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Archey v. AT&T Mobility, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

December 26, 2017

LORI ARCHEY PLAINTIFF
v.
AT&T MOBILITY, LLC, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          David L. Banning United States District Judge.

         Defendants AT&T Mobility, LLC and Amy Waymire (collectively “Defendants”) seek dismissal of three counts of Plaintiff Lori Archey's Complaint. (Doc. # 1-1). Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, or punitive damages. In their Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 10), Defendants ask the Court to dismiss Counts Three, Four, and Six of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1367.[1] The Motion is fully briefed (Docs. # 10-1 and 12), and ripe for the Court's review. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted and Counts Three, Four, and Six of Plaintiff's Complaint are dismissed.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Given the present procedural context, the factual summary that follows is taken from Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. # 1-1), and construed in her favor. Defendant AT&T Mobility, LLC (“AT&T”) was Plaintiff's employer until May 2, 2014. (Doc. # 1-1 at ¶ 6). Defendant Amy Waymire (“Waymire”) was Plaintiff's supervisor at AT&T. Id. at ¶ 5. In early 2013, Plaintiff applied for intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Id. at ¶ 7. Plaintiff renewed her intermittent FMLA leave in early 2014. Id. at ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that “[d]uring her second intermittent FMLA leave period, Defendants intentionally, recklessly, and willfully reclassified FMLA-qualifying absences as non-FMLA qualifying, denied FMLA approval to FMLA-qualifying absences, and otherwise impermissibly retroactively counted absences against her.” Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiff further alleges that “Defendants intentionally, recklessly, and willfully terminated Plaintiff on May 2, 2014 for exercising her rights under FMLA.” Id. at ¶ 11.

         Plaintiff filed the instant action on April 25, 2017. (Doc. # 1-1). Plaintiff's Complaint alleges seven counts against Defendants. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges: (1) willful FMLA interference under 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1); (2) willful FMLA retaliation under 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2); (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (4) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (5) negligence/vicarious liability; (6) punitive damages; and (7) causation and damages. (Doc. # 1-1). Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages claims.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. # 6 at 3). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) 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, 678 (2009). The standard is met when the facts in the complaint allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but must contain more than mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. Instead, the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculation level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         B. Plaintiff has not sufficiently pled a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         In support of their Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Defendants rely upon Kentucky law that requires a Plaintiff to show that “the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community” to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. # 6-1 at 4) (citing Craft v. Rice, 671 S.W.2d 247 (Ky. 1984)). Defendants argue that “[b]ecause of the restrictive view Kentucky courts have taken as it pertains to plaintiff claims of IIED [intentional infliction of emotional distress], federal courts have routinely dismissed these types of claims.” Id. Defendants further allege that Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress should be dismissed because “the Complaint is devoid of any factual allegations demonstrating that Defendant's conduct was ‘outrageous' and that Plaintiff's emotional suffering was ‘severe'.” (Doc. # 6-1 at 5). Instead, Defendants allege that Plaintiff's statements were “conclusory” and insufficient to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id.

         In contrast, Plaintiff argues that she has stated a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. # 10 at 3). Plaintiff points to facts alleged in the Complaint that “Defendants engaged in a sustained pattern of conduct designed to punish Plaintiff for exercising her federally protected rights and to make an example out of her for other employees who sought FMLA leave.” Id.

         To state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Kentucky law, Plaintiff must allege four elements. Craft v. Rice, 671 S.W.2d 247, 249 (Ky. 1984) (citing Womack v. Eldridge, 210 S.E.2d 145, 148 (Va. 1974)). First, Plaintiff must demonstrate “the wrongdoer's conduct was intentional or reckless.” Id. Plaintiff can demonstrate this when “the wrongdoer had the specific purpose of inflicting emotional distress or where he intended his specific conduct and knew or should have known that emotional distress would likely result.” Id. Second, the Plaintiff must demonstrate that “the conduct was outrageous and intolerable in that it offends against the generally accepted standard of decency and morality.” Id. This element is “aimed at limiting frivolous suits and avoiding litigation in situations where only bad manners and mere hurt feelings are involved.” Id. Third, Plaintiff must demonstrate that “there was a causal connection between the wrongdoer's conduct and the emotional distress.” Id. And fourth, Plaintiff must demonstrate that the “emotional distress was severe.” Id.

         The Court must decide whether, as a matter of law, accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Complaint contains facts that satisfy the four required elements. Put simply, it does not. The Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts that state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff's Complaint conclusively alleges the elements of the action: “[t]he conduct of the Defendants was so far beyond the bounds of a decent civilized society that such conduct was outrageous and intended to cause severe emotional distress to Plaintiff and did, in fact, cause such severe emotional distress.” (Doc. # 1-1 at 6). However, the only facts the Plaintiff alleges are that the Defendants reclassified FMLA-qualifying absences as non-FMLA-qualifying absences and denied FMLA approval to FMLA-qualifying absences. Id. at 5. As alleged, these facts are insufficient to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Kentucky law.

         Kentucky courts have held that the “[m]ere termination [of employment] clearly does not rise to the level of outrageous conduct required to support an IIED claim.” Benningfield v. Pettit Environ., Inc., 183 S.W.3d 567, 572 (Ky. Ct. App. 2005); see also Highlands Hosp. Corp. v. Preece, 323 S.W.3d 357 (Ky. Ct. App. 2010). Furthermore, even when termination is based on discrimination, it still “does not rise to the level of ‘extreme and outrageous conduct sufficient to support a claim for ...


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