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Burke v. Anne Arundel Medical Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 8, 2015

BRENDA M. BURKE, Plaintiff,
v.
ANNE ARUNDEL MEDICAL CENTER Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

ELLEN L. HOLLANDER, District Judge.

Brenda M. Burke, the self-represented plaintiff, has sued her former employer, Anne Arundel Medical Center ("AAMC"), defendant, alleging employment discrimination based on race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. See ECF 1 ("Complaint"). Several exhibits are appended to the Complaint.

In particular, plaintiff alleges that she worked as an "EKG/Echo Tech" in AAMC's Cardiology Department for nearly eight years. Id. at 2.[1] She was terminated on November 29, 2012, after she was "involved in a prank" on November 12, 2012. The prank involved Burke hiding in a body bag in order to frighten a co-worker tasked with moving the body from the hospital's emergency room. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff, who is Caucasian, complains that she was the only one out of six involved who was terminated.

Significantly, plaintiff does not allege that the employees who retained their jobs were of a different race than plaintiff.

Nonetheless, based on these facts, she seems to lodge claims of racial discrimination, in violation of Title VII. Id. at 2; 4-5.

In November 2014, AAMC filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment (ECF 6, "Motion"), which is pending. The Motion is supported by several exhibits (ECF 6-2 through ECF 6-12), as well as a legal memorandum (ECF 6-1, "Memo."). Notice of the Motion was sent to plaintiff pursuant to the dictates of Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975). See ECF 7.

On December 19, 2014, plaintiff asked the Court to appoint a lawyer for her. ECF 9. By Order dated April 2, 2015 (ECF 10), I denied plaintiff's request for appointment of counsel. However, I granted plaintiff twenty-one days in which to file a response to AAMC's Motion. Plaintiff did not file a response, and the time to do so has long expired.

For the reasons that follow, I will construe the Motion as a motion to dismiss. Therefore, I construe the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See, e.g., Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 415 (4th Cir. 2006) (en banc). Nonetheless, I will grant the Motion.

A motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the adequacy of a complaint. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must satisfy the pleading standard articulated in Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and the "grounds" for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 & n.3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or "naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted); see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013).

To defeat a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint "must plead facts sufficient to show that [the] claim has substantive plausibility." Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014); see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684 ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions'....") (citation omitted); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see also Epps v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 675 F.3d 315, 320 (4th Cir. 2012); Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 768 (4th Cir. 2011). If the "well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, " the complaint has not shown that "the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted).

In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, '" and must "draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.'" E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir.2011), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 402 (2011). The complaint must contain sufficient factual detail to "nudge[ ] [the plaintiff's] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680.

Dismissal "is inappropriate unless, accepting as true the well-pled facts in the complaint and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff is unable to state a claim to relief....'" Brockington v. Boykins, 637 F.3d 503, 505-06 (4th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). But, the court need not accept unsupported or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). Nor must it accept legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, or legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986); Monroe v. City of Charlottesville, 579 F.3d 380, 385-86 (4th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 559 U.S. 992 (2010).

When a plaintiff fails to oppose a motion to dismiss, a district court is "entitled, as authorized, to rule on the... motion and dismiss [the] suit on the uncontroverted bases asserted [in the motion]." Pueschel v. United States, 369 F.3d 345, 354 (4th Cir. 2004); see also Ferdinand-Davenport v. Children's Guild, 742 F.Supp.2d 772, 777 (D. Md. 2010) ("By her failure to respond to [defendant's] argument" raised in a motion to dismiss, "the plaintiff abandons [her] claim.") (Citation omitted); Mentch v. Eastern Sav. Bank, FSB, 949 F.Supp. 1236, 1247 (D. Md. 1997) (holding that failure to address defendant's arguments for summary judgment in opposition brief constituted abandonment of claim). Moreover, a district court has "the inherent authority... to dismiss a lawsuit sua sponte for failure to prosecute..." United States v. Moussaoui, 483 F.3d 220, 236 (4th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted); see Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629-31 (1962). On the other hand, a plaintiff's failure to oppose a motion to dismiss is no guarantee of victory for the defendant, because the district court also has discretion to decline to "grant a motion to dismiss based on the failure to file a timely opposition when the motion is plainly lacking in merit." United States v. Sasscer, No. Y-97-3026, 2000 WL 1479154, at *2 n.6 (D. Md. Aug. 25, 2000) (citation omitted).

Urging dismissal of the discrimination claim, defendant argues that plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case of racial ...


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