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Bowman v. Jack Cooper Transport Co. Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 1, 2019

KEITH BOWMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JACK COOPER TRANSPORT CO. INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Keith Bowman (“Plaintiff” or “Bowman”) initiated this action in the Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland, against his former employer, Jack Cooper Transport Co. Inc., (“Defendant” or “Jack Cooper”). Bowman alleges that Jack Cooper terminated his employment solely because he filed a worker's compensation claim and brings a single state law claim of wrongful discharge. (Compl. at ¶ 12, ECF No. 1-2.) On October 12, 2018, Defendant removed the case to this Court. Defendant contends that this Court may exercise subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claim, see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1337, because it is completely preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 185(a). (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.)

         Currently pending before this Court are Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) and Plaintiff's Motion for Remand (ECF No. 10). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion for Remand (ECF No. 10) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be accepted as true and those facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Wikimedia Found. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). This Court may also consider documents attached to a motion to dismiss so long as they are “integral to the complaint and authentic.” Thompson v. United States, RDB-15-2181, 2016 WL 2649931, at *2 n.4 (D. Md. May 10, 2016), aff'd 670 Fed.Appx. 781 (4th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         On September 21, 2015, Bowman suffered a rotator cuff tear in his left shoulder while working as a driver for Jack Cooper Transportation Co. Inc. (“Defendant”). (Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1-Ex. A.) On October 19, 2015, he filed a worker's compensation claim relating to the accident and received temporary total disability benefits from September 22, 2015 to May 5, 2016, paid temporary partial disability from May 6, 2016 to September 10, 2016, and was awarded a permanent partial disability rating of 17% industrial loss for the left shoulder. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Plaintiff was released to return to work in September 2016 but continued to suffer worsening pain in his left shoulder, which resulted in his leaving work on July 10, 2017. (Id. at ¶ 9.) On August 10, 2017, Plaintiff petitioned to reopen his worker's compensation claim and sought additional temporary total disability payments and authorization for additional medical treatment and physical therapy. (Id. at ¶ 10.)

         The Defendant Jack Cooper terminated Bowman's employment on October 20, 2017[1]prior to any hearing on Plaintiff's amended worker's compensation claim. (Id. at ¶ 11.) As Bowman was a union-represented employee, his termination was governed by a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Jack Cooper. (Def.'s Mot. Dismiss, Ex. B, ECF No. 5-3, hereinafter “Def. Ex. B”.) On August 22, 2018, following grievance procedures prescribed by the CBA, a Board of Arbitration upheld the Defendant's decision to terminate Bowman's employment. (Id.) The Board concluded that Jack Cooper was “justified in concluding that [Bowman] was exaggerating his shoulder pain in order to increase his worker's compensation benefits.” (Id.)

         On September 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed a one-Count wrongful discharge claim against Defendant in the Circuit Court for Howard County alleging that Jack Cooper, in violation of Maryland public policy, terminated his employment solely because he filed a worker's compensation claim. (Notice of Removal at ¶ 1, ECF No. 1); See Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. § 9-1105 (“An employer may not discharge a covered employee from employment solely because the covered employee files a claim for compensation under this title.”) On October 12, 2018, Defendant timely removed the case to this Court, arguing that Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim is preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, et. seq., thereby conferring federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1337. (Notice of Removal at ¶ 4, ECF No. 1.) On October 16, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 5). On November 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand (ECF No. 10).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I. Motion to Remand

          A defendant in a state civil action may remove the case to federal court only if the federal court can exercise original jurisdiction over at least one of the asserted claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)-(c). Once an action is removed to federal court, the plaintiff may file a motion to remand the case to state court if there is a contention that jurisdiction is defective. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction in the federal court. Johnson v. Advance America, 549 F.3d 932, 935 (4th Cir. 2008). On a motion to remand, this Court must “strictly construe the removal statute and resolve all doubts in favor of remanding the case to state court.” Richardson v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 950 F.Supp. 700, 701-02 (D. Md. 1997) (citation omitted); see also Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811, 815-16 (4th Cir. 2004).

         II. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         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) authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). 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). While a complaint need not include “detailed factual allegations, ” it must set forth “enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from those facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         In reviewing a Motion to Dismiss, this Court “may properly take judicial notice of matters of public record . . . [and] consider documents attached to the complaint, as well as those attached to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic.” Philips v. Pitt County Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Hall v. Virginia, 385 F.3d 421, 424 (4th Cir. 2004). As such, this Court takes judicial notice of the CBA Agreement attached as Exhibit A to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5-2) and the Arbitration Panel's Decision, attached as Exhibit B to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5-3). Both documents concern the procedures governing Plaintiff's employment termination, which are essential to this suit, and Plaintiff does not challenge their authenticity. See, e.g., Mayo v. Bd. of Educ., 797 F.Supp.2d 685, 689 n.3 (D. Md. 2011) (considering an arbitration decision at motion to dismiss stage which Plaintiff had not attached to the Complaint); Heade v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 09-02460 (ESH), 2010 WL 938462 (D.D.C. March 12, 2010) ...


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