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Griffin v. Municipality of Kingston

June 23, 2009

DANIEL S. GRIFFIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MUNICIPALITY OF KINGSTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is a motion to dismiss Counts I and VII of Plaintiff's Complaint filed by Defendants Municipality of Kingston ("Kingston"), Paul Keating, Keith Keiper, Kingston Civil Service Commission ("Commission"), John Judge, Fred Case, and Nancy Cooper (Doc. 5) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants also ask the Court to dismiss the Commission and Defendants Keating, Keiper, Judge, Case, and Cooper in their official capacities. Alternatively, Defendants move for a more definite statement of Count I pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). For the reasons detailed below, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be denied as to Count I, but granted as to Count VII and Defendants Commission, and Keating, Keiper, Judge, Case, and Cooper in their official capacities. Defendants' motion for a more definite statement will be denied as moot.

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

BACKGROUND

The facts as alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint are as follows. Plaintiff was a Detective with the Kingston Police Department and sustained an on-the-job injury on January 17, 2006. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-15, Doc. 1.) This disability affected Plaintiff's ability to sleep and work. (Id. ¶ 50.) While on leave of absence because of his injury, Plaintiff received, and continues to receive, Worker's Compensation benefits. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 28.) Plaintiff was to receive Heart and Lung benefits simultaneously with Worker's Compensation.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 29.)

In March of 2006, Defendant Kingston posted an announcement for the position of Sergeant. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff took and passed a written examination on April 27, 2006, and an oral examination on May 11, 2006, and fulfilled the requirements to be certified on the eligibility list for promotion. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) On March 23, 2007, Defendant Kingston posted an opening for the position of Sergeant. (Id. ¶ 21.) The eligibility requirements included being physically fit and able to perform the duties of Sergeant without regard to a person's disability. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff applied for, but was denied, certification on March 28, 2007. (Id. ¶ 19.) Defendant Kingston informed Plaintiff that he was denied certification because of his inactive status. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed a timely complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. (Id. ¶ 4.) On April 17, 2007, Plaintiff cross-filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). (Id. ¶¶ 4, 26.)

At a hearing on April 27, 2007, Defendant Commission and Defendants Judge, Case, and Cooper, members of the Commission, advised Plaintiff that he was being denied further consideration for certification because he was disabled. (Id. ¶ 20.) By letter dated May 2, 2007, Defendant Kingston informed Plaintiff that certification was denied because of his disability. (Id. ¶ 24.)

After Plaintiff made his EEOC complaint, Defendants allegedly retaliated by subjecting Plaintiff to a hostile work environment, culminating in his termination. (Id. ¶ 27.) Defendants Keating, Administrator of Kingston, and Keiper, Chief of Police of Kingston, caused false criminal complaints to be filed against Plaintiff, caused Plaintiff's house to be searched and personal property to be seized, and discontinued Plaintiff's medical insurance and Heart and Lung benefits. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8,31-34, 67.) Thereafter, Plaintiff was arrested. (Id. ¶ 67.) Defendant Commission refused to allow Plaintiff to reapply for a position with the Kingston Police Department.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 38.) Defendant Commission and Defendants Judge, Case, and Cooper decertified Plaintiff from his position.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 39.)

Defendant Keating, Administrator of Kingston, terminated Plaintiff on December 3, 2007. (Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff alleges that only the Mayor could properly have fired him because he was a member of the Civil Service. (Id. ¶ 35.) Before being terminated, Plaintiff was not given written warning or a pre-disciplinary conference on any relevant allegations. (Id. ¶¶ 41-42.)

As a result of Defendants' hostility culminating in the loss of his job, Plaintiff alleges he suffered, and continues to suffer, great bodily pain and mental anguish, public humiliation, embarrassment, and loss of his reputation. (Id. ¶ 44.) Because of these injuries, Plaintiff sought medical treatment, which may continue indefinitely. (Id. ¶ 46.) Plaintiff also suffered monetary loss in the form of wages, pension contributions, and social security contributions, and monetary loss in the form of payments for attorney's, investigation, and court reporter fees to defend himself against Defendants' acts. (Id. ¶¶ 44-45.)

Plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter on November 25, 2008. (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff filed a complaint containing seven counts against all of the Defendants on December 22, 2008. (Id., ¶¶ 47-70.) The first four claims are made under federal law, and the last three are made under Pennsylvania state law. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 47-70.)

Counts I and II, raised pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, allege Defendants violated Plaintiff's due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48.) Counts III and IV, raised pursuant to the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.,*fn4 allege unlawful discrimination based on Plaintiff's disability, and unlawful retaliation in response to Plaintiff's EEOC filing. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 49-62.) Count V alleges wrongful discharge in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 955(a).*fn5 (Id. ¶¶ 1, 64.) Count VI alleges the Defendants engaged in common law conspiracy. (Id. ¶ 67.) Count VII raises a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). (Id. ¶¶ 69-70.)

Defendants filed a motion on March 2, 2009, to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and, alternatively, for a more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). (Mot. ¶¶ 4-18, Doc. 5.) The motion to dismiss contains three arguments. (Id.) The first asks that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Commission, Keating, Keiper, Judge, Case, and Cooper, in their official capacities only, be dismissed because they are redundant with Plaintiff's claims against Kingston. (Id. ¶¶ 4-9.) The second argument asks that Count I be dismissed because it fails to sufficiently allege violation of Plaintiff's substantive or procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) The third argument asks that Count VII be dismissed because it fails to sufficiently allege IIED. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) The motion for a more definite statement asks that Plaintiff be required to re-plead Count I because Defendants cannot determine whether Plaintiff is alleging a violation of his substantive or procedural due process rights. (Id. ¶¶ 12-16.)

Defendants filed a brief in support of their motion on March 16, 2009. (Doc. 6.) Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition on April 1, 2009. (Doc. 9.) Defendants then filed a brief in reply on May 11, 2009. (Doc. 12.) Accordingly, Defendants' motion has been briefed and is currently ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) 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 the facts alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring a complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "'give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, ----, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; see also Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007).

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). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or "'legal conclusions,'" Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997)).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of his claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

II. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) provides that "[i]f a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague and ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, the party may move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). Generally, motions for a more definite statement are only granted when the pleading is "'so vague or ambiguous that the opposing party cannot respond, even with a simple denial, in good faith without prejudice to itself.'" Schmidt, Long & Assoc., Inc. v. Aetna U.S. Healthcare, Inc., No. CIV.A. 00-CV-3683, 2000 WL 1780231, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 4, 2000) (quoting Sun Co. v. Badger Design & Constructors, 939 F. Supp. 365, 368 (E.D. Pa. 1996)). "'Motions for a more definite statement are generally disfavored, and should [be granted only] if a pleading is unintelligible, making it virtually impossible for the opposing party to craft a responsive pleading.'" Kasteleba v. Judge, No. 3:05-CV-1739, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24493, at *10 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 24, 2006) (Kosik, J.) (quoting Synagro--WWT, Inc. v. Rush Twp., 204 F. Supp. 2d 827, 849 (M.D. Pa. 2002) (McClure, J.)).

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

A. Claims Against Defendant Commission, and Defendants Keating, Keiper, Judge, Case, and Cooper in Their Official Capacities

1. Defendant Commission

Defendants argue that Defendant Commission should be dismissed as a party from all counts of Plaintiff's Complaint because the Commission is redundant with Defendant Kingston. (Defs.' Br. in Supp. Of Mot. 7, Doc. 6.) (hereinafter "Defs.' Br.")

In the context of a motion for summary judgment, this Court has previously held that when a Civil Service Commission is an administrative arm or sub-unit of a municipality, it is not a separate legal entity from the municipality. Sibio v. Borough of Dunmore, No. 3:06-CV-0995, 2007 WL 1173769, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 18, 2007). In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the Commission is "duly organized under the auspices of the Defendant Kingston." (Compl. ΒΆ 9.) Therefore, as an arm of the Municipality, the Commission is not a separate entity and the claims against it are redundant. Accordingly, because Plaintiff does not ...


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