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Woodcock v. Marathon Petroleum Co., LP

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division

March 29, 2019

JOHN WOODCOCK Plaintiff.
v.
MARATHON PETROLEUM COMPANY, LP; and BLANCHARD REFINING COMPANY, LLC Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          ANDREW M. EDISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. See Dkt. 18. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss was referred to this Court by United States District Court Judge George C. Hanks, Jr. for report and recommendation. See Dkt. 30. After careful consideration of the pleadings and the applicable law, the Court RECOMMENDS that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.

         FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS[1]

         Plaintiff John Woodcock ("Woodcock") worked in various capacities for Marathon Petroleum Company, LP and Blanchard Refining Company, LLC (collectively, "Marathon") at the Texas City plant. As a member of the local union, Woodcock's employment at Marathon was governed by a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"), effective from February 1, 2015, to January 31, 2019.

         Generally speaking, Woodcock alleges that, in violation of the CBA, Marathon required him to work around equipment it knew was defective and non-compliant with environmental and health and safety laws, and then wrongfully terminated his employment when he complained.

         More specifically, Woodcock contends Marathon required him "to work around pressure holding vessels, pumps, valves, gauges and equipment, which continuously leaked dangerous levels of toxic gasses, including H2S." Dkt. 17 at 2. Although Woodcock repeatedly complained about the defective pumps and equipment and requested that they be replaced, Marathon did not fix the problem. Instead, Marathon "implemented an unfeasible personal protective equipment policy, which knowingly violated [t]he Clean Air Act and other Environmental, Health and Safety civil and criminal laws." Id. Moreover, "the policy required [Woodcock] to act as an active co-conspirator in the knowing release of dangerous gasses in violation of the Clean Air Act and Environmental, Health and Safety State and Federal Laws." Id. at 2-3. As a direct result of Woodcock's complaints about these actions and his refusal to cooperate in these knowing violations of the law, Marathon terminated Woodcock's employment.

         Based on these allegations, Woodcock asserts breach of contract, fraud, and Sabine Pilot claims. Marathon has filed a Motion to Dismiss, seeking to dismiss Woodcock's Second Amended Complaint in its entirety.

         RULE 12(B)(6) STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8, which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. ClV. P. 8(a)(2). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court construes Woodcock's factual allegations in the light most favorable to plaintiff, accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations, and draws all reasonable inferences in Woodcock's favor. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         A complaint must contain "more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation," but need not have "detailed factual allegations." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The plaintiffs claims must also be plausible on their face, which means there is "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citation omitted). "[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of [the alleged] facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Fifth Circuit has repeatedly noted that "a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6) is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted." Leal v. McHugh, 731 F.3d 405, 410 (5th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         A. Contract

         Marathon first argues that Woodcock's breach of contract claim must be dismissed because it is preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"). Section 301 "provides the requisite jurisdiction and remedies for individual employees covered under a collective-bargaining agreement between that individual's employer and the union." Thomas v. LTV Corp., 39 F.3d 611, 616 (5th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Section 301 states, in pertinent part:

Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to ...

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