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Dervas v. Taylor Health and Rehabilitation Center LLC

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 31, 2013

JUDY DERVAS, Plaintiff,
v.
TAYLOR HEALTH AND REHABILITATION CENTER LLC d/b/a Riverside Rehabilitation & Nursing Center f/k/a Taylor Nursing and Rehab Center, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.

Presently before the court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 15). Finding that genuine issues of material fact remain with respect to the plaintiff's claims under both Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.C.S. § 955, et seq., the motion will be DENIED IN PART. The motion will be GRANTED, however, to the extent that the court finds that punitive damages are not an available remedy.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff instituted the instant action by filing a complaint on October 18, 2011. (Doc. No. 1). The plaintiff alleges that she was terminated by the defendant because of her age, in violation of the ADEA and the PHRA.

The plaintiff was employed at the defendant's facility as a Licensed Practical Nurse ("LPN") from February 14, 1983 to January 18, 2010. (Doc. No. 22 ¶¶ 4-5). The plaintiff, who was born on June 30, 1950 and was sixty years of age when she was terminated, alleges that the she was targeted for discipline and eventually terminated because of her age. (Id. at ¶ 1). The defendant argues that the plaintiff's termination was based on four disciplinary infractions over a four month period while the defendant's facility was under heightened administrative scrutiny.

On December 31, 2012, the defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 15), and a brief in support, (Doc. No. 16). The defendant argues that: (1) the plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie discrimination claim because she was not replaced by a sufficiently younger individual; (2) the defendant had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason to terminate the plaintiff; (3) the plaintiff has not presented evidence that the defendant's proffered reasons are pretextual; (4) the plaintiff has not demonstrated a pattern or practice of discrimination; (5) punitve damages are not available under the ADEA or PHRA and; (6) the PHRA claim fails for the same reasons as the ADEA claim.

On January 25, 2013, the plaintiff filed a brief in opposition, (Doc. No. 23), a statement of material facts, (Doc. No. 22), and a response to the defendant's factual assertions, (Doc. No. 21). In addition to refuting the defendant's assertions that the plaintiff was terminated for non-discriminatory reasons, the plaintiff also argues that the motion should be dismissed due to the defendant's procedural non-compliance in failing to file a separate statement of material facts and a certificate of non-concurrence. On February 8, 2013, the defendant filed a brief in reply, (Doc. No. 24).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, the discovery [including, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file] and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show 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; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and is material if it will affect the outcome of the trial under governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Ericksen, 903 F.Supp. 836, 838 (M.D. Pa. 1995). At the summary judgment stage, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; see also Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (a court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations). Rather, the court must consider all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007).

To prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must affirmatively identify those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. The moving party can discharge the burden by showing that "on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." In re Bressman, 327 F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir.2003); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets this initial burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts, " but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor. Boyle v. County of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, if the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to [the non-movant's] case, and on which [the non-movant] will bear the burden of proof at trial, " Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment because such a failure "necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23; see also Jakimas v. Hoffman-La Roche, Inc., 485 F.3d 770, 777 (3d Cir. 2007).

III. DISCUSSION

ADEA claims, and analogous PHRA claims, are evaluated under the burden shifting framework outlined in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). See Fasold v. Justice, 409 F.3d 178, 184 (3d Cir. 2005). Under McDonnell Douglas, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof as well as the initial burden of production and must first demonstrate a prima facie case of discrimination. Smith v. City of Allentown, 589 F.3d 684, 689 (3d Cir. 2009). To demonstrate a prima facie case, the plaintiff must show: "first, that the plaintiff is forty years of age or older; second, that the defendant took an adverse employment action against the plaintiff; third, that the plaintiff was qualified for the position in question; and fourth, that the plaintiff was ultimately replaced by another employee who was sufficiently younger to support an inference of discriminatory animus." Id. (citing Potence v. Hazleton Area Sch. Dist., 357 F.3d 366, 370 (3d Cir.2004).

If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the employer to identify a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the termination. Id. at 690 (citing Keller v. Orix Credit Alliance, Inc., 130 F.3d 1101, 1108 (3d Cir.1997). If the employer identifies a non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action, the burden of production returns to the plaintiff to demonstrate that the reason offered by the ...


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