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Ransom v. Carbondale Area School District

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 7, 2013


Page 398

For Rosemary Ranson, Plaintiff: Donna A. Walsh, LEAD ATTORNEY, Michael J. Asbell, Myers Brier & Kelly, LLP, Scranton, PA; Edward G. Krowiak, LEAD ATTORNEY, Minora Minora Colassan & Ratchford, Scranton, PA.

For Carbondale Area School District, Defendant: John E. Freund, III, Lucas J. Repka, King, Spry, Herman, Freund & Faul, LLC, Bethlehem, PA.


Page 399


Robert D. Mariani, United States District Judge.

I. Introduction

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss the three causes of action alleged in a First Amendment retaliation suit. (Doc. 6). For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the Motion as to Counts I and II and grant it in part as to Count III. The Court will dismiss Count III as alleged, but will grant the Plaintiff leave to amend.

II. Procedural History

Rosemary Ransom filed a Complaint (Doc. 1) before this Court on June 28, 2012. The Complaint alleged violations of her federal constitutional rights, as well as a pendent state tort claim. Specifically, Ransom alleged that, at all relevant times, she worked as a van driver for Mazz Transportation, LLC, which provided bus-driving services to the Carbondale Area School District. (Compl., Doc. 1, at ¶ 5.) She alleged that she acquired all necessary certifications to provide such services to Carbondale students, and that she performed her services " in a competent manner and satisfied the standards of job performance

Page 400

set by" the School District and Mazz Transportation. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 6-10.)

During this time, however, Ransom also had a child who attended school in the Carbondale School District. ( Id. at ¶ 11.) In May 2010, she filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania against the School District, on behalf of her child. ( Id. ) This lawsuit allegedly concerned educational opportunities afforded her child at school. ( Id. )

Though Ransom planned to provide bus-driving services for the 2011-12 school year, and was assigned by Mazz to provide these services, she was allegedly notified without advance warning, prior to the start of the new school year, that the School District had revoked her certification to provide these services, without a hearing. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 12-17.) She alleged that she was provided with no reasonable explanation for the revocation and that it was in fact retaliation for the lawsuit she had brought previously. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 17, 21.) Moreover, the revocation allegedly caused her workable hours to be reduced, leading to a loss of wages and other harms. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 18, 25-26.)

Based on the foregoing allegations, Ransom alleged three causes of action against the School District. First, she brought a claim for unconstitutional retaliation for exercise of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 27-32.) Second, she brought a claim for deprivation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process, under § 1983, with respect to the loss of her certification without a predeprivation hearing. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 33-35.) Third, she brought a state law claim for intentional interference with contractual relations. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 36-41.) Defendant timely filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6) on all counts. The Court now turns to the merits of that motion.

III. Standard of Review

A complaint must be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), if it does not allege " enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). The plaintiff must aver " factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

" Though a complaint 'does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Props., 672 F.3d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In other words, " [f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). A court " take[s] as true all the factual allegations in the Complaint and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn fro those facts, but ... disregard[s] legal conclusions and threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ethypharm S.A. France v. Abbott Laboratories, 707 F.3d 223, 231, n.14 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

Twombly and Iqbal require [a district court] to take the following three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint: First, the court must take 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

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entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, where 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.

Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist., 706 F.3d 209, 212 (3d Cir. 2013).

" [W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not show[n]--that the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). This " plausibility" determination will be a " context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

However, even " if a complaint is subject to Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must permit a curative amendment unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008).

[E]ven when plaintiff does not seek leave to amend his complaint after a defendant moves to dismiss it, unless the district court finds that amendment would be inequitable or futile, the court must inform the plaintiff that he or she ...

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