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Costenbader v. Classic Design Homes

February 16, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court is Defendants' motion (Doc. 10) to dismiss Counts I, IV, and V of plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 4).The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.


Plaintiff Andrea Costenbader ("Costenbader") began working as a receptionist for Raymond Bender's ("Bender") construction company, Classic Design Homes, Inc. ("Classic Design") in April of 2005. (Compl. at ¶ 12 (Doc. 1-4)). Costenbader's original complaint alleged repeated instances of verbal and physical sexual harassment and hostility by Bender. (Compl. at ¶¶ 12 to 31). Costenbader has apparently settled her claims against Bender and he has been terminated from this case. (Motion to Dismiss at ¶¶ 1, 2 (Doc. 10)).

David Wengerd, through his company, Classic Quality Homes, Inc. ("Classic Quality") purchased Classic Design from Bender around June 1, 2007. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 11 (Doc. 4); Compl. at ¶ 33). Classic Quality kept all of Bender's employees, except Bender himself. (Id. at ¶ 12). Bender continued to stop by the Classic Quality office, though he no longer worked there. (Id. at ¶ 13). Costenbader alleges that defendants gave Bender permission to return to the office to pick up mail. (Id.) Costenbader further alleges that shortly after Classic Quality allowed Bender to visit the business she "made Defendants aware that Bender had previously harrassed her and was continuing to do so every time he visited[.]" (Id. at ¶ 14). According to Costenbader, the defendants allowed Bender to continue harrassing her, and "stood by" as Bender became "more aggressive" towards Costenbader and other female employees. (Id. at ¶ 15).

Costenbader alleges that on November 7, 2007 "Defendants permitted Bender into the lobby of the offices where he began to grind his body against Ms. Costenbader's" and defendants "failed to intervene even when they observed Ms. Costenbader move away from Bender and into the receptionist's office, where he pursued her and began to rub himself on her arm until Ms. Costenbader freed herself." (Id. at ¶ 16). Costenbader alleges that on November 9, 2009 "Defendants again allowed Bender into Ms. Costenbader's office" where he sexually assaulted her. (Id. at ¶ 17). Co-worker Annemarie Gentile ("Gentile") witnessed this assault and complained to foreman Gerry Gaito, who allegedly refused to get involved.*fn1 Id. at ¶ 20).

Costenbader and Gentile allegedly attempted to get others at the company to prevent the harassment. (Id. at ¶ 20). Failing there, Costenbader filed charges with the Pocono Mountain Regional Police. (Id.) Defendants allegedly terminated Costenbader a few days after she filed charges. (Id. at ¶ 21). Costenbader alleges she had been promoted to office manager only days before being fired. (Id. at ¶ 23). According to Costenbader, Gentile was told to tell others that Costenbader had been fired because of a shortage of work. (Id. at ¶ 25). Finally, Costenbader alleges that defendants encouraged the publication of slanderous statements about her and investigated her private affairs to discredit her. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 26).

Costenbader filed her original complaint in this court on December 31, 2008 (Compl. (Doc. 1)). On April 13, 2009 Costenbader filed her amended complaint which raises six counts: sex discrimination and harassment (Count I); retaliation (Count II); defamation (Count III); tortious interference (Count IV); unpaid wages (Count V); and wrongful discharge (Count VI). (Am. Compl. (Doc. 4)). According to the defendants, plaintiff's claim for defamation is being withdrawn. (Motion to Dismiss at ¶ 13). On June 2, 2009 defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's claims for sex discrimination and harassment, tortious interference, and unpaid wages, bringing the case to its present posture. (Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. 10)). JURISDICTION

As this case is brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e for unlawful employment discrimination, this court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.").

This court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1367(a) ("[I]n any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution.").


When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of a complaint's allegations are tested. Granting the motion is appropriate if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, the plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," or put another way, "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Third Circuit interprets Twombly to require the plaintiff to describe "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element of the claims alleged in the complaints. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that "justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation." Id. at 234-35.

In relation to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the complaint need only provide "'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 (citation omitted). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [cannot 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 (citation omitted). "Rule 8(a)(2) requires a 'showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Id.

The issue is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can fairly be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). However, "we are not bound to accept as true a legal ...

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