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Lena N. Pettway v. City of Philadelphia

July 22, 2011

LENA N. PETTWAY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Timothy R. Rice United States Magistrate Judge

JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

MEMORANDUM

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendant City of Philadelphia seeks to dismiss Plaintiff Lena N. Pettway's disability discrimination (Count II), hostile work environment (Count III), and retaliation (Count IV) claims. In the alternative, Defendant moves for a more definite statement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) of Counts II and IV. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Count III is dismissed. Defendant's motion to dismiss Counts II and IV, and its motion for a more definite statement of those claims, are denied.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

I must "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." Grammar v. John J. Kane Reg'l Ctrs.-Glen Hazel, 570 F.3d 520, 523 (3d Cir. 2009); see also Byers v. Intuit, Inc., 600 F.3d 286, 291 (3d Cir. 2010). I need not, however, credit a plaintiff's legal conclusions or "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

A Rule 12(e) motion should be granted only "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]." Clark v. McDonald's Corp., 213 F.R.D. 198, 232-33 (D.N.J. 2003). "The basis for granting such a motion is unintelligibility, not lack of detail." MK Strategies, LLC v. Ann Taylor Stores Corp., 567 F. Supp. 2d 729, 736-37 (D.N.J. 2008) (quoting Wood & Locker, Inc. v. Doran & Assoc., 708 F. Supp. 684, 691 (W.D. Pa. 1989)).When presented with an appropriate Rule 12(e) motion, "the district court shall grant the motion and demand more specific factual allegations from the plaintiff concerning the conduct underlying the claims for relief." Thomas, A.W.T., Inc., v. Independence Twp., 463 F.3d 285, 301 (3d Cir. 2006).

II. BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff Lena N. Pettway worked for Defendant City of Philadelphia for eleven years, serving the last four of those years in the Department of Human Services. In 2006, Plaintiff was diagnosed with pulmonary sarcoidosis, a condition affecting her ability to breathe. In June 2007, she filed a Persons With Disabilities Request, asking that employees in her building not spray cleaning solutions and perfumes or burn popcorn. In the request, she included a statement from Dr. Phillip Cross explaining that such odors irritate Plaintiff's condition.

On January 26, 2009, Plaintiff was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital ("Hahnemann") after breathing in a cleaning solution at work. After Plaintiff informed her supervisor, Janice Jarvey, of the incident, Jarvey instructed office employees to be mindful of spraying aerosols and excessive amounts of perfume and burning popcorn. Jarvey's successor, Vera Day, later informed Plaintiff she could not prevent employees from using aerosol sprays and perfume.

On November 3, 2009, Plaintiff suffered another attack at work stemming from scented aerosol sprayed in the women's restroom, and she was again taken to Hahnemann. On November 5, 2009, Dr. Cross wrote a new letter explaining that perfumes, cleaning solutions, and burnt popcorn could exacerbate Plaintiff's condition. Day again informed Plaintiff she could not prevent employees from using aerosol sprays and perfume. Plaintiff then notified the disability representative at her office, Douglas Abbot, who advised there was nothing he could do.

Plaintiff suffered a third attack on December 8, 2009 after a co-worker burned popcorn. She began experiencing chest pains several days later and was admitted to Aria Health, where she underwent heart catheterization. Plaintiff was released on December 18, 2009, but was admitted again on January 27, 2010 after suffering a stroke.

Plaintiff could not return to work following the stroke. Defendant required Plaintiff to use accrued vacation days to compensate for her time out of the office, and asked her to remove items from her office so another employee could use the office while Plaintiff remained out of work. On March 3, 2010, Plaintiff filed a disability discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). She was later fired.

Plaintiff brings four claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"): failure to accommodate; disability discrimination; hostile work environment; and retaliation. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs, and any other relief deemed appropriate. Defendant moves to dismiss all but the first claim or, in the ...


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