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Berardi v. Drexel University

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 27, 2014

SALVATORE BERARDI Plaintiff
v.
DREXEL UNIVERSITY Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NITZA I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Before this Court is the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Drexel University ("Defendant" or "Drexel") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) seeking to dismiss the amended complaint for (1) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; (2) failure to substantiate a breach of contract claim and/or establish mutual mistake; and (3) as barred, by the Confidential Separation Agreement and General Release executed by the parties. [ECF 7]. Plaintiff, Salvatore Berardi, opposed the motion [ECF 8], and a reply followed. [ECF 9]. The motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.

For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this action by writ of summons in state court on August 9, 2013, and filed a complaint on November 22, 2013.[1] The matter was removed to federal court on December 20, 2013. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint asserting claims for breach of contract, violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), and mutual mistake, all arising from the Confidential Separation Agreement and General Release (jointly, "Separation Agreement")[2] executed by Plaintiff and Defendant.

For the purpose of ruling on Defendant's motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true the following summary of the relevant factual allegations in the amended complaint:[3]

Plaintiff was employed by Defendant from October 2006 until July 11, 2011 (Am. Compl., ¶ 3), when he was notified that his position as Project Task Coordinator would be eliminated. ( Id. at ¶ 6). Previously, on September 15, 2010, Plaintiff suffered a work-related injury. ( Id. at ¶ 5).
On August 12, 2011, Plaintiff and Defendant executed the Separation Agreement which terminated the employment relationship between them and documented the release, restriction, and reservation of certain rights of the parties. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 7, 10). Briefly, the Separation Agreement provides that Drexel agreed to pay Plaintiff $19, 261.00 and provide tuition remission to Plaintiff's son through June 15, 2012, and, in exchange, Plaintiff agreed to release "any and all Claims" he then had or may have in the future, "arising out of or relating to any conduct, matter, event or omission existing or occurring before" Plaintiff signed the Separation Agreement. The General Release expressly included, as among the released claims, "any claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA")". (Separation Agreement, ¶ 5(b)(vi)). The parties agreed, however, that Plaintiff's release excluded "any open Worker's Compensation claims, short-term and/or long-term disability claims...." ( Id. at ¶ 5(a); Am. Compl., ¶ 9).
Almost eight months later, on April 10, 2012, Plaintiff filed a claim for long-term disability with The Hartford, Drexel's third-party administrator. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 12). On July 17, 2012, Plaintiff's application was approved, noting that he was found disabled as of September 16, 2010. ( Id. at ¶ 13).
On August 4, 2012, the Social Security Administration rendered a decision finding Plaintiff totally and permanently disabled from any form of gainful employment. ( Id. at ¶ 14).

LEGAL STANDARD

When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court "must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The court must determine "whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at 211 ( quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). The complaint must do more than merely allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief; it must "show such an entitlement with its facts." Id. (citations omitted). "[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 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)) (alterations in original). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by ...


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