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Edmonds v. Altice Technical Services U.S. LLC

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Bluefield

September 12, 2019

JOHN EDMONDS, Plaintiff,
v.
ALTICE TECHNICAL SERVICES U.S. LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID A. FABER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the court is defendant's partial motion to dismiss, (Doc. No. 4), and plaintiff's motion to amend his Complaint. (Doc. No. 10). For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and plaintiff's motion to amend his Complaint is DENIED.

         I. Background

         This dispute arises out of defendant's termination of plaintiff's employment on or about January 2018.[1] (Doc. No. 1, Exh. A at ¶ 7). According to the Complaint, the allegations of which are taken as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss, plaintiff was employed as a service technician for the defendant. (Id. at ¶ 8). Defendant set forth its employment policies in an employee handbook, which plaintiff acknowledged having received and read. (Doc. No. 4, Exh. A). At the time his employment was terminated, plaintiff suffered from a disability, and per doctor's orders, had ceased working due to an injury.[2] (Doc. No. 1, Exh. A at ¶¶ 9, 15). Defendant was aware of plaintiff's disability. (Id. at ¶ 10). Additionally, plaintiff asserts that agents of the defendant orally promised him that he would be offered light duty work upon his return to work. (Id. at ¶¶ 20, 21). Nevertheless, defendant terminated plaintiff without offering any accommodations for plaintiff's disability and without any offer for light duty work. (Id. at ¶ 20).

         Plaintiff's suit for wrongful termination contains three claims: (1) a claim for violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (“WVHRA”); (2) a claim that his termination violated public policy (a Harless claim); and (3) a claim that defendant's oral promises and its employee handbook created an implied employment contract with plaintiff such that his termination constituted a breach of contract.

         Defendant filed a partial motion to dismiss, seeking to dismiss plaintiff's Harless claim and the breach of contract claim. Plaintiff filed a Response to defendant's partial motion to dismiss, and within that Response also included a motion to amend the Complaint. (Doc. No. 10).

         II. Standards

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) - Motion to Dismiss

         “[A] motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief should not be granted unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would be entitled to no relief under any state of facts which could be proved in support of his claim." Rogers v. Jefferson-Pilot Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 324, 325 (4th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 48 (1957) and Johnson v. Mueller, 415 F.2d 354, 355 (4th Cir. 1969)). "In considering a motion to dismiss, the court should accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff." Mylan Laboratories, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 474, 474 (4th Cir. 1997).

         In evaluating the sufficiency of a pleading, the cases of Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), provide guidance. When reviewing a motion to dismiss, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, a court must determine whether the factual allegations contained in the complaint “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” and, when accepted as true, “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) and 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004)). “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563. As the Fourth Circuit has explained, “to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         According to Iqbal and the interpretation given it by our appeals court,

[L]egal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement fail to constitute well-pled facts for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes. See Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. We also decline to consider “unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Wahi v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 562 F.3d 599, 615 n.26 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1951-52.
Ultimately, a complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Facial plausibility is established once the factual content of a complaint “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. In other words, the complaint's factual allegations must produce an inference of liability strong enough to nudge the plaintiff's claims “‘across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Id. at 1952 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955).
Satisfying this “context-specific” test does not require “detailed factual allegations.” Id. at 1949-50 (quotations omitted). The complaint must, however, plead sufficient facts to allow a court, drawing on “judicial experience and common sense, ” to infer “more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 1950. Without such “heft, ” id. at 1947, the plaintiff's claims cannot establish a valid entitlement to relief, as facts that are “merely consistent with a defendant's liability, ” id. at 1949, fail to nudge claims “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. at 1951.

Nemet Chevrolet, LTD v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255-56 (4th Cir. 2009). When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all of the complaint's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. See Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cnty., Md., 684 F.3d 462, 467 (4th Cir. 2012).

         B. Rule 15(a) - Motion ...


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