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Oscar Peeples v. Prestige Delivery Systems

December 15, 2011

OSCAR PEEPLES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRESTIGE DELIVERY SYSTEMS, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckwalter, S.J.

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Prestige Delivery Systems, Inc. has filed the present Motion to Dismiss the Complaint of Plaintiff Oscar Peeples. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

According to the facts alleged in the Complaint, Plaintiff is an African American male who contracted with Defendant in May 2004 to work as a delivery driver. (Compl. ¶¶ 9,13.) At the time the contract commenced, Plaintiff had four separate routes for delivery service. (Id. ¶ 18.) During the time Plaintiff performed services for Defendant, two of Defendant's employees repeatedly referred to him as "boy," even after Plaintiff advised them that he found the term offensive. (Id. ¶¶ 19-21, 22.) In addition, Plaintiff overheard one of these employees say that the company was "getting rid of the old drivers." (Id. ¶ 21.) The day after Plaintiff brought these incidents to the attention of Defendant's management, he was deprived of all four of his original delivery routes and was told he could only have one route. (Id. ¶ 23.) When he further complained about this treatment, the final route was taken from him and given to a thirty-eight-year-old white male. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 26-27.) Defendant terminated its business relationship with Plaintiff in October 2009. (Id. ¶ 35.)

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court on April 5, 2011 alleging the following: (I) racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"); (II) retaliation in violation of Title VII; (III) violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act 43 Pa.C.S. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA"); and (IV) violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA").*fn1 (Compl. ¶¶ 34-42.) Defendant filed the present Motion to Dismiss on September 21, 2011. Plaintiff filed his Response in Opposition on October 21, 2011, and Defendant filed a Reply Brief on October 28, 2011.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court recognized that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. It emphasized that it would not require a "heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

In the subsequent case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court enunciated two fundamental principles applicable to a court's review of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. First, it noted that "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 1949. Thus, although "[Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Id. at 1950. Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in Twombly or Iqbal has altered some of the fundamental underpinnings of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review. Arner v. PGT Trucking, Inc., No. Civ.A.09-0565, 2010 WL 1052953, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2010); Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. Civ.A.08-0626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D. Pa. July 15, 2008). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and need not contain detailed factual allegations. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8; Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Further, the court must "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, the court must "determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. DISCUSSION

In support of its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant has introduced two contracts between itself and Plaintiff. One contract governed the parties' business relationship between October 29, 2007 and February 28, 2009; the second governed the relationship from March 7, 2009 until March 31, 2010. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("Def.'s Mem."), Exs. B & C.)*fn2 Relying on these documents, Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint on two grounds. First, it contends that Plaintiff was an independent contractor, rather than an employee, of Defendant. (Def.'s Mem. 10-16.) Because independent contractors are not covered by any of the anti-discrimination statutes cited in the Complaint, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim. (Id.) Second, Defendant contends that the contract between itself and Plaintiff contains a forum selection clause, which states that any claims arising out of their business relationship must be litigated in the State of Ohio. (Id. at 17-19.)

As discussed in detail below, the Court finds that the forum selection clause is valid and enforceable. Because the parties have contracted to litigate their dispute in Ohio, it would be inappropriate for the Court to address the merits of the Complaint, including Defendant's first argument. The following analysis addresses only those arguments that relate to the forum selection clause.

A. The Parties' Contractual Relationship

The contract that Defendant alleges was in effect at the time it ended its business relationship with ...


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