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Wenrich v. Total Logistic Control

September 8, 2009

DAVID F. WENRICH, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOTAL LOGISTIC CONTROL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before this Court is Defendant Total Logistic Control's motion to dismiss plaintiffs sole count, wrongful discharge under Pennsylvania state law, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant's motion will be granted because Plaintiff's Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts for a claim for an implied employment contract, or to satisfy the public policy exception for termination of an at-will employee.

This Court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

BACKGROUND

The facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint are as follows: Plaintiff David Wenrich ("Wenrich") was employed at Total Logistics Control ("TLC") beginning on or about August 27, 2007. (Compl. ¶ 6, 7.) TLC provided Wenrich with a written employee handbook of policies at the commencement of employment. (Id. ¶ 8.) At all times Plaintiff complied with the policies of this handbook. (Id. ¶ 15.) On or about April 15, 2008, Wenrich was employed as an Operations Supervisor. (Id. ¶ 3.)

That day, another employee, Angela Minichbach, was injured while on the job. (Id. ¶ 4.) Wenrich, in compliance with the employee handbook, drove Ms. Minichbach for medical care to Pottsville Hospital and Warne Clinic. (Id. ¶ 5, 15, 20.) As a result of this conduct, Wenrich was terminated on April 21, 2008. (Compl. ¶ 22.)

On February 3, 2009, Plaintiff filed an action in the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Defendant TLC removed the case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania on March 3, 2009. On March 31, 2009, TLC filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. This motion to dismiss has been fully briefed by both parties and is ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

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, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. 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, 93 (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 [with] 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 her claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I. Wrongful Termination

In Pennsylvania, there is a presumption of an at-will employment relationship. Luteran v. Loral Fairchild Corp., 688 A.2d 211, 214 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1997). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has "steadfastly resisted any attempt to weaken the presumption of the at-will employment in this Commonwealth." McLaughlin v. Gastrointestinal Specialists, Inc., 750 A.2d 283, 290 (Pa. 2000). The burden of overcoming this presumption rests with the employee. Willis v. Am. Customer Care, No. 04-2606, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80983, at *19 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 25, 2006) (citing Luteran). Generally, termination of at-will employees does not give rise to a cause of action. McMullin v. Cranmer, 159 Fed. Appx. 422, ...


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