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Anderson v. Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 18, 2017

MAVY ANDERSON
v.
JOHNS HOPKINS BAYVIEW MEDICAL CENTER, INC., et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          J. Frederick Motz United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Mavy Anderson (“Anderson”) brings suit against Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical System, Inc., (“Hopkins”) and Broadway Services, Inc., (“Broadway”), alleging various torts and a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, Anderson brings claims for: assault (Count I); battery (Count II); false imprisonment (Count III); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV); negligence (Count V); gross negligence (Count VI); negligent hiring (Count VII); negligent retention (Count VIII); abusive discharge (Count IX); defamation (Count X); respondent superior (Count XI); and a violation of Title VII (Count XII). Now pending are Hopkins' and Broadway's motions to dismiss specific counts in Anderson's amended complaint. (ECF No. 38; ECF No. 39). The motions are fully briefed, and no oral argument is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the motions are granted. Counts I-VIII and Counts X-XII are dismissed against Broadway; Counts I-VI and Counts IX-XI are dismissed against Hopkins.

         BACKGROUND

         At the motion to dismiss stage, this court accepts as true the facts alleged in the complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff Mavy Anderson (“Anderson”) “is a resident of Baltimore County, Maryland.” (ECF No. 33, ¶ 1). Defendant Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical System, Inc., (“Hopkins”) “is a large hospital located in the City of Baltimore employing several thousand people.” Id. at ¶ 2. In August 2009, Anderson began working for Hopkins as a housekeeper. Id. at ¶ 1. Her supervisor at Hopkins was defendant Phillip London Shields (“Shields”). Id. at ¶ 3. Shields is a resident of Baltimore City and was employed by defendant Broadway Services, Inc., (“Broadway”), which is a part of the Johns Hopkins Health System that works on Hopkins' “maintenance, housekeeping, and other functions.” Id. at ¶ 3.

         Anderson alleges “beginning prior to August 2009 through March 2012, [she] was physically, mentally, and verbally harassed by Shields.” Id. at ¶ 7. She further alleges Shields sent her “sexually suggestive and vulgar text message and emails, ” and that Shields “made unwelcome sexually suggestive and vulgar telephone calls” to her. Id. Shields would also, according to Anderson, “corner [her] in areas at Hopkins where they would not be seen, grab her, kiss her, and make comments.” Id. Anderson also alleges Shields would instruct her “to work in areas where she would be alone, ” and he would become “infuriated with [Anderson] if other supervisors moved [her] to areas where she would be unavailable to him.” Id. Moreover, Anderson contends Shields touched her without her consent, and committed “violence” toward her. Id. Specifically, she alleges Shields “coerced and forced [her] to have sexual relations with him both in his apartment and at the Hopkins premises, ” and that he threatened “if she told anyone she would be written up, reprimanded, suspended, or fired.” Id. Anderson contends Shields ultimately “did make up accusations and fabricate[d] poor work performance” reports in order to get Anderson disciplined. Id. Eventually, in March 2012, Hopkins terminated Anderson's employment, which she alleges was based on Shields' “fabricat[ed] poor performance reports.” Id.

         Anderson alleges that, as a result of the defendants' actions, she incurred medical bills, psychiatric bills, and is now earning a lower wager than she was while employed at Hopkins. Id. at ¶ 8. Anderson commenced this action by filing a complaint in the Circuit Court of Maryland for Baltimore City on January 16, 2013. (ECF No. 2). Anderson also filed a Title VII discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and the case was stayed pending resolution of the EEOC charge. (ECF No. 4). The EEOC issued a right to sue letter on February 26, 2016, and Anderson subsequently filed an amended complaint that included the Title VII claim. (ECF No. 33). Once the amended complaint was filed, defendants removed the case from the Circuit Court of Maryland for Baltimore City to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. (ECF No. 1).

         Anderson's amended complaint alleges twelve counts against the defendants. The amended complaint first alleges various intentional torts against all defendants based on Shields' alleged conduct: assault (Count I); battery (Count II); false imprisonment (Count III); and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV). (ECF No. 33, ¶¶ 9-28). Anderson next alleges negligence (Count V) and gross negligence (Count VI) against Broadway and Hopkins based on their alleged failure to provide a safe working environment for Anderson. Id. at ¶¶ 32-38. Anderson's complaint also alleges that Broadway negligently hired (Count VII) and negligently retained Shields (Count VIII), id. at ¶¶ 39-42, that Hopkins abusively discharged Anderson (Count IX), id. at ¶¶ 43-44, that all defendants defamed her (Count X), id. at ¶¶ 45-49, and that Hopkins and Broadway are liable for “respondent superior” (Count XI), id. at ¶¶ 49-51. Lastly, her complaint alleges a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Hopkins and Broadway based on alleged sex discrimination (Count XII). Id. at ¶¶ 52-63. Defendant Broadway filed a motion to dismiss all counts against it on May 27, 2016. (ECF No. 38). Defendant Hopkins also filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgement, on May 27, 2016. (ECF No. 39).

         STANDARD

         Defendants Hopkins and Broadway have both filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).[1] “[T]he Court's consideration of the 12(b)(6) motion [is] limited to the pleadings and exhibits that are both integral and authentic, or matters of public record.” Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal Sparrows Point, LLC, 794 F.Supp.2d 602, 612 (D. Md. 2011). To adequately state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint, relying on only well-pled factual allegations, must state at least a “plausible claim for relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The “mere recital of elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012). In order to determine whether Anderson's claims have crossed “the line from conceivable to plausible, ” the court must employ a “context-specific inquiry, ” drawing on the court's “experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680. When performing this inquiry, the court accepts “all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff in weighing the legal sufficiency of the complaint.” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). The court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), nor must it agree with legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 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).

         ANALYSIS

         Broadway moves to dismiss Counts I-VIII and Counts X-XII asserted against it. (ECF No. 38). Hopkins moves to dismiss Counts I-VI and Counts IX-XI asserted against it. (ECF No. 39). Hopkins also argues the negligence and gross negligence claims (Counts V and VI), the abusive discharge claim (Count IX), and the defamation claim (Count X), are preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. Section 185(c).[2] I address these arguments in turn.

         I. Counts I-IV: Assault, Battery, False Imprisonment, and IIED

         Anderson alleges various intentional torts against all defendants based on Shields' alleged conduct: assault (Count One); battery (Count Two); false imprisonment (Count Three); and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count Four). (ECF No. 33, ¶¶ 9-28). Anderson seeks to hold Hopkins and Broadway vicariously liable for Shields' actions based on the following allegations:

Defendants Hopkins and Broadway are liable for the aforesaid acts of Shields and each other. Shields was the agent, servant, and employee of Hopkins and Broadway. Broadway is the agent, servant and employee of Hopkins. Broadway and Hopkins are liable for the aforesaid wrongful tortious acts.

Id. at ¶¶ 13, 18, 23, 28. Hopkins and Broadway contend, however, they cannot be held vicariously liable for these torts. Even assuming Anderson's allegations could be construed as establishing an employment relationship between Shields and the Hopkins, [3] I agree that Hopkins and Broadway cannot be held vicariously liable for these intentional torts.

         “It is well settled that an employer may be held vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior for tortious acts committed by an employee, so long as those acts are within the scope of employment.” Tall v. Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs of Baltimore City, 706 A.2d 659, 667 (Md. 1998). The Court of Appeals of Maryland has described the scope of employment requirement as follows:

To be within the scope of the employment the conduct must be of the kind the servant is employed to perform and must [be] . . . actuated at least in part by a purpose to serve the master. . . . [W]here an employee's actions are personal, or where they represent a departure from the purpose of furthering the employer's business, or where the employee is acting to protect his own interests, even if during normal duty hours and at an authorized locality, the employee's actions are outside the scope of his employment.

Samuels v. Two Farms, Inc., No. CIV.A. DKC 10-2480, 2012 WL 261196, at *9 (D. Md. Jan. 27, 2012) (citing Sawyer v. Humphries, 587 A.2d 467 (Md. 1991)). This court has applied this standard, “repeatedly [holding] that, under Maryland law, an employer is not vicariously liable for torts arising from sexual harassment by another employee because those torts [arise] outside of the scope of employment.” Id. at * 10.

         For example, in Perry v. FTData, Inc., this court dismissed a plaintiff's claims against an employer seeking to hold an employer liable for a male supervisor's sexual harassment of the plaintiff. 198 F.Supp.2d 699 (D. Md. 2002). In dismissing the plaintiff's claims for assault and false imprisonment, the court stressed that the relevant question is whether the supervisor, “who allegedly committed the tortious acts, did so for [the employer's] purposes and with the actual or apparent authority of [the employer].” Id. at 709. The court ultimately dismissed the claims against the employer, finding that although the supervisor perhaps “used his supervisory authority over [the plaintiff] to attempt to coerce her to engage in sexual activity, ” the supervisor did not do so to further the employer's business or with the employer's knowledge. Id.; see also Davidson-Nadwodny v. Wal-Mart Assocs., Inc., No. CCB-07-2595, 2010 WL 1328572, at *9 (D. Md. Mar. 26, ...


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