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Parker v. Curtiss-Wright Corp.

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

April 4, 2018

ANTHONY PARKER, Plaintiff,
v.
CURTISS-WRIGHT CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Max O. Cogburn Jr., United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the court on defendant Curtiss-Wright Corporation's (“Curtiss-Wright”) Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff Anthony Parker (“Parker”) has filed a Motion to Strike Reply; however, the Reply was appropriately filed by Curtiss-Wright under the Local Civil Rules of this Court and properly addresses arguments and evidence Parker has asserted for the first time in his extensive Response. The Motion to Strike Reply will be denied and the Court will herein consider Curtiss-Wright's Motion to Dismiss, Parker's Response, and the Reply.

         FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         I. Background

         This is Parker's third civil action against an employer, or a purported employer, filed in 2017 in this Court. See 3:17-cv-00041-MOC-DCK (W.D. N.C. ); 3:17-cv-00411-FDW-DCK (W.D. N.C. ).

         In a fourth action, which was removed to this Court, Parker v. Owens, 3:17-cv-720 (W.D. N.C. ), Parker has already attempted to litigate the same termination complained of in this action. There, Parker named his supervisor as defendant, who, just like plaintiff, was employed by Metal Improvement Company, LLC (“MIC”). This Court dismissed that action as a claim against a supervisor is not viable under well settled law. See Id., Order (#21). That determination is on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.[1]

         In response to the Complaint, Curtiss-Wright moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion to Dismiss (#13). After the Motion to Dismiss was filed, a Roseboro Notice was entered by the Court. Order (#15). Parker timely filed a Response (#16) and Curtiss-Wright timely filed a Reply (#17). The Court has fully considered both the Complaint and Parker's Response (#16), which contains a Memorandum of Law (#16-1) and annexed materials, as well as an attachment (#16-2), which appears to a copy of defendant's supporting brief that has been marked up by plaintiff. The significance of that particular filing is not readily apparent.

         For the reasons that follow, and after considering the Response and the Reply, the Court has determined that Parker has failed to state any actionable claim against Curtiss-Wright or, for that matter, his actual employer MIC.

         II. Discussion

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         In determining whether a claim can survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) that the “no set of facts” standard only describes the “breadth of opportunity to prove what an adequate complaint claims, not the minimum adequate pleading to govern a complaint's survival.” Id. at 563. The Court specifically rejected use of the “no set of facts” standard because such standard would improperly allow a “wholly conclusory statement of claim” to “survive a motion to dismiss whenever the pleadings left open the possibility that a Parker might later establish some ‘set of [undisclosed] facts' to support recovery.” Id. at 561 (alteration in original). Post Twombly, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a claimant must allege facts in his complaint that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id., at 555.

[A] Parker's obligation to provide the “grounds” of his “entitle[ment] to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do . . . .

Id. (second alteration in original; citation omitted). Further, a complaint will not survive Rule 12(b)(6) review where it contains “naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id., at 557. Instead, a claimant must plead sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face.” Id. at 570 (emphasis added).

         Post-Twombly, the Court revisited the Rule 12(b)(6) pleading standard in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). In Iqbal, the Court determined that Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. at 678. The Court explained that, “to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (citing Twombly, supra; emphasis added). What is plausible is defined by the Court:

[a] claim has facial plausibility when the Parker pleads sufficient factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Id. This “plausibility standard” requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Thus, a complaint falls short of the plausibility standard where a Parker pleads “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability ....” Id. While the court accepts plausible factual allegations made in a claim as true and considers those facts in the light most favorable to Parker in ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court “need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Eastern Shore Mkt.'s Inc. v. J.D. Assoc.'s, LLP, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).

         In sum, when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (citations omitted). A complaint “need only give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Id., at 93 (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). However, to survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must “state[ ] a plausible claim for relief” that “permit[s] the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct” based upon “its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. To survive a motion to dismiss, a Parker need not demonstrate that her right to relief is probable or that alternative explanations are less likely; rather, she must merely advance her claim “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. If her explanation is plausible, her complaint survives a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), regardless of whether there is a more plausible alternative explanation. “[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007).

         B. Considering the Pleadings of a Pro Se Litigant

         Courts must also be mindful of the fact that pro se complaints are held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (reversing dismissal of a pro se complaint since the court “cannot say with assurance that under the allegations of the pro se complaint . . . it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief”) (internal citations and quotations omitted). That said, even a pro se complaint must plead “more than labels and conclusions.” Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 304 n. 5; see also Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (holding that a pro se plaintiff must still “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his] claim”). Finally, “district courts cannot act as the pro se plaintiff's advocate and cannot develop claims which the plaintiff failed to clearly raise on the face of [his] complaint.” Douglas v. U.S. Airways Group, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49643, *8 (W.D. N.C. 2011) (citing Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978)).

         C. Parker's Factual Contentions

         In considering the Motion to Dismiss, the Court has taken the allegations of the Complaint as true. The following summary is drawn from the Complaint.

         Parker interviewed with Shawn Owens (“Owens”), a business unit manager for MIC for a Supervisor position in July 2017. Owens offered Parker the position of Shift Supervisor. MIC hired Parker, with Owens as his supervisor, on July 24, 2017. Complaint (# 1) at ¶¶ 15-18. Parker was terminated from that employment on September 18, 2017. Id. at ¶38.

         During Parker's first week on the job, Owens counseled Parker over his inability to operate a classifier machine. Id. at ΒΆ 19. Parker claims that on this occasion, just days after Owens interviewed Parker and offered him his ...


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