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Rodriguez v. Allegheny County

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 2, 2015



TERRENCE F. McVERRY, District Judge.

Now pending before the Court is DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 9), filed by Defendants ("Allegheny County") with brief in support. Plaintiff Kelli Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") filed a response and brief in opposition to the motion (ECF Nos. 12, 13). The motion is ripe for disposition.

Factual and Procedural Background

Rodriguez was hired as a dispatcher at the Allegheny County 9-1-1 call center on September 3, 2013. Her employment was terminated on December 18, 2013. Rodriguez asserts claims of employment discrimination under Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") for a hostile work environment; gender and race discrimination; and retaliation.

Rodriguez filed her original Complaint in state court and Defendants timely removed the case to this Court. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the original complaint, with a brief in support. Instead of responding to the motion, on January 10, 2015 Rodriguez filed an Amended Complaint. Accordingly, the Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss the original Complaint as moot. Defendants renewed their challenges to the legal merit of Rodriguez's claims by filing a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint. The Court again issued an Order for Plaintiff to respond to the motion. Again, instead of responding to the motion, on February 9, 2015 Rodriguez filed a Second Amended Complaint. Defendants then filed the instant motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. Rodriguez was ordered to respond to the instant motion by March 16, 2015. She did so. However, as part of her response she seeks leave to file yet another Complaint if Defendant's motion is granted in full - which would be her fourth Complaint in this case.

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, a plaintiff is permitted to amend a complaint "as a matter of course" just once. In this case, Plaintiff has already used her amendment "as a matter of course." By rule, a plaintiff is prohibited from evading a defendant's arguments for dismissal by submitting serial amended Complaints. Instead, she may amend her pleading more than once "only with the opposing party's consent or the court's leave." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).

The Court recognizes that it should freely allow Plaintiffs leave to amend when justice so requires. However, Rodriguez has already had three "bites at the apple" in this case, as she has repeatedly amended her complaint in response to Defendants' prior motions to dismiss. Rodriguez has failed to satisfy Rule 15(a)(2) and she has failed to articulate any reason why the Court should countenance a fourth bite at the apple. Such repetitive amendments constitute undue prejudice to Defendants and are not consistent with the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of this action. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 1.

The Court denies leave to amend and the proposed Third Amended Complaint is hereby stricken.[1] The Second Amended Complaint shall constitute the operative pleading. No further amendments will be permitted except upon good cause shown.

II. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. However, as the Supreme Court made clear in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007), the "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. 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. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

A district court must conduct a two-part analysis when presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. First, the Court must separate the factual and legal elements of the claim. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Although the Court "must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, [it] may disregard any legal conclusions." Id. at 210-211. Second, the Court "must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.' In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to show' such an entitlement with its facts." Id. at 211 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Determining "plausibility" is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

Legal Analysis

Defendants contend that this case should be dismissed in its entirety. In her response, Rodriguez concedes that "Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services" is not a proper Defendant and should be removed from the case. Rodriguez further concedes that she is not entitled to recover punitive damages. However, Rodriguez maintains that each of her claims against Allegheny County is valid.

As an initial matter, the same legal standards govern claims under Title VII and the PHRA, such that they will be addressed together. As to the hostile work environment claims (Counts 1 and 2), Allegheny County argues that the allegations do not amount to "severe and pervasive" misconduct. As to her claims of discrimination (Counts 3-6), Allegheny County contends that Rodriguez has failed to plead any facts to show that she was treated differently (or terminated) because of her gender and/or her race. As to the retaliation claims (Counts 7 and 8), Allegheny County argues that Rodriguez has ...

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