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Anthony Hildebrand v. Allegheny County

December 7, 2012

ANTHONY HILDEBRAND,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY, ALLEGHENY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Before the Court are two separate Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. Defendant Allegheny County ("AC") has filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint in its entirety under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), while Defendant Allegheny County District Attorney's Office ("DA's Office") filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss (seeking dismissal of Counts II, III and IV) under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). See doc nos. 7 and 5, respectively. Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition to each Motion to Dismiss. See doc. nos. 12 and 9, respectively.

The matters are now ripe for adjudication.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. The Motions Filed Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, federal courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires only " '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 on which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

Building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that a District Court must undertake the following three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Third, "whe[n] there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief." This means that our inquiry is normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the Complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the Complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.

Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679).

The third step of the sequential evaluation requires this Court to consider the specific nature of the claims presented and to determine whether the facts pled to substantiate the claims are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a Complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 210-11; see also Malleus, 641 F.3d at 560.

This Court may not dismiss a Complaint merely because it appears unlikely or improbable that Plaintiff can prove the facts alleged or will ultimately prevail on the merits. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8. Instead, this Court must ask whether the facts alleged raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements. Id. at 556. Generally speaking, a Complaint that provides adequate facts to establish "how, when, and where" will survive a Motion to Dismiss. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 212; see also Guirguis v. Movers Specialty Servs., Inc., 346 F. App'x. 774, 776 (3d Cir. 2009).

In short, a Motion to Dismiss should not be granted if a party alleges facts, which could, if established at trial, entitle him/her to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8.

B. The Motion Filed Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) permits a party to seek to have stricken from any pleading "an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter."

II. DISCUSSION -- DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS*fn1

A. Count I -- Age Discrimination ("ADEA")

A party seeking relief for employment discrimination under Title VII must first establish that he timely filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), that he received a right to sue letter, and that he filed his Complaint in Federal Court within ninety days of a his receipt of a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC. See Burgh v. Borough Council of the Borough of Montrose, 251 F.3d 465, 470 (3d Cir. 2001). The ADEA requires a plaintiff to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within three hundred days of the alleged discriminatory act.

Defendant AC argues that Count I of the Complaint -- Plaintiff's ADEA claim under Title VII -- should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit. Plaintiff counters by arguing that his Complaint, specifically paragraph three, alleges enough factual information under the Iqbal/Twombly standard to survive this Motion to Dismiss.

Paragraph three of the Complaint reads as follows:

All conditions precedent to jurisdiction under section 706 of Title VII, have occurred or been complied with. Plaintiff filed a claim of employment discrimination with the [EEOC]. The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue. The Complaint is filed within 90 days of such Notice of Right to Sue.

Doc. no. 1, ¶ 3. A copy of the Right to Sue letter was not attached to the Complaint.

Because paragraph three and the remainder of the Complaint fails to provide any facts,

i.e. specific dates, as to when Plaintiff raised his claim with the EEOC and when the EEOC issued its right to sue letter to Plaintiff, and because Plaintiff failed to attach his Right to Sue to the Complaint, this Court is constrained to concur with Defendant AC that the Complaint falls short of providing the facts to establish whether he has adequately exhausted his administrative remedies. Accordingly, the Court will grant Defendant AC's Motion to Dismiss Count I of the Complaint, but will do so without prejudice to allow Plaintiff time to file an Amended Complaint establishing the factual basis to support the legal conclusion that he has exhausted his administrative remedies.

B. Count II -- Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law

The pertinent sections of Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law read as follows:

(a) Persons not to be discharged.--No employer may discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding the employee's compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee makes a good faith report or is about to report, verbally ...


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