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Thomas v. Christian H. Buhl Legacy Trust

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 23, 2015

WILLIE B. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTIAN H. BUHL LEGACY TRUST, SANDRA GLOVER, Sharon Regional, RAYMOND GREENE, Sharon Regional, and CAROL NOVELLI, Sharon Regional, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NORA BARRY FISCHER, District Judge.

The present action involves a purported claim of age and discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, brought pro se by Willie B. Thomas ("Plaintiff") against the Christian H. Buhl Legacy Trust ("the Trust"), [1] Sandra Glover, Raymond Greene, and Carol Novelli (collectively, "Defendants").[2]

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis on April 4, 2014. (Docket No. 1). On April 8, 2014, the Court granted same. (Docket No. 2). On June 6, 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's first complaint. (Docket No. 9). The Court entered an Order on Motions Practice on the same day. (Docket No. 11). On July 8, 2014, the Court issued a Show Cause Order, requiring Plaintiff to show good cause why the matter should not be dismissed for failure to respond to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in the time required by the Order on Motions Practice. (Docket No. 16). Plaintiff timely responded to same. (Docket No. 17). In light of his response, the Court denied Defendants' First Motion to Dismiss and ordered Plaintiff to file a First Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 18).

On August 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "Supplemental Response, " (Docket No. 19), which the Court construed as his First Amended Complaint, (Docket No. 20). Defendants moved to dismiss said First Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 22). Plaintiff again failed to file a response within the time limit established in the Order on Motions Practice, (Docket No. 11), and the Court issued a second Show Cause Order, (Docket No. 24). He timely filed a response thereto. (Docket No. 25). On October 15, 2014, the Court ordered a hearing on Defendants' Motion occur. (Docket No. 26). Based on Plaintiff's claim of financial hardship, he was granted leave to attend same via telephone. (Docket No. 28).

At that hearing, on October 29, 2014, the Court took great care in explaining to Plaintiff the pleading standard necessary to overcome a Motion to Dismiss in the Federal system. ( See, e.g., Docket No. 37 at 31:3-16). Based on the representations Plaintiff made at this hearing, the Court denied Defendants' Second Motion to Dismiss and granted Plaintiff leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 30). In that Order, the Court required Plaintiff to include in said Complaint "detailed factual averments consistent with the Court's direction at the Motion Hearing." ( Id. ).

Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on December 5, 2014. (Docket No. 34). On December 23, 2014, Defendants filed their third Motion to Dismiss. (Docket No. 35). The Court issued yet another Show Cause Order on January 20, 2015, for Plaintiff's failure to timely respond to Defendant's Motion. (Docket No. 38). On February 3, 2015, Plaintiff responded to the Show Cause Order. (Docket No. 39).

II. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The operative complaint in this case it Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 34). In this Complaint, Plaintiff alleges race and age discrimination stemming from three applications for employment with Sharon.[3] Subsequent to his submission of the final application, on February 6, 2013, Plaintiff alleges that he spoke with various employees of Sharon, including all named individual Defendants. Plaintiff supports his age discrimination claim with an allegation that age was a factor in the hiring process at Sharon because three younger women[4] with whom he worked at McDonald's were hired by Sharon. ( Id. at 2-3).

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

a. Failure to State a Claim Under FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. The United States Supreme Court has held that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)) (alterations in original).

The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. As the Supreme Court made clear in Twombly, however, the "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The Supreme Court has subsequently broadened the scope of this requirement, stating that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This standard requires showing "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). "This plausibility' determination will be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

After Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that a district court must conduct the following analysis to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, the court must "tak[e] 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 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."

Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679); see also Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1861 (Apr. 2, 2012); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

Twombly and Iqbal have not changed the other pleading standards for a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6), and the requirements of FED.R.CIV.P. 8 must still be met. See Burtch, 662 F.3d at 220. Rule 8 requires a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief, and "contemplates the statement of circumstances, occurrences, and events in support of the claim presented and does not authorize a pleader's bare averment that he wants relief and is entitled to it." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (internal alterations, citations, and quotations omitted). The Supreme Court has explained that a complaint need not be "a model of the careful drafter's art" or "pin plaintiffs' claim for relief to a precise legal theory" so long as it states "a plausible short and plain' statement of the plaintiff's claim." Skinner v. Switzer, 131 S.Ct. 1289, 1296 (2011); see also Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. ...


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