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Carroll v. Lackawanna County

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 22, 2013

NANCY CARROLL, Plaintiff,
v.
LACKAWANNA COUNTY et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is a Partial Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint (Doc. 13) filed by Defendants Lackawanna County, Corey O'Brien, Michael Washo, and A.J. Munchak (collectively, "Defendants"). Defendants move to dismiss Count II of the Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl., " Doc. 11) filed by Plaintiff Nancy Carroll ("Carroll") under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because Carroll has failed to state facts to sufficiently allege that she had a property interest in employment or that the disclosures surrounding her demotion were stigmatizing and false, Defendants' motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The facts as alleged in the Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) are as follows:

Carroll has been employed by the Lackawanna County Prison for seventeen (17) years. (Am. Compl., ¶ 1.) Over the course of her employment, she eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant and was the sole woman serving in that position. Id. at ¶¶ 1-2. On or about December 16, 2010, she was demoted to the rank of Corrections Officer and suffered a $20, 000 reduction in pay. Id. at ¶ 16. Carroll did not violate any policy and had no disciplinary warnings in her file prior to her demotion. Id. at ¶ 15. Several male counterparts who violated policies were not demoted and did not receive a $20, 000 pay cut. Id. at ¶ 18. Defendants employ a progressive discipline policy. Id. at ¶ 5. Defendants alleged that Carroll was demoted for a policy violation. Id. at ¶ 18. Carroll's name was "disclosed to local media along with her disciplinary action, wrongful demotion and other remarks that caused her to be viewed with hatred and ridiculed since they implied that she was responsible for the beating of an inmate." Id. at ¶ 24. Carroll has enjoyed a good reputation for truth, honesty, and reliability in her trade and in the community. Id. at ¶ 26.

Her reputation has been tarnished based on the statements made surrounding her demotion. Id. at ¶ 28.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of his or her claims. See Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2000). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain... a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by alleging sufficient facts. Id. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). As such, "[t]he touchstone of the pleading standard is plausability." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012).

The inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage 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).

Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, meaning enough factual allegations "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955). The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. "When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937.

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n. 13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "bald assertions'" or "legal conclusions.'" Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997)).

DISCUSSION

Due Process ...


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