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Renze v. Longo

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 1, 2017

ELENA RENZE, Plaintiff,
JOHN LONGO, et al . Defendants.



         I. MEMORANDUM

         Pending before the Court are Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendant Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (“Defendant Turnpike”) (Doc. 17) and Defendant John Longo (“Defendant Longo”) (Doc. 19), pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, Defendant Turnpike's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 17) will be GRANTED and Defendant Longo's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 19) will be DENIED.

         A. BACKGROUND[1]

         Defendant Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (“Defendant Turnpike”) employed Plaintiff Elena Renze (“Plaintiff”)'s mother at its Harrison City Maintenance Facility. (Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) ¶ 9). Defendant Longo also worked for Defendant Turnpike at the Harrison City Maintenance Facility, and, for a period of time, was Plaintiff's mother's immediate supervisor. (Id. ¶ 9). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Longo “created a hostile work environment for Plaintiff's mother at Defendant Turnpike.” (Id. ¶ 10). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant Longo was controlling and aggressive toward Plaintiff's mother, and took actions including threatening her with physical violence, including rape and murder, and termination if he saw her speaking to other men at Defendant Turnpike.” (Id. ¶ 10). Plaintiff claims that, as a result of this harassment, Plaintiff's mother “worked in fear of Defendant Longo and always followed his directives to ensure her physical safety and continued employment with Defendant Turnpike.” (Id. ¶ 11). Among other things, Defendant Longo used his power as a supervisor to pressure Plaintiff's mother to bring Plaintiff (then a minor) to the Harrison City Maintenance Facility after he saw a picture of Plaintiff at Plaintiff's mother's work station. (Id. ¶ 12).

         On or about November 12, 2010, Plaintiff's mother brought Plaintiff to Defendant Turnpike's Harrison City Maintenance Facility. (Id. ¶ 13). At that time, Plaintiff was 12 years old. (Id.). Plaintiff's mother continued to bring Plaintiff to the Harrison City Maintenance Facility on a regular basis for months after this initial visit. (Id. ¶ 14). During Plaintiff's visits, Defendant Longo inappropriately touched Plaintiff without her consent. (Id. ¶ 15). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that:

• On multiple occasions, Defendant Longo forcibly held Plaintiff upside down and tickled her, such that her shirt would slide down around her head so that her chest and stomach were exposed. (Id. ¶ 18).
• Defendant Longo held Plaintiff on his knee and forcibly rubbed Plaintiff's genitals against his leg several different times. (Id. ¶ 19).
• Defendant Longo forced Plaintiff to allow him to perform numerous unwanted foot massages by touching her feet in a sexual manner. (Id. ¶ 20).

         Defendant Longo engaged in the above conduct during regular workday hours, and while Plaintiff's mother was absent. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17). Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Longo should have known that such contact was not permitted and that Plaintiff did not consent to the touching. (Id. ¶ 21). Plaintiff alleges that she suffered, and continues to suffer, injuries as a result of Longo's unwanted touching, including mental anguish, emotional distress and physical injury. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23).

         According to Plaintiff, “[o]ther employees of Defendant Turnpike were aware of Defendant Longo's sexual behavior towards Plaintiff. On at least one occasion, another employee of Defendant Turnpike observed Defendant Longo forcibly press Plaintiff onto his knee and grind her genitals against his leg.” (Id. ¶ 24). Plaintiff avers that “[a]s a result of the aforementioned incidents, Plaintiff believes, and therefore avers, that Defendant Turnpike was aware of Defendant Longo's unlawful conduct.” (Id. ¶ 25). Plaintiff further avers that “Defendant Turnpike was aware, or should have been aware, of Defendant Longo's unlawful conduct as a result of Defendant Longo's use of his supervisory authority to permit Plaintiff, a minor, frequent access to Defendant Turnpike's premises for no legitimate reason” and “because of the frequency of Plaintiff's visits to Defendant Turnpike's Harrison City Maintenance Facility.” (Id. ¶¶ 27-28). Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant Turnpike remained deliberately indifferent as to Plaintiff's repeated sexual assaults by its supervisor, Defendant Longo.” (Id. ¶ 29). Plaintiff also claims that “Defendant Turnpike failed to properly train, control, discipline and/or supervise its agent, Defendant Longo.” (Id. ¶ 33).

         In April 2011, Defendant Longo was arrested on charges of child pornography. (Id. ¶ 30). On or about August 28, 2014, Defendant Longo pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a), 18 U.S.C. § 2251(e) and 18 U.S.C. § 2(a), that is, one count of aiding, abetting, inducing and procuring another adult to produce material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor. (Id. ¶ 31). Plaintiff was identified as the minor child depicted in the material possessed and distributed by Defendant Longo. (Id.).

         B. ANALYSIS

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). When faced with a motion to dismiss, a court “must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as ...

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