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Krupczak v. Dla Piper LLP U.S.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 27, 2016

LISA A. KRUPCZAK Plaintiff
v.
DLA PIPER LLP U.S. et al. Defendants LISA A. KRUPCZAK Plaintiff
v.
DLA PIPER LLP U.S. et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Lisa A. Krupczak, acting pro se, filed two identical Complaints against Defendants DLA Piper LLP (DLA Piper), Unum Life Insurance Company of America (Unum), and Named and Unnamed Individuals.[1] WMN-16-23, ECF No. 2; WMN-16-24 ECF No. 2. DLA Piper removed the cases to this Court on January 4, 2016. WMN-16-23, ECF No. 1; WMN-16-24, ECF No. 1. The three-count Complaints assert 1) “Wrongful Termination in V[i]olation of the ADA, ” 2) “Abusive Discharge, ” and 3) “Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealings.” WMN-16-23, ECF No. 2; WMN-16-24, ECF No. 2. Although Count II of the Complaint is titled “Abusive Discharge, ” the cause of action is for wrongful termination. See id. ¶ 36 (stating DLA Piper’s “actions including the retaliation or termination for becoming disabled and other conduct alleged above constitutes the tort of wrongful termination in violation of the public policy of the State of Maryland”).

         The following motions are pending before the Court: Unum’s Motions to Dismiss, (WMN-16-23, ECF No. 10; WMN-16-24, ECF No. 8), DLA Piper’s Motions to Dismiss, (WMN-16-23, ECF No. 13; WMN-16-24, ECF No. 11), and Defendants’ Motions to Consolidate Related Actions, (WMN-16-23, ECF No. 14; WMN-16-24, ECF No. 12). Upon a review of the parties’ submissions and the applicable case law, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that the pending motions will be granted. Because Civil Action Numbers WMN-16-23 and WMN-16-24 will be consolidated under Civil Action Number WMN-16-23, all further docket citations are to Civil Action Number WMN-16-23 unless otherwise noted.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In October of 2012, Plaintiff began working for DLA Piper as a Client Account Team Leader in Baltimore, Maryland. During her employment with DLA Piper, Plaintiff was a participant in an employee welfare benefit plan (benefit plan) maintained by DLA Piper and administered by Unum. In January of 2014, Plaintiff requested leave from work to undergo medical treatment. On February 10, 2014, DLA Piper approved Plaintiff’s request for continuous leave until May 12, 2014, with full pay and medical benefits under DLA Piper’s Short Term Disability (STD) program.

         On May 12, 2014, DLA Piper notified Plaintiff that it was eliminating her position. On May 16, 2014, DLA Piper’s Director of Human Resources, Melissa Armentrout, sent Plaintiff a letter regarding her termination which was organized into two sections. ECF No. 13-4. The first section of the letter informed Plaintiff that DLA Piper would pay her the full amount of her salary through May 16, 2014, and that her termination would not impact the status of the benefits she was receiving under the STD program. The first section also advised Plaintiff that her medical, vision, and dental insurance would continue to be paid until May 31, 2014, and that after that time, she would be eligible for COBRA. The second section of the letter, titled “Terms of the Agreement, ” offered Plaintiff a separation package. That separation package gave Plaintiff the option to elect four weeks of severance pay as well as continued medical coverage through June 30, 2014, among other things, in exchange for an agreement to release all claims Plaintiff might have against DLA Piper and its employees. On May 20, 2014, Plaintiff accepted the separation package by signing the separation agreement.

         On October, 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming that she was discharged in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et seq. On August 31, 2015, the EEOC issued a written notice dismissing Plaintiff’s Charge of Discrimination. Thereafter, Plaintiff initiated the actions currently pending before the Court. The crux of Plaintiff’s claim is that, when she was hired, she was told she could work at DLA Piper until retirement, yet she “was terminated because of the disability, and to evade the commitments and employment benefits promised to her until retirement.” ECF No. 2 ¶ 27(d). Plaintiff asserts that DLA Piper engaged in discrimination, colluded with Unum to mask that discrimination, and manufactured the basis relied upon for the termination of her employment and benefits. Plaintiff further alleges that DLA Piper has a policy to terminate employees when claims for disability are made.

         On January 8, 2016, Unum filed Motions to Dismiss, asserting two grounds for dismissal; failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1100 et seq. ECF No. 10. On January 11, 2016, DLA Piper filed separate Motions to Dismiss, asserting that all of Plaintiff’s claims against it and its employees are legally barred by a valid release, i.e. the separation agreement, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF No. 13. On January 11, 2016, Defendants filed Motions to Consolidate Related Actions. ECF No. 14.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Consolidate

         Defendants request that this Court enter an order consolidating the above captioned actions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a)(2). Plaintiff has not opposed this motion. Under Rule 42(a)(2), “[i]f actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may: ... consolidate the actions.” Plaintiff’s Complaint in Civil Action Number WMN-16-23 is identical to her Complaint in Civil Action Number WMN-16-24; the same exact facts, questions of law, and parties are before the Court in both actions. Where, as here, related actions involve identical allegations and legal claims, the interest of judicial economy dictates that the actions be consolidated for all purposes. See, e.g., Coyne & Delany Co. v. Selman, 98 F.3d 1457, 1473 (4th Cir. 1996) (finding substantial overlap between two lawsuits and requiring consolidation). Therefore, the Court will grant Defendants’ motion to consolidate.

         B. Motions to Dismiss

         i. Legal Standard

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; therefore, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). In evaluating a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all well-pled allegations of the complaint and construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). To survive dismissal, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “In considering a challenge to the adequacy of a plaintiff's pleading, however, a court may properly consider documents ‘attached or incorporated into the complaint, ’ ...


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