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Diede v. UNC Healthcare

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

January 24, 2018

UNC HEALTHCARE, et al., Defendants.


          W. Earl Britt, Senior U.S. District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on the 26 April 2017 motion to dismiss filed by defendant UNC Healthcare. (DE # 12.) Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition on 18 May 2017. (DE # 18.) UNC Healthcare did not file a reply brief, and the time within which to do so has expired. This matter is therefore ripe for disposition.

         I. FACTS

         Plaintiff Annmarie Diede was employed by UNC Healthcare in the Central Processing Department from 19 January 2015 to 21 April 2015. (Compl., DE # 4, ¶¶ 2, 5.) Following the termination of her employment, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and a proposed complaint in this court. (DE # 1.) Plaintiff's complaint names the following as defendants in this action: UNC Healthcare; Beth Paganini-Finch; Bradley Jensen; Christina Vanessa Daniels, Rajai Hussari, and Jerry Unknown. (DE # 4, at 1.) In the complaint, plaintiff alleges that she was sexually harassed by Hussari, and that she was terminated following her complaints about Hussari's conduct in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiff also alleges a state law claim for assault and battery against Hussari. (Id. at 4.) She seeks recovery of back pay, reinstatement of her former job, and a trial by jury on all issues. (Id. at 5.)

         On 20 January 2017, Magistrate Judge Robert T. Numbers, II granted plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered that plaintiff's complaint be filed. (DE # 3.) In the same order, Judge Numbers provided a memorandum and recommendation on frivolity review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), in which he recommended that some of plaintiff's claims be dismissed without prejudice, in part, because she failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Id.) Judge Numbers also recommended that the court dismiss plaintiff's claims against all defendants except for UNC Healthcare and Hussari. (Id.) On 24 February 2017, the court adopted, in its entirety, the reasoning in Judge Number's memorandum and recommendation and dismissed plaintiff's battery claim and all claims against Paganini-Finch, Daniels, Jensen, and Unknown. (DE # 7.) Plaintiff's claims of hostile work environment, retaliation, and assault against UNC Healthcare and Hussari remain.

         II. ANALYSIS

         In its motion to dismiss, UNC Healthcare moves for dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dism., DE # 13, at 5.) In the alternative, UNC Healthcare seeks dismissal of the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction due to plaintiff's failure to properly serve it under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(5), or in the further alternative dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Id. at 10, 12.)

         A. Standards of Review

         Rule 12(b)(1)

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), a court must dismiss all or part of an action over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Whether subject matter jurisdiction exists is a threshold question that must be addressed by the court before considering the merits of the case. Jones v. Am. Postal Workers Union, 192 F.3d 417, 422 (4th Cir. 1999). A plaintiff seeking federal jurisdiction has the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 1995). “In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted).

         Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(5)

         “Failure to properly serve a defendant prevents a court from obtaining personal jurisdiction over the defendant and entitles the defendant to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(2).” Fordham v. Doe, No. 4:11-CV-32-D, 2011 WL 5024352, at *3 (E.D. N.C. Oct. 20, 2011) (citation omitted). When a defendant challenges the court's personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), “the plaintiff bears the burden [of] making a prima facie showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis to survive the jurisdictional challenge.” Consulting Eng's Corp. v. Geometric Ltd., 561 F.3d 273, 276 (4th Cir. 2009). Similarly, a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the validity of service when a defendant seeks dismissal for insufficient service of process pursuant to Rule 12(b)(5). Fordham, 2011 WL 5024352, at *3. “Therefore, dismissal is appropriate under both Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(5) if the court determines the plaintiff failed to properly serve [defendant].” Id. (citations omitted).

         Rule 12(b)(6)

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court may dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint, and the relevant inquiry is whether the plaintiff's factual allegations are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss will survive if it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). When ruling on the motion, the court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56). Additionally, the court may consider documents attached to the complaint. United States ex rel. Constructors, Inc. v. ...

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