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Judy Lynn Leese and Douglas Glenn Leese, Sr v. Adelphoi Village

June 6, 2012


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



This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser (Doc. 48), filed March 26, 2012, which recommends that we grant the collective Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34) in its entirety. Plaintiffs Judy Lynn Leese and Douglas Glenn Leese, Sr., filed Objections and a Brief in Support of Objections (Docs. 51, 54) on April 12 and April 30, 2012, respectively. The collective Defendants filed a Brief in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Objections (Doc. 56) on May 9, 2012. For the reasons fully detailed herein, we shall adopt in full Magistrate Judge Smyser's Report and Recommendation and grant summary judgment in favor of the Defendants.


A. Review of Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

When objections are filed to the report of a magistrate judge, the district court makes a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 674-75 (1980). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. Id. Although the standard of review is de novo, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) permits whatever reliance the district court, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 674-75; see also Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc, 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

In opposing summary judgment, the non-moving party "may not rely merely on allegations of denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must ... set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones v. United Parcel Serv., 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Arguments made in briefs "are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Twp. of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985). However, the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non- moving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).

Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a factfinder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; there must be a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.


A. Factual Background

The following summary relates the material facts not genuinely in dispute. In accordance with the standard of review applicable to a motion for summary judgment, these facts are derived from the record with all reasonable inferences drawn in favor of the non-moving party.

Plaintiff Judy Leese ("Plaintiff")*fn1 began working for Defendant Adelphoi ("Adelphoi") in October of 2000 as a Multisystemic Therapist ("MST Therapist") working with troubled youths. Throughout her tenure, she advanced to a supervisory position. Beginning with her 2006-2007 annual performance review, and continuing into the spring of 2008, Plaintiff had numerous job performance deficiencies in the view of her supervisors, Defendants Gary Soltys ("Soltys"), Wally Perkins ("Perkins"), and Lisa Matko ("Matko"). As a result of these deficiencies, Defendant Matko created, and worked closely with Plaintiff in implementing, a performance action plan to improve Plaintiff's work performance.

In late 2007, Defendant Matko noted inconsistent improvement in Plaintiff's job performance but believed that, overall, Plaintiff was still performing at an unsatisfactory level. As a result, on December 11, 2007, Defendant Matko issued a written reprimand to the Plaintiff. In April of 2008, a routine follow-up with a client's parents revealed that the Plaintiff had violated company policy with respect to two clients in the summer of 2007. An investigation of these cases ultimately led to the Defendants' decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment.

On April 16, 2008, Defendants scheduled a meeting with Plaintiff for April 18, 2008, at which they intended to explain their investigation of her misconduct and terminate her employment. On April 17, 2008, Plaintiff emailed Defendant Matko, stating that she had seen a doctor that day who placed her on total disability due to her back pain. Plaintiff advised that she would be unable to attend the scheduled meeting. Defendants received medical documentation from Plaintiff's doctor, placing her on disability until May ...

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