Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Vay v. Allegheny County of Pennsylvania

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

November 1, 2017

KELLY J. VAY, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY OF PENNSYLVANIA; WILLIAM MCKAIN, County Manager in his individual and official capacity; KARL WILLIAMS, Medical Examiner, in his individual and official capacity; ROBERT HUSTON, Administrator, Laboratory Director of the Medical Examiner of Allegheny County, in his individual and official capacity; STEPHEN PILARSKI, former Administrator of the Office of the Medical Examiner of Allegheny County and currently Deputy Manager of Allegheny County, in his individual and official capacity; and MICHAEL BAKER, former Manager of Morgue Operations, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This action involves allegations by Plaintiff that Defendants retaliated against her by suspending her for twenty-six days after she sent a letter to a county executive that outlined matters of public concern. In her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendants under the First Amendment for retaliation. (Docket No. 1). Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Grounds of Res Judicata. (Docket No. 55). The matter has been fully briefed, and the parties filed supplemental materials following oral argument. (See Dockets Nos. 55-57, 59-63, 66-72, 75, 77-78). Also pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendants' Supplement. (Docket No. 76). After careful consideration of the parties' positions and having evaluated all of the evidence in light of the appropriate standard governing motions for summary judgment, and for the following reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendants' Supplement will be DENIED, as moot.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not contested. On June 16, 2014, Plaintiff Kelly Vay filed a complaint at Civil Action No. 14-769 (“Vay I”) and asserted Equal Protection claims against Robert Hudson, Stephen Pilarski, Michael Baker, and Michael Chichwak under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for gender discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation. (Docket No. 56 at & 1; Docket No. 60 at & 1). After the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, she added Allegheny County as a defendant under Title VII. (Docket No. 56 at && 2-3; Docket No. 60 at && 2-3). The Court subsequently granted Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint to add a claim against Allegheny County under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”). (Docket No. 56 at && 4-5; Docket No. 60 at && 4-5). After Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a third amended complaint, which Defendants opposed, the Court denied the motion, finding that Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate good cause. (Docket No. 56 at && 6-8; Docket No. 60 at && 6-8).

         On August 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant action (“Vay II”) and asserted a First Amendment retaliation claim against Allegheny County, William McKain, Karl Williams, Mr. Pilarski, and Mr. Baker. (Docket No. 56 at & 9; Docket No. 60 at & 9). Plaintiff claimed that “‘[i]ndividual Defendants acted under color of law in violating Vay's First Amendment rights when they suspended her for 20 days on August 20, 2013 because of the letter to the County Executive and the newspaper article of August 3, 2013.'” (Docket No. 56 at & 10 (quoting Docket No. 1 at & 35); Docket No. 60 at & 10). In their answer to Plaintiff's complaint, Defendants raised res judicata as an affirmative defense. (Docket No. 56 at & 12; Docket No. 60 at & 12).

         In Vay I, Plaintiff claimed that her twenty-six day suspension in August of 2013 was a result of gender discrimination and was received in retaliation for opposing gender discrimination in the workplace. (Docket No. 56 at & 11; Docket No. 60 at & 11). Vay I was transferred to the Honorable Mark A. Kearney on October 30, 2016.[1] (Docket No. 56 at & 13; Docket No. 60 at & 13). Following a jury trial, a verdict was entered in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff. (See Docket Nos. 367, 368 at Vay I, Civil Action No. 14-769). Plaintiff filed an appeal on March 9, 2017. (See Docket No. 369 at Vay I).

         III. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Following the trial in Vay I, Defendants filed in this action a motion for summary judgment on the basis of res judicata, a concise statement of material facts and supporting exhibits, and a brief in support of their motion. (Docket Nos. 55, 56, 57). Plaintiff responded with a brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, a response to Plaintiff's statement of material facts and supporting exhibits, and a statement of additional facts. (Docket Nos. 59, 60, 62). Defendants filed a reply and a response to Plaintiff's statement of additional facts. (Docket Nos. 66, 67). Plaintiff filed a sur-reply. (Docket No. 68). The Court heard oral argument on June 29, 2017, at which time Plaintiff orally moved to stay this matter pending the appeal in Vay I. (Docket Nos. 72, 73). The Court took Defendant's oral motion under advisement and granted Defendants' request to supplement the record. (Docket No. 72). The Court denied Plaintiff's oral motion to stay on June 30, 2017. (Docket No. 74). On June 30, 2017, Defendants filed their first supplement, which included Additional Exhibits in Support of their Concise Statement of Material Facts, on June 30, 2017. (Docket No. 75). On July 18, 2017, Defendants filed a second supplement. (Docket No. 78).

         IV. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment may only be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Pursuant to Rule 56, the Court must enter summary judgment against the party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A motion for summary judgment will only be denied when there is a genuine issue of material fact, i.e., if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 363 (3d Cir. 2005). The mere existence of some disputed facts is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         In determining whether the dispute is genuine, the court's function is not to weigh the evidence, to determine the truth of the matter, or to evaluate credibility. The court is only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. McGreevy, 413 F.3d at 363; Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, 142 F.3d 639, 643 n.3 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 762 n.1 (3d Cir. 1994)). In evaluating the evidence, the court must interpret the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 147 (3d Cir. 2007). As to materiality, the relevant substantive law identifies which facts are material. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Id. “Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id.

         V. DISCUSSION

         The parties dispute whether this action is barred under the doctrine of res judicata by Vay I. “Res judicata bars a party from initiating a subsequent suit against the same adversary based on the same cause of action as a prior suit.” Marmon Coal Co. v. Dir., Office of Workers' Comp. Programs, 726 F.3d 387, 394 (3d Cir. 2013). For a res judicata defense to succeed, the proponent must establish that: “(1) a final judgment on the merits in a prior suit involving (2) the same parties or their privies and (3) a subsequent suit based on the same cause of action.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). Identifying a “cause of action” for res judicata purposes turns on the “essential similarity of the underlying events giving rise to the various legal claims.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). The parties do not dispute that a final judgment on the merits was entered in Vay I and that the same parties or their privities were involved in Vay I as in the instant action. (See Docket Nos. 57, 59). Thus, the issue of res judicata turns on whether the instant action is based upon the same cause of action asserted in Vay I.

         The Third Circuit takes “a ‘broad view' of what constitutes the same cause of action.” Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 261 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Churchill v. Star Enters., 183 F.3d 184 (3d Cir. 1999)). Although there is no simple test to be used, courts look “to whether there is an ‘essential similarity of the underlying events giving rise to the various legal claims, '” rather than the specific legal theory involved. Corestates Bank, N.A. v. Huls Am., Inc., 176 F.3d 187, 194 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting United States v. Athlone Indus., 746 F.2d 977, 984 (3d Cir. 1984)); see also Lubrizol Corp. v. Exxon Corp., 929 F.2d 960, 963 (3d Cir. 1991) (explaining that “the term ‘cause of action' cannot be precisely defined, nor can a simple test be cited for use in determining what constitutes a cause of action for res judicata purposes”) (internal quotations omitted); Davis v. United States Steel Supply, Div. of United States Steel Corp., 688 F.2d 166, 171 (3d Cir. 1982) (noting that res judicata does not rest on “the specific legal theory invoked”). This principle is “in ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.