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L.C. v. Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet

July 2, 2010

L.C., A MINOR, EVA CLARKE, AND JAMES CLARKE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NATURAL GUARDIANS OF L.C., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA YOUTH BALLET, ANNA MARIE RABASSI-DAVIS, KARL MOLL, MARY MOLL, AND KIRK MOLL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pending before the Court are three motions in the above-captioned case. The first is a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, or, in the alternative, a Motion to Strike filed by Defendants Mary and Kirk Moll ("the Molls"). (Doc. 22) (the "Moll MTD"). The second is a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint filed by Defendants Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet ("CPYB") and Anna Marie Rabassi-Davis ("Rabassi-Davis") (collectively, "the Ballet Defendants"). (Doc. 25) (the "Ballet MTD"). The third is a Motion to Strike filed by Defendant Karl Moll. (Doc. 27) (the "Motion to Strike"). For the following reasons, we shall grant in part and deny in part the Moll MTD and the Ballet MTD, and we shall grant the Motion to Strike in its entirety.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs L.C., Eva Clarke, and James Clarke ("Plaintiffs" or "the Clarkes") initiated the above-captioned action by filing a complaint on October 26, 2009. (Doc. 1). On February 2, 2010, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 21). On that same date, the Moll MTD was filed. (Doc. 22). On February 5, 2010, both the Ballet MTD and the Motion to Strike were filed. (Docs. 25, 27). Both briefs in support of and brief in opposition to these motions have been filed. (See Docs. 23, 26, 28, 30, 31, 32). While reply briefs have not been filed in connection with any of the aforementioned motions, the time in which to do so has long since expired. Accordingly, the motions are ripe for disposition.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). In resolving a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally should consider only the allegations in the complaint, as well as "documents that are attached to or submitted with the complaint, . . . and any matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain 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." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, ---, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 235 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Accordingly, to satisfy the plausibility standard, the complaint must indicate that defendant's liability is more than "a sheer possibility." Iqbal, 120 S.Ct. At 1949. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Under the two-pronged approach articulated in Twombly and later formalized in Iqbal, a district court must first identify all factual allegations that constitute nothing more than "legal conclusions" or "naked assertions." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Such allegations are "not entitled to the assumption of truth" and must be disregarded for purposes of resolving a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. Next, the district court must identify "the 'nub' of the . . . complaint -- the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]." Id. Taking these allegations as true, the district judge must then determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. See id.

However, "a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231 (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1964-65, 1969 n.8). Rule 8 "does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Id. at 234.

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

At all relevant times, L.C. and Karl Moll were students at CPYB. (Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 6). On December 8, 2007, Karl Moll allegedly sexually assaulted L.C. during a ballet rehearsal at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 20). Plaintiffs allege that as a result of this conduct Karl Moll entered a consent decree in Cumberland County Juvenile Court to criminal indecent assault and aggravated indecent assault. (Id. ¶ 21). On or about December 9, 2007, Eva Clarke, mother of L.C., allegedly reported the sexual assault to Rabassi-Davis, a faculty member and backstage manager employed by CPYB. (Id. ¶ 22). Plaintiffs allege that on December 12, 2007 Rabassi-Davis, with the consent of CPYB, proceeded to tape record an interview with L.C. concerning the aforementioned sexual assault without his parents' knowledge. (Id. ¶ 23, 24). On that same day, Rabassi-Davis purportedly disclosed the contents of the recording to Kirk Moll and others without the consent of L.C. or his parents. (Id. ¶ 25).*fn2

On December 14, 2007, Plaintiffs allege that CPYB failed to prevent Karl Moll from entering the same dressing room as L.C. (Id. ¶ 27). Plaintiffs aver that on December 17, 2007, L.C. was again interviewed and tape recorded. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 30).*fn3 During this interview, L.C. was allegedly informed that he should not have notified his parents about the alleged sexual assault. (Id. ¶ 32). Plaintiffs believe that this recording was also played for others. (Id. ¶ 34).

These allegations form the basis of Plaintiffs' 14-count amended complaint. The claims asserted against Rabassi-Davis and CPYB collectively include: (i) Count I-- intentional interception of the oral communication of December 12, 2007, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511; (ii) Count II-- intentional interception of the oral communication of December 17, 2007, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511; (iii) Count III-- intentional disclosure of the oral communication of December 12, 2007, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511; (iv) Count IV-- intentional disclosure of the oral communication of December 17, 2007, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511; (v) Count V-- intentional interception of the oral communication of December 12, 2007, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 5703; (vi) Count VI-- intentional interception of the oral communication of December 17, 2007, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 5703; (vii) Count VII-- intentional disclosure of the oral communication of December 12, 2007, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 5703; (viii) Count VIII-- intentional disclosure of the oral communication of December 17, 2007, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 5703; and (ix) Count XII-- civil conspiracy to illegally tape record and publish the communications of December 12 and 17, 2007. (See Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 39-60, 79-80).*fn4 Counts XI (negligence in supervising student behavior) and XIII (breach of contract)*fn5 are lodged against CPYB alone. (Id. ¶¶ 72-78, 81-87).*fn6

The counts asserted against Karl Moll include: (i) Count IX-- assault and battery in connection with the aforementioned sexual assault; and (ii) Count XIV-- negligence/gross negligence in connection with the aforementioned sexual assault. (Id. ¶¶ 61-63, 88-94). Plaintiffs have asserted Count X (common law negligence)*fn7 and Count XII (conspiracy to illegally tape record and publish the communications of December 12 and 17, 2007)*fn8 against his parents. (Id. ¶¶ 64-71, 79-80).*fn9

The afore-referenced allegations are the subjects of the Moll MTD, the Ballet MTD, and the Motion to Strike, which we shall address in turn.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. The Ballet MTD

The Ballet MTD seeks the following relief: (i) dismissal of the federal wiretapping claims in Counts I-IV; (ii) dismissal of the punitive damage prayer contained in Count XI; (iii) dismissal of the prayer for attorney's fees; and (iv) dismissal of the breach of ...


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