United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Virginia Spano (“Spano”) and Susan Mizak
(“Mizak”) commenced this action against their
former employers asserting claims under Pennsylvania's
Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat.
Ann. § 260.1 et seq., and the federal Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et
seq., in addition to a common-law claim for wrongful
discharge. Defendants advance counterclaims against Spano for
common-law conversion and breach of fiduciary duty as well as
a statutory claim under Pennsylvania's Uniform Trade
Secrets Act, 12 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5301 et seq.
Spano moves for a more definite statement of defendants'
counterclaims and alternatively to strike the counterclaims
pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(e) and 12(f).
(Docs. 48, 49). Plaintiffs also seek spoliation sanctions
against defendants. (Doc. 55 ¶ 2).
Factual Background & Procedural History
and Mizak are former employees of defendant Ohio Hospice and
Palliative Care (“Ohio Hospice”), which does
business in Pennsylvania under the name Paramount Hospice and
Palliative Care (“Paramount Hospice”). (Doc. 13
¶¶ 4-5, 8, 18). The second amended complaint
generally alleges that defendants underpaid Spano and Mizak,
in violation of Pennsylvania's wage-and-hour law, by not
allowing them to log overtime hours on their timesheets.
(See Doc. 13 ¶¶ 9, 12, 17, 20). Plaintiffs
also allege that their eventual terminations on November 24,
2015, were based on age discrimination, in violation of the
ADEA, and retaliation for reporting fraud and poor patient
conditions, in violation of Pennsylvania common law. (See
id. ¶¶ 12, 17, 31-32). Defendants supposedly
prevented Spano and Mizak from completing their final
timesheets and then accused Spano and Mizak of falsifying
various timesheets during their employment. (Id.
¶¶ 14, 22, 37-38).
allege that, upon receiving notice of her termination, Spano
entered a secure room and removed certain confidential and
proprietary business records and patient records protected by
the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of
1996 (“HIPAA”). (Doc. 46 ¶¶ 132-36).
Spano shared these records with both her attorney, Robert M.
Davant, Esquire (“Attorney Davant”), and Mizak.
(Id. ¶¶ 138, 145). According to
defendants, Attorney Davant used these records to prosecute
plaintiffs' claims against defendants before the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and in
the instant litigation. (Id. ¶ 148). Defendants
claim that Spano violated Paramount Hospice's
confidentiality statement and policy and her HIPAA training,
(see id. ¶¶ 128-31, 137), and that
Spano's misconduct was reported to federal and state law
enforcement authorities, (id. ¶ 152).
for Spano and Mizak notified defendants of their intent to
sue by letter dated March 21, 2016. (Doc. 71-12). After
filing charges with the EEOC and receiving right-to-sue
letters, plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Court of Common
Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which defendants
timely removed to this court. In their second amended
complaint, Spano and Mizak raise a bevy of claims on behalf
of themselves and all others similarly situated for unpaid
overtime wages, wrongful termination, and age discrimination.
Defendants answered the second amended complaint and asserted
counterclaims against Spano for conversion, misappropriation
of trade secrets, and breach of fiduciary duty.
plaintiffs' pending motions concerns defendants'
alleged failure to preserve sign-in and sign-out sheets in
anticipation of litigation. According to plaintiffs,
employees were required to sign in and out at the reception
desk daily, and because defendants did not allow Spano and
Mizak to log overtime on their timesheets, the sign-in and
sign-out sheets more accurately reflect plaintiffs' hours
worked. (Doc. 13 ¶¶ 9, 12, 17, 20). Plaintiffs
served a request for production of documents on November 27,
2018, seeking sign-in and sign-out sheets from several of
defendants' facilities for January 1, 2013, through
November 24, 2015. (Doc. 71-9 ¶¶ 2-5). Defendants
responded that sheets are not maintained for more than three
months pursuant to unwritten company policy. (Id.;
Doc. 71-10, Darmstadter Dep. 12:1-15; Doc. 71-18, Butter Dep.
15:7-18, 20:11-18). Defendants retained only the sign-in and
sign-out sheets for the three months before plaintiffs'
termination which were used to determine that plaintiffs were
supposedly falsifying their timesheets. (See Doc.
71-1 at 1-9; see also Butter Dep. 6:14-10:12,
moves for a more definite statement of counterclaims pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). Alternatively,
Spano seeks to strike the counterclaims under Rule 12(f).
Spano and Mizak together also move for spoliation sanctions
against defendants. The motions are fully briefed and ripe
may move for a more definite statement of a pleading that is
“so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably
prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). Any Rule 12(e)
motion “must be made before filing a responsive
pleading and must point out the defects complained of and the
details desired.” Id. Courts should only grant
a motion for a more definite statement in those “rare
case[s]” when a pleading is so unintelligible or
ambiguous that the movant cannot prepare a response-even a
simple denial-without incurring potential prejudice.
Wadhwa v. Sec'y, Dep't of Veterans Affairs,
505 Fed.Appx. 209, 214 (3d Cir. 2012) (nonprecedential)
(quoting Schaedler v. Reading Eagle Publ'n,
Inc., 370 F.2d 795, 798 (3d Cir. 1967)); 5C Charles Alan
Wright & Arthur Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure
§ 1376 (3d ed. 2019).
may strike any “insufficient defense or any redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter” from a
pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). District courts have
“considerable discretion in disposing of a Rule 12(f)
motion to strike.” 5C Wright & Miller,
supra, § 1382; see Zarichny v. Complete
Payment Recovery Servs., Inc., 80 F.Supp.3d 610, 615
(E.D. Pa. 2015). Motions to strike are disfavored and will
usually be denied unless the offending allegation has no
relation to the action, prejudices one party, or will confuse
the issues in the litigation. 5C Wright & Miller,
supra, § 1382; see also Cipollone v.
Liggett Grp., Inc., 789 F.2d 181, 188 (3d Cir. 1986).
Any doubts about the challenged material should be resolved
in favor of the nonmovant. 5C Wright & Miller,
supra, § 1382.