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Cima v. Medtronic, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

December 21, 2016

MARILYN CIMA, PLAINTIFF
v.
MEDTRONIC, INC., DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This case is before the Court upon Defendant Medtronic, Inc.'s motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(6). [DN 7.] Plaintiff Marilyn Cima has responded, [DN 8], and Medtronic has replied, [DN 10]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, Medtronic's motion to dismiss [DN 7] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Facts and Procedural History [1]

         Marilyn Cima was terminated from her employment at Medtronic on September 17, 2014. [DN 1-1 at 3.] At the time of her termination, Cima had been employed by Medtronic for nearly fifteen years, eventually being promoted to the position of principal clinical specialist. [Id.] Cima's job responsibilities required her to travel between several hospitals in the western Kentucky area, including Baptist Health in Paducah. [Id. at 3-4.]

         In mid-2014, Cima “was accused of fraternizing with one [of] the doctors” at Baptist Health, with whom she had a relationship before coming to work for Medtronic. [Id. at 4-5.] Cima alleges that several of her coworkers and supervisors were aware of the relationship, and that other Medtronic employees had previously had undisclosed personal relationships with Medtronic customers. [Id. at 4.] After learning of the relationship, Medtronic supervisors “ordered [Cima] not to work at Baptist Health and [to] avoid any contact with that doctor during business hours.” [Id. at 5.] Cima complied with her employer's instructions, but due to scheduling difficulties within the company, she was eventually placed back on-call at Baptist Health. [Id.]

         Cima claims that “[t]he additional stress caused by her extra workload and the possibility that she might violate her employer's admonition” caused her to have “a severe anxiety attack.” [Id.] She drove herself to Vanderbilt Hospital's emergency room on July 27, 2014, and was placed in the Vanderbilt psychiatric ward for an evaluation. [Id.] After completing a two-week program at Vanderbilt, Cima returned to work, but was terminated shortly thereafter “while still under her psychiatrist's supervision.” [Id. at 6.] Cima “was not given a specific reason for her termination, other than being told of nebulous complaints from the hospitals where she worked.” [Id.]

         After her termination, Cima signed a severance agreement. [Id.] She alleges that at the time she signed, “she lacked the capacity to enter into a contractual agreement [] because of the psychological conditions that she was still suffering from during the time that her employment ended.” [Id.] When Cima saw that the funds from her severance package had been directly deposited into her bank account, she sent a check to Medtronic for that same amount. [Id. at 7.] Medtronic never cashed Cima's check, nor did it respond to Cima's repeated requests for information. [Id.] Cima filed this suit, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, and interference with a contractual relationship. [Id. at 7-10.]

         Cima's complaint makes reference to, and depends upon, several documents. Her employment relationship with Medtronic was governed by the Medtronic Employee Agreement. See [DN 6-2 (filed under seal).] The Employee Agreement provides, among other things, that “Medtronic agrees to employ or continue to employ [Cima] at-will. The parties agree that either party may terminate [Cima's] employment at any time for any reason.” [Id. at 4 (emphasis removed).] Cima does not disclaim the Employment Agreement, but rather claims that two communications from her supervisor, Stacie Blankenship, imposed additional contractual requirements. See [DN 1-1 at 8-9.] Those communications, sent on March 21 and April 22, 2014, respectively, outline Blankenship's expectations regarding Cima's work at Baptist Health and her relationship with the doctor. See [DN 6-3 (filed under seal); DN 6-4 (filed under seal).] Finally, Cima's Separation Agreement and Release with Medtronic contains a release of all her claims against Medtronic. [DN -1 at 3-4 (filed under seal).]

         Medtronic removed this case from McCracken County, Kentucky Circuit Court, and then moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Medtronic argues that Cima's claims are barred by the Separation Agreement and the doctrine of laches, and that even if they are not barred, Cima's claims fail on the merits. See [DN 7; DN 7-1.] Cima responded, [DN 8], and Medtronic replied, [DN 10]. Fully briefed, Medtronic's motion to dismiss is ripe for adjudication.

         II. Standard of Review

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Civil Rule 12(b)(6), a party must “plead enough factual matter to raise a ‘plausible' inference of wrongdoing.” 16630 Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank, F.S.B., 727 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim becomes plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Should the well-pleaded facts support no “more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” then dismissal is warranted. Id. at 679. The Court may grant a motion to dismiss “only if, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint in favor of the plaintiff, the complaint still fails to allege a plausible theory of relief.” Garceau v. City of Flint, 572 F. App'x 369, 371 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-79).

         III. Discussion

         In support of its motion to dismiss, Medtronic raises several arguments. Medtronic contends that Cima's claims are barred by the Separation Agreement and Release and by the doctrine of laches. But Cima has plausibly alleged that she lacked the capacity to understand the consequences of signing the Separation Agreement, and the doctrine of laches does not bar Cima's claims. Similarly, Cima has plausibly alleged that Medtronic's representations to her altered her at-will employment status, and that its actions constituted extreme and outrageous behavior. Therefore, her breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional ...


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