat down to rest. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 18.) While she was sitting, DeLuca was questioned by her supervisor, Mr. Joe Gasaway, why she was sitting and DeLuca explained that she had experienced pain while performing her work duties. (Pl.'s Am. SOF ¶ 30; Def.'s SOF ¶ 18.) Mr. Gasaway advised DeLuca to return to work and DeLuca followed this advice. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 19.) Plaintiff continued to experience pain in her hip and leg following this initial incident. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 20.)

Following the initial injury, DeLuca sought medical attention for pain in her right hip. (Pl.'s Br. in Supp., Doc. 36, at 2; Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 23-27.) While she was receiving treatment in March 2007, DeLuca, called off of work on several consecutive days. (Pl.'s Br. in Supp., at 3; Def.'s SOF ¶ 21.) When calling off work on the fourth consecutive day, DeLuca spoke with Ms. Doreen Rushton, the Human Resources Director for Simmons' Hazleton facility, and reported both her injury and ongoing treatment. (Pl.'s Am. SOF ¶¶ 30, 32; Def.'s SOF ¶ 22; Pl.'s Br. in Supp., at 2.) During the course of the call, Ms. Rushton informed DeLuca that she would receive, and should complete and return, paperwork for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). (Def.'s SOF ¶ 23; Pl.'s Br. in Supp., at 2.) On April 5, 2007, Ms. Rushton sent DeLuca a letter stating that Simmons had not heard from DeLuca since March 26, 2007 and requested that DeLuca submit her FMLA paperwork by April 19, 2007. (Pl.'s Am. SOF ¶ 36; Def.'s SOF ¶ 25.) DeLuca submitted the completed FMLA paperwork along with a healthcare provider certification completed by her physician on April 30, 2007. (Pl.'s Am. SOF ¶ 37; Def.'s SOF ¶ 26.) After approximately ten (10) weeks of FMLA leave, DeLuca's physician released her to work without any restrictions. (Pl.'s Am. SOF ¶¶ 40, 50; Def.'s SOF ¶ 28.)

After returning to her position at Simmons, DeLuca worked without incident until July 11, 2007. (Id.) Plaintiff did not go to work on July 11, 12, and 13, 2007. (Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 29-31; Pl.'s Br. in Supp., at 3-4.) On these dates, DeLuca called Simmons' "work call off line" to inform the company that she was seeking treatment with her physician and waiting for medical approval to return to work. (Pl.'s Br. in Supp., at 4; Def.'s SOF ¶ 30, 31.) Plaintiff did not go to work and did not call Simmons' "work call off line" on both July 16 and 17, 2007. (Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 35, 36.) On July 17, 2007, Ms. Rushton sent DeLuca a letter stating that Ms. DeLuca had not reported to work since July 13, 2007 and that she had fifteen (15) days to submit paperwork concerning FMLA leave. (Pl.'s Br. in Supp., at 4; Def.'s SOF ¶ 37.) On July 18 and 19, 2007 Ms. DeLuca did not report for work and did not contact Simmons. (Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 40, 41.) On July 19, 2007 Simmons terminated Ms. DeLuca's employment. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 42; Pl.'s Br. in Supp., at 4.)

On November 26, 2007, Ms. DeLuca filed her Complaint (Doc. 1) initiating the current action. Count I of this Complaint alleges that Simmons violated the FMLA by denying DeLuca's leave request and terminating her employment in July 2007. (Compl. ¶¶ 31-35.) Count II of DeLuca's Complaint alleges that Simmons wrongfully terminated her in violation of the Pennsylvania Worker's Compensation Act. (Compl. ¶¶ 36-38.) Defendant Simmons filed its Answer (Doc. 5) to DeLuca's Complaint on December 26, 2007, and the parties proceeded with discovery. On July 30, 2008, the Court issued a Second Amended Case Management Order (Doc. 32). This Order established a October 15, 2008 deadline for the completion of discovery and a November 15, 2008 deadline for the filing of all dispositive motions and supporting briefs. (Id.)

On November 14, 2008, Plaintiff DeLuca filed a Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. 34) along with a corresponding Brief in Support (Doc. 36) and Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 36, Ex. 2). On November 25, 2008, Defendant Simmons filed a Motion to Strike (Doc. 41) Plaintiff's statement of facts and brief supporting her summary judgment motion. Defendant also filed its Brief in Opposition (Doc. 43) to Plaintiff DeLuca's summary judgment motion on November 25, 2008. On November 29, 2008 Plaintiff DeLuca filed a Brief in Opposition (Doc. 48) to Defendant's Motion to Strike, and, on December 9, 2008, she filed her Reply Brief (Doc. 47) in support of her summary judgment motion. On April 23, 2009, the Court entered an Order (Doc.65) granting, in part, Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Statement of Facts, and struck the portions of Plaintiff's Statement detailing various discovery-related disputes between the parties. The Court instructed Plaintiff to file a redacted copy of her Statement of Facts, omitting the stricken portions of the original document, and the Plaintiff complied by submitting her Amended Statement of Facts on April 26, 2009 (Doc. 66). Thus, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment has been thoroughly briefed and is ripe for disposition.

On November 18, 2008, three (3) days after the November 15, 2008 deadline for dispositive motions, Defendant Simmons filed its First Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 38), along with a Statement of Facts (Doc. 39) and corresponding Brief in Support (Doc. 40). On November 29, 2008 Plaintiff DeLuca filed a Brief in Opposition (Doc. 44) and an Answer to Simmons' Statement of Facts (Doc. 45). Defendant Simmons filed its Reply Brief (Doc. 49) on December 9, 2008, and filed a Supplement (Doc. 52) to its previously-filed Brief in Support on February 11, 2009. Accordingly, Defendant's First Motion for Summary Judgment has also been thoroughly briefed and is currently ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57.

The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to ...


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