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Bellas v. Wvhcs Retention Co.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 18, 2013

NANCY BELLAS, Plaintiff,
v.
WVHCS RETENTION COMPANY, et al., formerly known as WYOMING VALLEY HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, INC., and JAMES CARMODY, as a corporate agent of WVHCS RETENTION COMPANY, formerly known as WYOMING VALLEY HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Here we consider the two pending motions filed by Plaintiff: Motion for Sanctions for Spoliation or, in the Alternative, a Motion to Compel Full and Complete Answers to the Discovery Requests (Doc. 55) filed on August 20, 2013; and Motion to Stay All Action/Response by the Plaintiff, Nancy Bellas, to the Motion for Summary Judgment until the Discovery Matters Have Been Fully Addressed by this Court (Doc. 57) filed on September 3, 2013. The Court heard oral argument on the motions on September 17, 2013. Thereafter, upon agreement of the parties, Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt conducted settlement talks. ( See Doc. 63.) These talks proved unsuccessful. Having suspended consideration of Plaintiff's motions until completion of settlement talks, the Court now takes up the matters which are ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions for Spoliation or, in the Alternative, a Motion to Compel Full and Complete Answers to the Discovery Requests (Doc. 55) is deemed moot in part, granted in part and denied in part; and Plaintiff's Motion to Stay All Action/Response by the Plaintiff, Nancy Bellas, to the Motion for Summary Judgment until the Discovery Matters Have Been Fully Addressed by this Court (Doc. 57) is deemed moot.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

The case was filed in this Court on April 11, 2011. (Doc. 1.) After multiple service problems, Defendants WVHCS Retention Company ("WVHCS") and James Carmody filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss/Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. The following summary is derived from the Court's Memorandum on that motion.[1]

Plaintiff was employed with WVHCS and its predecessor as a full-time registered nurse since approximately 1975.[2] In October 2008, Plaintiff went to the Price Chopper in Edwardsville, Pennsylvania, at approximately 11:15 p.m. following a sixteen (16) hour shift at the hospital. (Doc. 11 ¶ 16.) She parked in the fire lane when she went into the store and received a ticket for doing so. (Doc. 11 ¶ 19.) Plaintiff avers that she paid the ticket immediately but it was returned to her because she had failed to sign the citation. (Doc. 11 ¶ 20.) On or about November 26, 2008, Plaintiff went to the Edwardsville Police Department to pay the fine. (Doc. 11 ¶ 21.) Officer Michael Lehman was the attendant in the office. (Doc. 11 ¶ 22.) At some time prior to December 2, 2008, someone from the Edwardsville Police Department called Lisa Goble, a representative of the Human Resources Department ("HR") of WVHCS, and alleged that Plaintiff "had caused a ruckus' in the Edwardsville Police Department and that she had told Officer Lehman that if he or his associates were in need of care in the Hospital Emergency Room, they would have to wait.'" (Doc. 11 ¶ 27.) Plaintiff denies the allegation that she caused a ruckus. (Doc. 11 ¶ 28.)

Plaintiff's supervisor, Norma Janosky, told Plaintiff that the Edwardsville Police Department was insinuating that she was using the hospital as a tool, and that she would most likely face disciplinary action as she was representing the hospital in this context. (Doc. 11 ¶ 39.) When Plaintiff denied the allegations, Plaintiff was advised to speak with James Carmody, head of the hospital's HR Department. (Doc. 11 ¶ 40.)

Plaintiff avers that she received information that at some point before December 5, 2008, Edwardsville Police Chief David Souchick spoke to Defendant Carmody and told him that "the matter allegedly involving Plaintiff at the Edwardsville Police Department was no more than a misunderstanding' and that the matter should not proceed further." (Doc. 11 ¶ 43.) Plaintiff further avers that Defendant Carmody told Souchick that the matter was "now in the hands of HR." (Doc. 11 ¶ 44.)

An "Agreement" concerning Plaintiff's disciplinary terms was formalized on December 11, 2008. (Doc. 11 ¶ 59.) Plaintiff's discipline included the following: 1) suspension from January 5, 2009, through January 16, 2009; 2) the suspension would be relied upon as the primary basis for any subsequent (progressive) discipline for a period of three years beginning on January 5, 2009; 3) Plaintiff would write a letter of apology to the Edwardsville Police Department; 4) neither Plaintiff nor her union would file a grievance or any such action related to the disciplinary decision; 5) the terms of the Agreement did not establish precedent or suspend, modify, or terminate any provision of the collective bargaining agreement between WVHCS-Hospital and the union; and 6) the determination by the hospital was strictly confidential. (Doc. 11 ¶ 59.)

Defendants aver that Plaintiff was disciplined because of her statements. (Doc. 15-2 at 2.) Plaintiff contends that her discipline was really a result of her age and salary. (Doc. 15-2 at 2 (citing Doc. 11 ¶¶ 61, 73).) Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of the disciplinary action against her and the rumored "buy-out" of the hospital, she felt she was targeted for "extreme and/or unnecessary future action, including termination because of her age and longevity." (Doc. 11 ¶ 73.) She further explains that she felt "because of the potential sale of the Hospital, she would be a target based upon her age, her corresponding pay based upon her years of experience, and her ability to collect the amount of overtime, classifying her as one of the top five paid employees from [the Hospital]." (Doc. 11 ¶ 74.) Plaintiff alleges that "[f]inding no other available options, a lack of meaningful and appropriate communication from the Defendants, and with a likely risk of future termination for aforesaid reasons" Plaintiff submitted a letter to her supervisor stating that she was resigning from her full-time position but wanted to remain "per diem" in both the Endoscopy Unit and Emergency Room. (Doc. 11 ¶ 75.)

In the beginning of January 2009, layoffs were beginning to take place at the hospital in anticipation of the merger. (Doc. 11 ¶ 84.) On January 20, 2009, Plaintiff requested to work additional hours in the Emergency Room and she was assigned to do so. (Doc. 11 ¶ 88.) On January 21, Plaintiff's Endoscopy Unit supervisor, Ms. Janoski, told Plaintiff she could no longer do per-diem work in the Endoscopy Unit. (Doc. 11 ¶ 89.) She was told the directive came from Defendant Carmody. ( Id. ) On the same date, Plaintiff learned she was not allowed to work in the emergency room. (Doc. 11 ¶ 92.) Plaintiff learned that the disciplinary letter in her file would preclude any additional per diem or overtime work. (Doc. 11 ¶ 93.) She states that she "immediately secured further employment at a lower level." (Doc. 11 ¶ 94.) The footnote inserted following this assertion notes that Plaintiff took a job at Moses Taylor Hospital on December 17, 2009. (Doc. 11 ¶ 94 & n.3.)

In May 2009, Wyoming Valley Health Care System, Inc., transferred control of its assets to another entity, now known as WVHCS Retention Company. (Doc. 11 ¶¶ 95-96.) Plaintiff believes that Cornelius Catena replaced Dr. William Host as Chief Executive Officer. (Doc. 11 ¶ 98.) In June or July of 2009, Mr. Catena told Plaintiff that, after discussing the matter with Defendant Carmody, it would not be in the hospital's best interest to rehire her. (Doc. 11 ¶ 100.) Plaintiff believes that Carmody represented to others that Plaintiff had a number of prior disciplinary actions against her. (Doc. 11 ¶ 98.)

B. Procedural Background

Based on the allegations set out above, Plaintiff set out four counts in her Amended Complaint: Count I against both Defendants for violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"); Count II against both Defendants for violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"); Count III against both Defendants for Constructive Discharge; and Count IV against ...


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