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Bordignon v. Eastern University

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 26, 2017



          O'NEILL, J.

         Plaintiff Scott Bordignon brings a claim for promissory estoppel against defendant Eastern University, Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 10, alleging defendant hired him knowing he was a Canadian national and promised to sponsor his H1-B visa application, only to decline to sponsor his visa and subsequently fire him immediately after he had relocated to Pennsylvania from Washington, D.C. and stopped pursuing other job opportunities. Id. I have before me defendant's motion to dismiss, Dkt. No. 11, plaintiff's response, Dkt. No. 12, and defendant's reply, Dkt. No. 13. For the following reasons, I will deny defendant's motion.


         Plaintiff, a Canadian national, applied to be an assistant athletic trainer at Eastern University. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. During his interview, he explained that he would need sponsorship for an H1-B Visa. Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant, by and through its employees, advised Plaintiff that his H1-B Visa would be sponsored and that he should not be concerned.” Id. ¶ 12. He was later offered the job by John Post, an Eastern University professor, and he accepted. Id. ¶ 13.

         While discussing the position and his potential start date with Post, plaintiff inquired about the status of his H1-B visa sponsorship and alleges he was told that “everything would be taken care of.” Id. ¶¶ 15, 16. He alleges he was later again told by unnamed “agents and employees” that he should not be concerned and that there was no doubt the sponsorship was being processed. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff then moved from Washington, D.C. to Delaware County, Pennsylvania and stopped applying to and interviewing for other jobs. Id. ¶¶ 21-22.

         Immediately prior to the start of the fall semester, the Eastern University human resources director told plaintiff that the University only sponsored H1-B visas for faculty, not staff. Id. ¶ 24-26. Plaintiff offered to pay for any attorneys' fees and filing costs involved in the effort to obtain the visa. Id. ¶ 30. After discussing the visa process for approximately one month, Eastern University fired plaintiff. Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff has since returned to Canada. Id. ¶ 35.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Typically, “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” though plaintiff's obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (citations omitted). This “simply calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of” the necessary element. Id. at 556. The Court of Appeals has made clear that after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “conclusory or ‘bare-bones' allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: ‘threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.' To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out ‘sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court also set forth a two part-analysis for reviewing motions to dismiss in light of Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.”

Id. at 210-11, quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court explained, “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., citing Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008). “[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)(2).


         I. Jurisdiction

         Plaintiff filed his first complaint in this court alleging discrimination in violation of federal laws and asserting federal question jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 1. I dismissed that complaint for failure to state a claim but granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. Dkt. No. 8. Plaintiff now brings a state claim for promissory estoppel. Defendant challenges jurisdiction, arguing that this court cannot exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim because plaintiff's federal claim was dismissed. Dkt. No. 11 at p. 12-15. However, plaintiff does not contend the court has supplemental jurisdiction over this claim, but rather alleges his claim rests in the court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). See Am. Compl. ¶ 6. Because defendant's motion does not show that the parties have the same citizenship[1] or that it appears “to a legal certainty [that] the claim is really for less than” $75, 000, defendant has not shown that this court lacks jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim. Horton v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 367 U.S. 348, 353 (1961); see also Golden v. Golden, 382 F.3d 348, 354-55 (3d Cir. 2004) (explaining that, when a plaintiff brings a claim under diversity jurisdiction, “[t]he amount need not be proven; rather, the amount is judged from the face of the complaint and is generally established by a good faith allegation”).

         II. ...

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