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Lisa Balliet v. Scott's Auto Service

March 29, 2013

LISA BALLIET, PLAINTIFF
v.
SCOTT'S AUTO SERVICE, INC., SCOTT'S COLLISION CENTERS, INC., AND SCOTT DEWALT, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Knoll Gardner United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the court on the Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) filed by defendants on November 14, 2011. *fn1 For the reasons expressed in this Opinion, defendants' Motion to Dismiss is denied.

SUMMARY OF DECISION

This employment discrimination action involves claims by plaintiff Lisa Balliet, a former Bookkeeper for the corporate defendants Scott's Auto Service, Inc. and Scott's Collision Centers, Inc. Plaintiff claims that she is disabled and that, when she sought reasonable accommodations for her disability from the corporate defendants through defendant Scott DeWalt, her multiple requests were ignored; and she was ultimately fired for making those requests.

Count I of plaintiff's Complaint asserts a claim against the corporation defendants only for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), *fn2 while Count II asserts a claim against all defendants for violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). *fn3

Defendants's motion seeks to dismiss each of plaintiff's claims for failure to provide sufficient factual allegations in the Complaint. Defendants also seek to dismiss plaintiff's claim against defendant Scott DeWalt because, defendants contend, the PHRA does not permit claims against individual employees. For the reasons expressed below, I deny defendants' motion.

JURISDICTION

This court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 over plaintiff's federal cause of action asserted in Count I of the Complaint. This court has supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) over plaintiff's pendent state-law claim asserted in Count II of the Complaint.

VENUE

Venue for this action is proper for all three defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a substantial part of the events giving rise to plaintiff's claims occurred in Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, which is located within this judicial district.

Corporate defendants are deemed to reside in any judicial district in which they are subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). Because plaintiff's claims arise from actions taken during the course of her employment at Scott's Auto Service, Inc. and Scott's Collision Centers, Inc.; and because those corporate defendants are incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and each operate from the same corporate offices in Easton, *fn4 both corporate defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction within Pennsylvania and within this judicial district. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5301(a)(2)(i), (iii).

Therefore, for purposes of venue, all three defendants reside in Pennsylvania; and Defendants Scotts Auto Service, Inc. and Scott's Collision Centers, Inc. reside in Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, which is located within this judicial district. Accordingly, venue is also proper for all three defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Lisa Balliet initiated this action by filing a two-count Complaint on August 26, 2011. Defendants' counsel executed a Waiver of Service of Summons on September 21, 2011. On November 14, 2011, defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) together with a brief in support. On November 21, 2011, Plaintiff's Answer to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss was filed. Hence this Opinion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A claim may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires the court to examine the sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 84 (1957) (abrogated in other respects by Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Generally, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record, including other judicial proceedings. Sands v.

McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2008).

Except as provided in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9, a complaint is sufficient if it complies with Rule 8(a)(2), which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief".

Rule 8(a)(2) does not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d at 949. *fn5

In determining whether a complaint is sufficient, the court 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, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)).

Although "conclusory" or "bare-bones allegations" will not survive a motion to dismiss, Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210, a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. Nonetheless, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must provide "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Id. at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940) (internal quotations omitted).

The court is required to conduct a two-part analysis when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. First, the factual matters averred in the complaint, and any attached exhibits, should be separated from legal conclusions asserted. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. Any facts pled must be taken as true, and any legal conclusions asserted may be disregarded. Id. at 210-211.

Second, the court must determine whether those factual matters averred are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884).

Ultimately, this two-part analysis is "context-specific" and requires the court to draw on "its judicial experience and common sense" to determine if the facts pled in the complaint have "nudged [plaintiff's] claims" over the line from "[merely] conceivable [or possible] to plausible." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679-680, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1951, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884-885.

A well-pled complaint may not be dismissed simply because "it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at ...


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