United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
R. SÁNCHEZ, C.J.
Lucia Capriotti brings this action alleging her boss,
Defendant Richard D. Rockwell, asked her to commit perjury,
and after she refused, he, and the entities he represents,
fired her. Capriotti's claims include wrongful discharge
in Count I and intentional infliction of emotional distress
in Count II. Defendants move to dismiss the entire action
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and
argue this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under both
the Colorado River doctrine and the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine because of a pending state
court action arising from the same set of events as this
action. Defendants also move to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because they argue Capriotti
has failed to state a claim for wrongful discharge and
intentional infliction of emotional distress. Because the
Court declines to abstain under the Colorado River
or Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Court will deny
Defendants' motion in part, insofar as Defendants seek to
dismiss the entire action. Nonetheless, because Capriotti has
failed to state a claim for intentional infliction of
emotional distress, the Court will grant in part
Defendants' motion and dismiss Count II of the Complaint.
was an employee of Defendant Professional Security Broadband
Inc. (PSB) beginning in 2014 until her termination on October
10, 2017. Rockwell is the Chairman of PSB's Board of
Directors and the majority shareholder in PSB. Defendants
Insperity, Inc., Insperity Holdings, Inc., and Insperity PEO
Services, Inc. (collectively, Insperity) became co-employers
of Capriotti and other employees of PSB and its subsidiaries
2017, PSB filed a lawsuit against a former employee, Richard
Leighton, because he left PSB and started his own company.
Capriotti was a witness in the Leighton case and was set to
be deposed. PSB's attorneys therefore met with Capriotti
on September 28, 2017, to discuss her deposition testimony.
During this meeting, Capriotti truthfully answered all
that evening, Rockwell called Capriotti and spoke to her for
a total of 82 minutes over two separate calls. During these
two calls, Rockwell berated Capriotti for her answers
regarding her deposition testimony. Rockwell was frustrated
that the answers she provided “were not incriminating
of Leighton.” Compl. ¶ 23. Rockwell used profanity
and threatened Capriotti with litigation if she did not say
what he wanted her to say. Rockwell also threatened
to remove Capriotti from her position at PSB. Rockwell made
several other threats and insults, and informed Capriotti
that she needed to “fix it.” Id.
¶¶ 30, 32, 35.
following day, Rockwell called Capriotti again with PSB's
attorney. Rockwell asked how Capriotti intended to fix the
problem she had created. Capriotti stated she hoped to
contact Leighton and encourage him to settle the matter with
PSB. Rockwell was dissatisfied and asked Capriotti to write
down everything she could remember regarding the issues with
Leighton. Rockwell's request was allegedly to intimidate
and threaten Capriotti into giving false information and
perjuring herself in her deposition. During the conversation,
Rockwell again used profanity and insulted Capriotti.
Nonetheless, Capriotti complied with the request to write
down the facts regarding Leighton and sent it to Rockwell
around 3:00 p.m. that day.
days later, on October 1, 2017, Capriotti called
Insperity's human resources specialist and reported the
harassment and threats from Rockwell. She also reported she
suffered extreme anxiety and stress as a result. After
Capriotti reported Rockwell, the harassment intensified.
days later, Capriotti again answered questions from PSB's
attorney regarding the litigation with Leighton and her
deposition testimony. Rockwell again called Capriotti and
threatened her. He specifically said at one point,
“I'm going to go kill your children in their
sleep.” Compl. ¶ 46. Capriotti ultimately stated
she would not perjure herself for PSB's benefit and she
was ultimately terminated on October 10, 2017. Capriotti
alleges she was fired in retaliation for her refusal to
perjure herself in her deposition.
Capriotti was fired, on October 25, 2017, Unlimited
Technologies, Inc.-a wholly-owned subsidiary of PSB-filed
suit against Capriotti in the Chester County Court of Common
Pleas. Unlimited asserted claims for breach of contract,
breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting breach of
fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy. In response to these
claims, Capriotti asserted claims for wrongful termination,
abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional
distress. She also attempted to join the Defendants in this
case to the Chester County case.
Chester County Court dismissed Capriotti's claims against
the Defendants in this case, for failure to properly join
them in compliance with Pennsylvania rules of civil
procedure, but allowed her counterclaims against Unlimited to
remain. Defs.' Ex. B (August 3, 2018, Order). The
counterclaims against Unlimited are still pending and the
Chester County case is set for trial on January 20, 2020.
Defendants were dismissed from the Chester County case,
Capriotti filed this action on July 18, 2019. She alleges one
count for wrongful discharge, and a second count for
intentional infliction of emotional distress against all
Defendants. Defendants then moved to dismiss the Complaint.
Defendants argue (1) this Court should abstain from
exercising jurisdiction under the Colorado River
doctrine because of the pending Chester County case; (2) this
Court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine because this case is just an
appeal of the Chester County Court's dismissal of
Defendants; and (3) Capriotti has failed to state a claim for
which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
first move to dismiss Capriotti's Complaint on the basis
of abstention pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1). Under this rule, a court must grant a motion to
dismiss if it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear a
claim. See Nat. Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v.
Corbett, 25 F.Supp.3d 557, 563 (M.D. Pa. 2014) (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)). The Court, however, has jurisdiction
over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1332.
than dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), and as the Third
Circuit recognizes, “dismissal without retention of
jurisdiction on abstention grounds is in the nature of a
dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6).” See Heritage Farms, Inc. v. Solebury
Twp., 671 F.2d 743, 745 (3d Cir. 1982). Under Rule
12(b)(6), the Court relies on the Complaint, attached
exhibits, and matters of public record, including those of
other judicial proceedings. See Sands v. McCormick,
502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2008).
first argue the Court should abstain from exercising
jurisdiction under the Colorado River doctrine
because the pending Chester County case is a “parallel
proceeding.” Defendants argue the cases are parallel
because the claims in this action are identical to the claims
against Unlimited in the Chester County case. The Court,
however, will not abstain under the Colorado River
doctrine because this case and the Chester County case are
not parallel and no extraordinary circumstances merit
Colorado River doctrine allows a federal court to
abstain, either by staying or dismissing a pending federal
action, when there is a parallel ongoing state court
proceeding. See Colorado River Water Conservation Dist.
v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976). The doctrine is
narrowly applied because the “federal courts have a
strict duty to exercise the jurisdiction that is conferred to
them by Congress.” Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v.
George V. Hamilton, Inc., 571 F.3d 299, 307 (3d Cir.
2009) (quoting Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517
U.S. 706 (1996)). Whether abstention is appropriate is a
two-part inquiry: (1) whether there is a parallel state
proceeding that raises substantially identical claims and
nearly identical allegations and issues, and (2) whether
extraordinary circumstances exist to merit abstention.
See Blank River Servs. Inc. v. Towline River Serv.,
Inc., 395 F.Supp.3d 589, 596 (E.D. Pa. 2019) (citing
Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 571 F.3d at 307-08).
case and the Chester County case are not parallel because
they do not involve the same parties, even though they do
involve essentially the same claims. Under the parallel state
proceedings inquiry, the Third Circuit has stated,
“cases are parallel when they involve the same parties
and claims.” Kelly v. Maxum Specialty Ins.
Grp., 868 F.3d 274, 285 (3d Cir. 2017). “Parallel
proceedings are those that are truly duplicative, that is,
when the parties and the claims are identical, or at least
effectively the same.” Id. (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted). While the parties and the
claims need not be strictly identical, “the parties
involved [must be] closely related and that the resolution of
an issue in one [case must] necessarily settle the matter in
the other [case].” Id. at 284 n. 8.
asserts essentially the same claims here as she does in the
Chester County case. In the Chester County case, Capriotti
asserts three counterclaims: wrongful discharge, abuse of
process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In
this case, Capriotti asserts two claims: wrongful discharge
and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The