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Conner v. Lancaster County

September 30, 2009

MARGARET A. CONNER, PLAINTIFF
v.
LANCASTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA; TROY HATFIELD, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; AND STEVEN WEISS, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Knoll Gardner, United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the court on the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint by Defendants, Lancaster County and Troy Hatfield, which motion was filed January 5, 2009. After considering the briefs of the parties*fn1 , and for the following reasons, I deny defendants' motion to dismiss in part and dismiss it in part as moot.

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction is based on federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The court also has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

VENUE

Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and (c) because the events giving rise to the claims allegedly occurred in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is in this judicial district.

FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

On December 24, 2008 plaintiff Margaret A. Conner, an employee of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, filed a nine-count First Amended Complaint against defendants Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Troy Hatfield and Steven Weiss.

Plaintiff's claims arise from the alleged sexual harassment by defendant Steven Weiss, a co-employee. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that from July 2004 through November 2006 Mr. Weiss sexually harassed her at their workplace.

The First Amended Complaint alleges multiple claims involving both state and federal law. Specifically, plaintiff raises five claims against the County defendant:

(1) gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 ("Title VII") (Count I);

(2) promoting a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII (Count II);

(3) retaliation in violation of Title VII (Count III);

(4) state law violations under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Act of October 27, 1955, P.L. 744, No. 222, §§ 1-13, as amended, 43 P.S. §§ 951-963 ("PHRA"), alleging gender discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation (Count IV); and

(5) a federal claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution alleging a deprivation of liberty interests and equal protection of the law (Count V)*fn2 .

Plaintiff asserts one claim against defendant Troy Hatfield, in his individual capacity*fn3 , for supervisory liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") (Count VI).

Finally, plaintiff avers three pendent state law claims against defendant Steven Weiss: (1) assault (Count VII);

(2) intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VIII); and (3) false imprisonment (Count IX). These state law claims against defendant Weiss are not at issue in the within motion to dismiss.

In her First Amended Complaint, plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment against defendants County and Hatfield ("County Defendants"); a money judgment for money damages and compensatory damages exceeding $150,000.00 against all defendants; punitive damages against defendants Hatfield and Weiss; back pay, front pay, retirement and other employment benefits against defendant County; attorney fees and costs of suit against all defendants; expert witness fees against defendants County and Hatfield; pre-judgment interest against defendants County and Weiss; and such other relief as the court deems just and appropriate.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Margaret A. Conner commenced this action by filing her initial Complaint against Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Steven Weiss and Steven Palumbo on October 23, 2008. On November 17, 2008 the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant, Lancaster County was filed.

On December 24, 2008 plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint against Lancaster County, Troy Hatfield and Steven Weiss. Because plaintiff does not mention Steven Palumbo in her First Amended Complaint, Mr. Palumbo, who was sued in the initial Complaint, was effectively terminated from the litigation on December 24, 2008.

Thereafter, on January 5, 2009, the County Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint by Defendants, Lancaster County and Troy Hatfield. It is this second motion to dismiss which is the motion presently before the court for disposition.

On January 14, 2009 I entered an Order, filed January 15, 2009, dismissing as moot defendant Lancaster County's first motion to dismiss.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A claim may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A 12(b)(6) motion requires the court to examine the sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 84 (1957) (abrogated in other respects by Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Ordinarily, a court's review of a motion to dismiss is limited to the contents of the complaint, including any attached exhibits. See Kulwicki v. Dawson, 969 F.2d 1454, 1462 (3d Cir. 1992).

Except as provided in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9, a complaint is sufficient if it complies with Rule 8(a)(2). That rule requires only "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. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940.

Additionally, in determining the sufficiency of a complaint, the court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Worldcom, Inc. v. Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir. 2003). Nevertheless, a court need not credit "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-1430 (3d Cir. 1997).

In considering whether the complaint survives a motion to dismiss, both the District Court and the Court of Appeals review whether it "contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562, 127 S.Ct. at 1969, 167 L.Ed.2d at 944 (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Company, 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984) ...


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