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Thompson v. Legal Aid of Northwest Texas

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

February 21, 2019




         Before the Court is Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 6). For the reasons stated, the motion should be GRANTED.


         Defendant Legal Aid of Northwest Texas (“LANWT”) employed Plaintiff Petrina Thompson (“Thompson”), a licensed attorney, on a part-time basis for a period of approximately four months. Pl.'s Am. Compl. 1, ¶ 1 (ECF No. 10). Thompson's primary responsibility was answering incoming calls to a legal advice hotline. Id. 2, ¶ 8. By this lawsuit, Thompson alleges that during her employment she experienced harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by her coworkers and supervisors. Id. 2-15, ¶¶ 8-78. In April 2017, LANWT placed Thompson on paid administrative leave while it investigated her allegations that a coworker assaulted her by running into her “involuntarily and moving her several steps.” Id. 7, ¶ 36. LANWT ultimately terminated Thompson's employment on June 23, 2017. Id. 1, ¶ 1.

         Thompson filed charges with both the Texas Workforce Commission, Civil Rights Division (the “TWCCRD”), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”). Pl.'s Compl. 2, ¶ 5 (ECF No. 3); Pl.'s Am. Compl. 2, ¶ 5 (realleging same). The TWCCRD issued a notice of right to sue on January 17, 2018, and the EEOC issued a similar notice of right to sue on February 28, 2018. Pl.'s Compl. 2, ¶ 5; Pl.'s Am. Compl. 2, ¶ 5 (realleging same). Thompson alleges that she received the EEOC notice on March 25, 2018. Id. She then filed her original complaint on June 18, 2018, bringing claims under (1) the Texas Labor Code, §§ 21.051-21.061; (2) Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-1 through 2000e-17; (3) the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213; (4) the Family and Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654; and (5) 41 U.S.C. § 1983. Pl.'s Compl. 17-22.

         LANWT filed its motion to dismiss arguing that Thompson failed to file suit within the requisite time after receiving her notices of right to sue. Def.'s Mot. 1. Thompson filed an amended complaint and a response to the motion to dismiss, and LANWT filed a reply. Pl.'s Am. Compl. 1; Def.'s Reply 1 (ECF No. 12). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         Legal Standard

         To survive LANWT's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, Thompson's 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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Thompson's factual allegations must “‘raise her right to relief above the speculative level, '” but they do not need to be detailed. Lee v. Verizon Commc'ns, Inc., 837 F.3d 523, 533 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Rosenblatt v. United Way of Greater Hous., 607 F.3d 413, 417 (5th Cir. 2010)). Thompson's claims have facial plausibility if she “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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         The Court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to [Thompson].” In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir. 2008). However, the Court does not accept as true “conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions.” Ferrer v. Chevron Corp., 484 F.3d 776, 780 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005)).


         Preliminary Matters

         In its reply, LANWT protests that Thompson filed her amended complaint without leave of court; however, a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days after service of a Rule 12(b) motion if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(b). The docket reflects that Thompson's amended complaint was filed within 21 days of service of LANWT's motion to dismiss, so leave of court was not required. See Pl.'s Am. Compl. (ECF No. 10).

         Thompson's amended complaint supersedes her “original complaint and renders it of no legal effect” because the amended complaint fails to adopt or incorporate by reference her original complaint. King v. Dogan, 31 F.3d 344, 346 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Boelens v. Redman Homes, Inc., 759 F.2d 504, 508 (5th Cir. 1985)). Thompson failed to replead the FMLA and § 1983 claims asserted in her original complaint. Pl.'s Compl. 20-22, ¶¶ 109-19; Pl.'s Am. Compl. 15-18. “[I]f a party voluntarily omits a certain claim from an amended complaint that the party raised in the original complaint, the party is bound by the amended complaint and cannot proceed on the omitted claims because they are no longer a part of the operative complaint.” Haddock v. Nationwide Fin. Servs. Inc., 514 F.Supp.2d 267, 273 (D. Conn. Sept. 25, 2007); see also Young v. City of Mount Rainier, 238 F.3d 567, 573 (4th Cir. 2001) (“The general rule, as stated above, is that an amended pleading supersedes the original pleading, rendering the original pleading of no effect. Thus, if an amended complaint omits claims raised in the original complaint, the plaintiff has waived those omitted claims.”). In her response, Thompson concedes that her FMLA and § 1983 claims have been “rendered moot.” Pl.'s Resp. 4, 14 (ECF No. 11).

         To the extent Thompson repleaded her claims under the Texas Labor Code, Title VII, and the ADA, her amended complaint failed to cure certain defects with respect to those claims. Accordingly, the Court treats LANWT's motion as directed to the amended complaint. See Holmes v. Nat'l Football League, 939 F.Supp. 517, 523 n.7 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 27, 1996) (recognizing that court may treat motion to ...

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