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Brooks v. Coble Settlement

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

March 11, 2015

WILMA LYNN BUIE BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
COBLE SETTLEMENT, OLD VINEYARD BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, NURSEFINDERS, WORKPLACE OPTIONS, PIEDMONT COMMUNITY SERVICES, and THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF FORESTERS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES A. BEATY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Nursefinders [Doc. #47]. In her Complaint, Plaintiff Wilma Lynn Buie Brooks ("Plaintiff") asserted a claim of employment-related retaliation against Defendant Nursefinders ("Defendant"). Defendant's Motion to Dismiss argues that Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, due to insufficient service of process according to Rule 12(b)(5), and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). As discussed below, this Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint as to Defendant because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Title VII claims and Plaintiff.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed her Complaint in the instant matter on April 2, 2014. The Complaint began with a general statement alleging claims of "retaliation and Indian Trust Theft" against all Defendants "based on EEOC right to sue' (Probable Cause) [letter]... and federal laws against discrimination with employment, contracting, and the administration of federal tax laws." (Compl. [Doc. #1], at 2.) In the body of her Complaint, Plaintiff asserted that Defendant "committed a retaliatory act of refusing to allow Plaintiff to apply for a position in which Plaintiff was duly qualified for and in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967." (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff based this claim on her interactions with a recruiter for Defendant whereby Plaintiff was invited to apply for a position with Defendant. Because Plaintiff was unable to complete the online application using her home computer, Defendant requested that Plaintiff complete the application process by going to Defendant's office. Upon arriving at the office, Plaintiff was allegedly "denied the opportunity to complete an application for employment" with Defendant." (Id.) Plaintiff provided no further details as to what transpired at Defendant's office or how she was denied the opportunity to apply.

Plaintiff included as the last page of her Complaint a copy of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") right-to-sue letter. (Compl. [Doc. #1], at 11.) The letter is dated January 7, 2014, [1] and is addressed to Plaintiff. The letter explained that the EEOC closed its file on charge number XXX-XXXX-XXXXX because "the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes." (Id.) The letter fails to identify the relevant laws, the conduct at issue, or any other information about the underlying charge's contents. At the very bottom of the letter, there is an indication that a "Paralegal/HR Analyst" with "UHS of Delaware, INC., a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, " was copied on the letter. Plaintiff did not assert a claim against UHS of Delaware or Universal Health Services ("UHS").

After receiving an extension of time to file an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #47] on August 22, 2014. On September 2, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Second Continuance and Reasonable Accommodation [Doc. #52], which in part requested additional time to research and respond to all Defendants' arguments. On February 12, 2015, this Court granted Plaintiff's motion for the limited purpose of responding to the instant Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff failed to file a response within the time limit prescribed by this Court.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS[2]

A. Pro Se Plaintiff's Pleadings

When evaluating a pro se plaintiff's pleadings, a court should liberally construe the plaintiff's allegations and hold the pro se plaintiff "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 2081 (2007) (internal quotations omitted) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 292, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)). Nonetheless, the Court "may not be an advocate for a pro se plaintiffand must hold the complaint to certain minimal pleading standards." Hongan Lai v. Dep't of Justice, No. 5:13cv00033, 2013 WL 3923506, at *3 (W.D. Va. July 29, 2013) (citing Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985); Switzer v. Town of Stanley, No. 5:10cv00128, 2010 WL 4961912, at *2-3 (W.D. Va. Dec. 1, 2010); Holsey v. Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122, 128 (D.Md. 1981)).

B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Whether a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a "threshold matter" that a court must consider prior to reaching the merits of the matter. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 1012, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998); Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Astellas Pharma, Inc., 471 F.3d 544, 548 (4th Cir. 2006). The Fourth Circuit has repeatedly explained that "federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and are empowered to act only in those specific instances authorized by Congress." Garraghty v. Va. Ret. Sys., 200 Fed.Appx. 209, 211 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting Goldsmith v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 845 F.2d 61, 63 (4th Cir. 1988) (internal quotation marks omitted)). A court should dismiss an action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) when the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the action. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction. Richmond, F. & P. R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

A defendant may attack subject matter jurisdiction (1) facially, by arguing that the complaint fails to allege facts to support subject matter jurisdiction, or (2) factually, by arguing that the jurisdictional facts alleged are untrue. Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). "[W]hen a defendant asserts that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to support subject matter jurisdiction, the trial court must apply a standard patterned on Rule 12(b)(6) and assume the truthfulness of the facts alleged." Id. at 193.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant moves for dismissal on grounds of lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to Plaintiff's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies under Title VII.[3] Specifically, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's right-to-sue letter did not name it or any entity related to it, and that Plaintiff failed to otherwise allege that she exhausted her administrative remedies by filing a charge with the EEOC and receiving a right-to-sue letter as to Defendant. As such, the Court turns to whether Plaintiff, ...


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