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Wrenwick v. Cook

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

January 23, 2018

WILLIAM WRENWICK, Plaintiff,
v.
CRAIG COOK, HR Manager, and BERRY PLASTICS GLOBAL GROUP, INC., a.k.a. A.E.P. INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Graham C. Mullen, United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 4) filed jointly by Defendant Craig Cook and Defendant Berry Plastics Global Group, Inc. Plaintiff William Wrenwick, acting pro se, has responded. The matter is now ripe for decision. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff William Wrenwick (“Wrenwick”) was employed as a truck driver by Defendant Berry Plastics/ AEP Industrial (“Berry”). Wrenwick was terminated on March 9, 2017, after a conversation with Defendant Craig Cook (“Cook”), an HR Manager for Berry.

         Wrenwick filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on April 19, 2017, alleging that he was fired out of retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights to Wrenwick on April 21, 2017.

         Wrenwick subsequently brought this action against Cook and Berry, alleging that he was terminated from his position because of discrimination for his religious beliefs. Wrenwick, acting pro se, served both Defendants by certified mail at the same address in Matthews, North Carolina.

         Defendants Cook and Berry collectively filed this Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2), 12(b)(4), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “Before a federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the procedural requirement of service of summons must be satisfied.” Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Rudolf Wolff & Co., Ltd., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987). “When there is actual notice, every technical violation of the rule or failure of strict compliance may not invalidate the service of process. But the rules are there to be followed, and plain requirements for the means of effecting service of process may not be ignored.” Armco, Inc. v. Penrod-Stauffer Bldg. Sys., Inc., 733 F.2d 1087, 1089 (4th Cir. 1984). “Once service has been contested, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the validity of service pursuant to Rule 4.” O'Meara v. Waters, 464 F.Supp.2d 474, 476 (D. Md. 2006).

         When faced with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must “accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and . . . view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). The Court “assume[s] the[] veracity” of these factual allegations, and “determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). However, the court “need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. LLP, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must include within his complaint “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Service of Process

         Defendant Berry argues that Wrenwick's summons and service of process upon it was deficient in two ways. First, Berry argues that Wrenwick failed to address the summons to the correct legal entity, which is named “Berry Global Films, LLC.” Second, Berry claims that Wrenwick failed to identify an agent or officer that is qualified to accept service on behalf of Berry in his summons and accordingly did not effectuate service upon an authorized agent or officer.

         Under Rule 4(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a summons must name the proper parties and must be directed to the defendant. Further, under Rule 4(h), service on a corporation requires a plaintiff to either follow the procedures of the applicable state law or to deliver a copy of the summons and the complaint to “an officer, a managing or general agent, or any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process.” Because Wrenwick provided the incorrect name ...


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