United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
CORA L. BRADFORD
JACKSON PARISH POLICY JURY d/b/a JACKSON PARISH HOSPITAL, ET AL.
A. DOUGHTY MAG. JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. HAYES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the
District Court, are the following motions: 1) a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted [doc. # 13] filed by defendant, Jackson
Parish Hospital Service District No. 1 d/b/a Jackson Parish
Hospital (“JPHSD”); 2) a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted [doc. # 14] filed by defendant, Inquiseek, L.L.C.
(“Inquiseek”); and 3) a motion for leave to amend
complaint [doc. # 28] filed by plaintiff Cora Bradford. For
reasons explained below, it is recommended that
Inquiseek's motion be GRANTED, and that the JPHSD's
motion be GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART. It is further
ordered that plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is
October 23, 2018, Cora Bradford filed the instant complaint
against her former employer, the Jackson Parish Police Jury
d/b/a Jackson Parish Hospital, as well as Inquiseek - a
consulting firm hired by Bradford's former employer to
evaluate the hospital's accounting functions. (Compl.).
Bradford asserted race-based claims for wrongful termination,
disparate treatment, and wage disparity under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et
seq.; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983; the Equal Pay
Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, et seq.; and the Louisiana Employment
Discrimination Law (“LEDL”), La. R.S. §
23:332. Id. She also asserted state tort law claims
against Inquiseek stemming from its agent's, Jeff
Harper's verbal abuse and threats that purportedly caused
Bradford to lose her job. Id. Bradford seeks lost
wage and benefits, plus liquidated, exemplary, and punitive
damages, attorney's fees, interest, and costs.
Id. She also prays for a judgment enjoining
defendants from engaging in the alleged discriminatory
activities, as well as requiring them to take affirmative
steps to redress their discriminatory practices.
November 12, 2018, the Jackson Parish Police Jury and the
JPHSD filed an answer to the complaint in which they
clarified that they had been improperly named in the
complaint as a single entity (the “Jackson Parish
Police Jury d/b/a Jackson Parish Hospital”). (Answer
[doc. # 5]). In so doing, they effectively substituted
themselves as defendants in lieu of Jackson Parish Police
Jury d/b/a Jackson Parish Hospital. On November 13, 2018,
Inquiseek filed its answer. [doc. # 6].
January 15, 2019, each of the three defendants filed a
dispositive motion. The Police Jury filed a motion for
summary judgment seeking dismissal on the grounds that it
neither was Bradford's employer, nor involved in the
challenged conduct that formed the basis for this suit. [doc.
# 11]. Plaintiff filed a statement(s) stating that she did
not oppose the motion. [doc. #s 22 & 23]. Accordingly,
the Court granted the Police Jury's motion and dismissed
it from the case. [doc. # 24].
filed the instant Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
plaintiff's claims for tortious interference with
contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
for punitive damages. [doc. # 14]. Plaintiff filed her
opposition on February 1, 2019. [doc. # 25]. Inquiseek filed
its reply on February 7, 2019. [doc. # 30].
JPHSD filed the instant Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
plaintiff's claims under 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 &
206 (the Equal Pay Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and
1983, and for punitive damages. Plaintiff did not file an
opposition to the motion, and the time to do so has lapsed.
(Notice of Motion Setting [doc. # 17]). Thus, the motion is
February 6, 2019, however, plaintiff filed the instant motion
for leave to amend complaint to add claims for gender-based
discrimination and wage disparity. On February 12, 2019, the
JPHSD filed an opposition to the motion, wherein it argued
that, aside from a potential claim of gender discrimination
under the Equal Pay Act, the proposed amendment was futile
because the new claims were time-barred. Plaintiff did not
file a reply brief, and the time to do so has lapsed. (Notice
of Motion Setting; [doc. # 29]). Thus, the matter is ripe.
Leave to Amend
to amend shall be “freely”granted “when
justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).
“‘Whether leave to amend should be granted is
entrusted to the sound discretion of the district court . .
.'” Quintanilla v. Texas Television, Inc.,
139 F.3d 494, 499 (5th Cir.1998) (quoted source omitted).
Yet, “[i]n the context of motions to amend pleadings,
‘discretion' may be misleading, because
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) ‘evinces a bias in favor of granting
leave to amend.'” Martin's Herend Imports
v. Diamond & Gem Trading United States of America
Co., 195 F.3d 765, 770 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting
Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d 594, 597
(5th Cir. Nov. 1981)). A district court must have a
“substantial reason” to deny a request for leave
to amend. Lyn-Lea Travel Corp. v. American Airlines,
Inc., 283 F.3d 282, 286 (5th Cir. 2002)
deciding whether to grant a party leave to amend, the court
considers the following factors: 1) undue delay, 2) bad faith
or dilatory motive, 3) repeated failure to cure deficiencies
by previous amendments, 4) undue prejudice to the opposing
party, and 5) futility of the amendment. Rosenzweig v.
Azurix Corp., 332 F.3d 854, 864 (5th Cir.
2003) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182
(1962)). Absent any of these factors, leave should be
granted. Smith v. EMC Corp., 393 F.3d 590, 595
(5th Cir. 2004) (citing, Foman, 371 U.S.
JPHSD opposes the proposed amendment on the basis that it is
futile. In the Rule 15 context, an amendment is futile if it
“would fail to state a claim for relief upon which
relief could be granted.” Stripling v. Jordan
Production Co., LLC, 234 F.3d 863, 873 (5th Cir. 2000).
However, whether plaintiff's amended pleading succeeds in
restating her cause of action is a contested issue that
remains inextricably intertwined with the merits of the
pending motion(s) to dismiss the original complaint.
Moreover, when, as here, plaintiff amends her complaint while
a motion to dismiss is pending, and defendant(s) maintains
that the defects raised in the original motion are not cured
by the new pleading, then the court may consider the motion
to dismiss as being addressed to the amended pleading.
defendants should not be required to file a new motion to
dismiss simply because an amended pleading was introduced
while their motion was pending. Rather, [i]f some of the
defects raised in the original motion remain in the new
pleading, the court simply may consider the motion as being
addressed to the amended pleading.
Rountree v. Dyson, 892 F.3d 681, 683 (5th Cir.),
cert. denied, ___U.S.___, 139 S.Ct. 595 (2018)
[u]nder Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff with an arguable claim is
ordinarily accorded notice of a pending motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim and an opportunity to amend the
complaint before the motion is ruled upon. These
procedures alert h[er] to the legal theory underlying the
defendant's challenge, and enable h[er] meaningfully to
respond by opposing the motion to dismiss on legal grounds or
by clarifying h[er] factual allegations so as to conform with
the requirements of a valid legal cause of action.
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 329-30, 109 S.Ct.
1827, 1834 (1989) (emphasis added).
the JPHSD's motion to dismiss was plaintiff's first
specific notice that her complaint failed to state a claim
for gender-based discrimination and wage disparity. While
JPHSD argues that the proposed amendment is untimely as to
the discrimination claims, it does not contend that it is
untimely for purposes of asserting a claim under the Equal
Pay Act. Accordingly, the court will permit the amendment,
and fold the JPHSD's arguments regarding futility into
the court's discussion of the already pending motion(s)
Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sanction dismissal where the
plaintiff fails “to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A pleading states a
claim for relief when, inter alia, it contains a
“short and plain statement . . . showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P.
withstand 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129
S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)). A claim
is facially plausible when it contains sufficient factual
content for the court “to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. Plausibility does not
equate to possibility or probability; it
lies somewhere in between. See Iqbal, supra.
Plausibility simply calls for enough factual allegations to
raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence to support the elements of the claim. See
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. Assessing
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a
“context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Iqbal, supra (citation omitted). A
well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes the
court that actual proof of the asserted facts is improbable,
and that recovery is unlikely. Twombly, Although the
court must accept as true all factual allegations set forth
in the complaint, the same presumption does not extend to
legal conclusions. Iqbal, supra. A pleading
comprised of “labels and conclusions” or “a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action” does not satisfy Rule 8. Id. Moreover,
courts are compelled to dismiss claims grounded upon invalid
legal theories even though they might otherwise be
well-pleaded. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 109
S.Ct. 1827 (1989).
“[t]he notice pleading requirements of Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 8 and case law do not require an inordinate
amount of detail or precision.” Gilbert v. Outback
Steakhouse of Florida Inc., 295 Fed.Appx. 710, 713
(5th Cir. 2008) (citations and internal quotation
marks omitted). Further, “a complaint need not pin
plaintiff's claim for relief to a precise legal theory.
Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
generally requires only a plausible ‘short and
plain' statement of the plaintiff's claim, not an
exposition of [her] legal argument.” Skinner v.
Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 131 S.Ct. 1289, 1296 (2011).
Indeed, “[c]ourts must focus on the substance of the
relief sought and the allegations pleaded, not on the label
used.” Gearlds v. Entergy Servs., Inc., 709
F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted).
“Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need
only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . .
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007)
(quoting Bell Atl., 127 S.Ct. at 1958). In the
context of employment discrimination claims, “the
ordinary rules for assessing the sufficiency of a complaint
apply, ” and a plaintiff need not establish a prima
facie case of employment discrimination in her complaint.
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 511, 122 S.Ct.
992, 997 (2002).
considering a motion to dismiss, courts generally are limited
to the complaint and its proper attachments. Dorsey v.
Portfolio Equities, Inc., 540 F.3d 333, 338
(5th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). However,
courts may rely upon “documents incorporated into the
complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take
judicial notice” - including public records.
Dorsey, supra; Norris v. Hearst Trust, 500
F.3d 454, 461 n9 (5th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted) (proper to take judicial notice of matters of public
record). Furthermore, “[d]ocuments that a defendant
attaches to a motion to dismiss are considered part of the
pleadings if they are referred to in the ...