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Christopher v. St. Vincent De Paul of Baltimore, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 11, 2015

CLEO ANTHANETT CHRISTOPHER, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL OF BALTIMORE, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Cleo Anthanett Christopher ("Christopher" or "Plaintiff") brings this pro se action against Defendants St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, Inc. ("St. Vincent"), Stephanie Archer-Smith ("Smith"), Portia McConnell ("McConnell"), Michelle Young ("Young"), Toni Adair ("Adair"), and John Schiavone[1] ("Schiavone") (collectively, "Defendants"), [2] alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701, et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. Plaintiff claims that the termination of her employment at St. Vincent was the result of discrimination and harassment related to her alleged disabilities.

Currently pending before this Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10); Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 12); Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Default (ECF No. 15); Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 18); Movants Demetra Doughty and Danielle Christopher-Robinson's Motion to Intervene (ECF No. 21); Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 24); and Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment Settlement (ECF No. 26). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10) is MOOT;[3] Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 12) is DENIED; Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Default (ECF No. 15) is DENIED;[4] Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 18) is GRANTED WITH PREJUDICE; Movants Demetra Doughty and Danielle Christopher-Robinson's Motion to Intervene (ECF No. 21) is DENIED; Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 24) is MOOT;[5] and Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment Settlement (ECF No. 26) is MOOT.[6] Quite simply, as noted below, this case is nearly identical to an earlier action dismissed by this Court on February 7, 2013. This case is thus barred by res judicata and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to all Defendants.

BACKGROUND

In a ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court must accept the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. See, e.g., Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). Moreover, a pro se litigant's complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that the litigant can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Yet, a plaintiff's status as pro se does not absolve him of the duty to plead adequately. See Stone v. Warfield, 184 F.R.D. 553, 555 (D. Md. 1999) (citing Anderson v. Univ. of Md. Sch. Of Law, 130 F.R.D. 616, 617 (D. Md. 1989), aff'd, 900 F.2d 249, 1990 WL 41120 (4th Cir. 1990)).

This action is nearly identical to a complaint filed by Ms. Christopher in this Court against the same Defendants, arising out of alleged discrimination and retaliation related to her August 16, 2010 termination.[7] See Christopher v. St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, Inc., et al., No. CCB-12-2309 (D. Md. Feb. 7, 2013) (" Christopher I "). The background facts of this action were thus fully set forth by this Court in its Memorandum Opinion dismissing Christopher I. Id. To summarize, Plaintiff allegedly suffers from "unfortunate physical and mental difficulties apparently resulting from cerebral aneurysm and/or strokes she suffered in 2009-2010." Id. at 1. Ms. Christopher claims she suffered discrimination due to these conditions, but omits any facts linking her alleged disabilities to discrimination or her termination. Id. Rather, she states that her termination was the result of "insubordination, or because she knew too much'..." Id.

On February 7, 2013, this Court dismissed Ms. Christopher's first lawsuit for failing to state any claims upon which relief may be granted. Id. at 1-2. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit subsequently affirmed this Court's order. Christopher v. St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, Inc., et al., 537 F.Appx. 137 (4th Cir. 2013). Plaintiff then filed the subject action in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, and Defendants removed to this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1441. Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 13), asserting the same allegations and facts of the First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 5). In response, Defendants moved to dismiss. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Second Amend. Compl. (ECF No. 18). Plaintiff has also filed a Motion to Remand (ECF No. 12), a Motion for Entry of Default (ECF No. 15), a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 26), and a Motion for Judgment Settlement (ECF No. 26). Finally, Movants Demetra Doughty and Danielle Christopher-Robinson (the "Proposed Intervenors") filed a Motion to Intervene (ECF No. 21).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is "to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

The Supreme Court's recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). In Twombly, the Supreme Court articulated "[t]wo working principles" that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim). In the context of pro se litigants, however, pleadings are "to be liberally construed, " and are "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted); accord Brown v. N.C. Dept. of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 724 (4th Cir. 2010). Second, even a pro se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege "a plausible claim for relief." Id. at 679; see also O'Neil v. Ponzi, 394 F.Appx. 795, 796 (2d Cir. 2010).

In the employment discrimination context, this pleading standard should not be "onerous." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 764 (4th Cir. 2003). The Supreme Court has indicated that an employment discrimination plaintiff need not plead particular facts conclusively satisfying each element of a prima facie case. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506 (2002).[8] Swierkiewicz, however, did not abrogate the requirement that the plaintiff allege "facts sufficient to state all the elements of her claim." Bass, 324 F.3d at 765 (emphasis added); see Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (explaining that Swierkiewicz does not nullify the heightened pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal ); Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002) ("[T]he Supreme Court's holding in Swierkiewicz v. Sorema did not alter the basic pleading requirement that a plaintiff set forth facts sufficient to allege each element of his claim." (internal citation omitted)).

Even with the degree of flexibility arguably given to employment discrimination plaintiffs, the court must consider whether plaintiff's complaint has met the plausibility requirement of Twombly and Iqbal. See Miller v. Carolinas Healthcare System, 561 F.Appx. 239, 241 (4th Cir. 2014) (explaining that, in the Fourth Circuit, " Swierkiewicz left untouched the burden of a plaintiff to allege facts sufficient to state all elements of her claim." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). In making this assessment, a court must "draw on its judicial experience and common sense" to determine whether the pleader has stated a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. "At bottom, a plaintiff must nudge [its] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible to resist dismissal." Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).

ANALYSIS

A. Motion to ...


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