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Lawson v. Jason Pharmaceuticals LLC

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

June 12, 2019

KIMBERLY LAWSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JASON PHARMACEUTICALS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sam A. Lindsay United States District Judge.

         Before the court are Defendant Jason Pharmaceuticals, Inc.'s (“Defendant” or “Jason Pharmaceuticals”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 45), filed October 3, 2018; Plaintiff Kimberly Lawson's (“Plaintiff” or “Lawson”) Response (Doc. 47), filed October 23, 2018; Defendant's Reply (Doc. 50), filed November 5, 2018; and Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 51), filed November 13, 2018.

         On November 13, 2017, the court entered a Standing Order of Reference referring this action to United States Magistrate Judge Paul D. Stickney (“Judge Stickney”) for pretrial management. Doc. 21. On January 26, 2018, by special order, the court reassigned all civil cases originally assigned to Judge Stickney to United States Magistrate Judge Rebecca Rutherford (“Judge Rutherford”) (Doc. 30). On August 28, 2018, the court recommitted this action to Judge Rutherford for pretrial management.

         After careful consideration of the motion, briefs, pleadings, and applicable law, the court vacates the Standing Order of Reference (Doc. 21); grants Defendant Jason Pharmaceuticals, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 45); and dismisses with prejudice Plaintiff's federal claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) because they are time-barred; and dismisses without prejudice Plaintiff's state age and disability discrimination claims based on a theory of constructive discharge asserted pursuant to the Texas Labor Code for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On September 27, 2017, Lawson filed a pro se form complaint (“Original Complaint”) for employment discrimination alleging claims under Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA. Pl.'s Compl., Doc. 3 at 3. The Original Complaint alleges that the discriminatory conduct includes termination of her employment, unequal terms and conditions of her employment, and retaliation. Id. at 4. Lawson alleges that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a Notice of Right to Sue letter on June 27, 2017, and, therefore, she exhausted her federal administrative remedies with respect to the alleged claims. Id. at 5. The Original Complaint does not set forth any factual allegations regarding her claims. After Plaintiff, proceeding in forma pauperis, attempted to serve Defendant with the Original Complaint on October 25, 2017, Lawson filed an amended complaint (“First Amended Complaint”) on November 7, 2017. Plaintiff's initial attempts to serve Defendant failed to attach a copy of the Original Complaint to the summons. Doc. 34 at 1-2. On November 16, 2017, the United States Marshal Service served Defendant with a copy of the summons and Plaintiff's Original Complaint. Doc. 29.

         On November 9, 2017, Jason Pharmaceuticals filed its first Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) and 12(b)(6) (Doc. 16). On August 13, 2018, pursuant to the Standing Order of Reference in effect at that time, Judge Rutherford entered the Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge, recommending that the court grant Defendant's motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because Lawson's Original Complaint and First Amended Complaint contained “‘bare bones' accusations that [were] devoid of factual support.” Doc. 34 at 9. On October 28, 2018, the court accepted the findings and conclusions of the magistrate judge and ordered Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint.

         On September 19, 2018, Lawson filed her Second Amended Complaint (“Second Amended Complaint”). On October 3, 2018, Jason Pharmaceuticals filed its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. In addition to filing an initial response, Lawson filed a surreply on November 13, 2018, that included a request to the court seeking leave to file it. As Defendant has not subsequently filed opposition to the request and Plaintiff is proceeding pro se in this action, the court grants Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a surreply and has considered the brief in its resolution of the pending motion to dismiss.

         In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant makes these arguments: (1) Plaintiff's claims are time-barred because they were not timely filed following the receipt of the EEOC's Notice of Right to Sue; (2) Plaintiff failed to exhaust her federal and state administrative remedies with respect to her claims for age and disability discrimination under the Texas Labor Code, her claim for harassment under the ADA, and her claim for retaliation under Title VII; and (3) Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         For the reasons set forth in this opinion, the court determines that Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies with respect to her federal claims but not her state claims. The court, however, determines that the federal claims are time-barred because Plaintiff did not timely file this action after receiving the EEOC's Notice of Right to Sue.

         II. Rule 12(b)(6) - Failure to State a Claim

         To defeat a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Reliable Consultants, Inc. v. Earle, 517 F.3d 738, 742 (5th Cir. 2008); Guidry v. American Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007). A claim meets the plausibility test “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must set forth “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). The “[f]actual allegations of [a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (quotation marks, citations, and footnote omitted). When the allegations of the pleading do not allow the court to infer more than the mere possibility of wrongdoing, they fall short of showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Sonnier v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 509 F.3d 673, 675 (5th Cir. 2007); Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). In ruling on such a motion, the court cannot look beyond the pleadings. Id.; Spivey v. Robertson, 197 F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999). The pleadings include the complaint and any documents attached to it. Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498-99 (5th Cir. 2000). Likewise, “‘[d]ocuments that a defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss are considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to [the plaintiff's] claims.'” Id. (quoting Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 431 (7th Cir. 1993)). In this regard, a document that is part of the record but not referred to in a plaintiff's complaint and not attached to a motion to dismiss may not be considered by the court in ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion. Gines v. D.R. Horton, Inc., 699 F.3d 812, 820 & n.9 (5th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted).

         The ultimate question in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the complaint states a valid claim when it is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2002). While well-pleaded facts of a complaint are to be accepted as true, legal conclusions are not “entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted). Further, a court is not to strain to find inferences favorable to the plaintiff and is not to accept conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions, or legal conclusions. R2 Invs. LDC v. Phillips, 401 F.3d 638, 642 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). The court does not evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success; instead, it only determines whether the plaintiff has pleaded a legally cognizable claim. United States ex rel. Riley v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp., 355 F.3d 370, 376 (5th Cir. 2004). Stated another way, when a court deals with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, its task is to test the sufficiency of the allegations contained in the pleadings to determine whether they are adequate enough to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Mann v. Adams Realty Co., 556 F.2d 288, 293 (5th Cir. 1977); Doe v. Hillsboro ...


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