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Katherine Garges v. the People's Light & Theater

January 24, 2012


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



Pro se Plaintiff Katherine Garges has sued her former employer, the People's Light & Theater Company ("the Theater"), alleging primarily that the Theater discriminated and retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). After succeeding on a partial motion to dismiss, Defendants now ask the Court to dismiss Ms. Garges's entire action or to strike Ms. Garges's Second Amended Complaint in its entirety because she has included in it redundant, immaterial, and/or impertinent matters. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion in part and deny it in part.


The Court set forth Ms. Garges's factual allegations in detail in its opinion on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. See Garges v. People's Light & Theater Co., Civil Action No. 09-2456, 2010 WL 4273335 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 29, 2010). Therefore, the Court will only briefly restate the facts of the case.

From 2002 until 2007, Ms. Garges, who is a lawyer (though not actively practicing) worked as a sales representative at the People's Light and Theater Company. In her Second Amended Complaint, as in her original Complaint, Ms. Garges describes the workplace there as "raucous" and "freewheeling." Despite this bohemian atmosphere, Ms. Garges alleges that she was fired and assaulted after a verbal altercation with her supervisor, during which she, that is, Ms. Garges, admittedly used coarse language. She claims, however, that the stated reason for her firing -- namely, insubordination -- was "fabricated," and that she was in fact fired for legally impermissible reasons related to her gender and in retaliation for various complaints that she had previously lodged against co-workers.

In her initial Complaint, in addition to employment discrimination claims, Ms. Garges also brought claims for assault and battery; breach of contract; negligence in hiring and supervision; defamation; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Defendants successfully moved to dismiss four of Ms. Garges' tort claims against the Theater on the ground that they are barred by the exclusivity provision of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act. They also sought dismissal of Ms. Garges's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against all Defendants on the ground that Ms. Garges failed to plead facts upon which relief could be granted, and the Court also granted their motion as to that claim. Ms. Garges voluntarily withdrew several of her other claims to the extent that she attempted to allege violations of the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment. Accordingly, the Court dismissed those claims (or portions of them) as well.

After the Defendants answered what remained of the Complaint, and the Court set forth a schedule for the case, the parties proposed and the Court endorsed a stipulation allowing the parties until October 1, 2011 to amend their pleadings or add parties. On September 28, 2011, Ms. Garges filed what she called a First Amended Complaint, presented in the form of an addendum, which required the parties and the Court to refer back laboriously to the original Complaint to determine how Ms. Garges intended to amend that document. The Defendants filed a motion to strike, arguing that the First Amended Complaint stated no new claims, added only immaterial and impertinent matters to an already lengthy Complaint, and served only to confuse the Defendants with its inconvenient format. The Court granted the Defendants' motion, agreeing that the format was confusing and burdensome, but allowed Ms. Garges to refile an amended complaint as a single integrated document. She did so, including therein all of the claims she originally set forth, including those previously dismissed by the Court, and incorporating the new allegations set forth in the First Amended Complaint.

Defendants' have now moved to dismiss or strike her Second Amended Complaint. LEGAL STANDARDS

Under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "the court may order stricken from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter." "The purpose of a motion to strike is to simplify the pleadings and save time and expense by excising from a plaintiff's complaint any redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter which will not have any possible bearing on the outcome of the litigation." Garlanger v. Verbeke, 223 F. Supp. 2d 596, 609 (D.N.J. 2002) (quoting Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Ivax Corp., 77 F. Supp. 2d 606, 619 (D.N.J. 2000)). However, motions to strike are generally viewed with disfavor by the courts and "are often not granted if there is an absence of showing of prejudice to the moving party." Great W. Life Assurance Co. v. Levithan, 834 F. Supp. 858, 864 (E.D. Pa. 1993). Striking a pleading is a "drastic remedy" appropriate only when the grounds for striking are "readily apparent from the face of the pleadings." Johnson v. Anhorn, 334 F. Supp. 2d 802, 809 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (internal citations omitted).

To prevail, the moving party must demonstrate that "the allegations have no possible relation to the controversy and may cause prejudice to one of the parties or [that] the allegations confuse the issues." River Road Development Corp. v. Carlson Corporation-Northeast, No. 89-7037, 1990 WL 69085, at *3 (E.D. Pa. May 23, 1990) (citing 5C C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 1382, at 809-10, 815 (1969)). A court may also strike "redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous" matters on its own. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f)(1).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45--46 (1957). Although Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.

R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), 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) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47), the plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citation omitted).

To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); see also Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano, 131 S. Ct. 1309, 1323 (2011). Specifically, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555(citations omitted). The question is not whether the claimant will ultimately prevail but whether the complaint is "sufficient to cross the federal court's threshold." Skinner v. Switzer, 131 S. Ct. 1289, 1296 (2011) (citation omitted). An assessment of the sufficiency of a complaint is thus "a context-dependent exercise" ...

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