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Manuel Rodriguez v. Ppg Industries

October 17, 2011

MANUEL RODRIGUEZ,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
PPG INDUSTRIES, INC.,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Patricia A. Gaughan

Memorandum of Opinion and Order

This is a removed state law age and disability discrimination case. Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 4.) For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted as to Count I but denied as to Counts II and III.

Background

Plaintiff, Manuel Rodriguez, filed the complaint in this action in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. The complaint alleges the following facts. Plaintiff was employed by Defendant PPG Industries, Inc. (PPG) in Ohio from February 16, 1976 until June 17, 2008. (Complt., ¶ 2.) Plaintiff was "at all times [a] dedicated employee of Defendant and performed his duties with skill and proficiency." (Id., ¶ 4.)

Plaintiff "is in an age protected class." In addition, plaintiff "suffers from drug dependency and is handicapped." (Id., ¶¶ 2, 5.) On or about June 12, 2008, plaintiff "suffered a heat stroke which was exacerbated by his handicap while at work. Plaintiff left his work area briefly to recover." (Id., ¶ 5.) "Defendant falsely accused Plaintiff of sleeping on the job and retaliatory conduct" and terminated plaintiff on June 17, 2008. (Id., ¶¶ 5, 6.) "Defendant filled Plaintiff's position with and/or retained substantially younger/non-handicapped employees as a result of Plaintiff's termination." (Id., ¶ 7.)

Arising from these facts, plaintiff's complaint alleges three state law claims: intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count I), and age (Count II) and handicap discrimination (Count III) in violation of Ohio Rev. Code § 4112.99.

PPG removed the case to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction*fn1 and moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint's factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true. Ass'n of Cleveland Firefighters v. City of Cleveland, Ohio, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). That is, the complaint must contain sufficient factual material to state a claim that is "plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "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." Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

Analysis

Count I

In order to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Ohio law, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) the defendant intended to cause the plaintiff serious emotional distress; (2) the defendant's conduct was "extreme and outrageous;" and (3) the defendant's conduct was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's distress. Long v. Ford Motor Co., 193 F. Appx. 497, 502-03 (6th Cir. 2006), citing Phung v. Waste Mgmt., 71 Ohio St.3d 408 (Ohio 1994). To be considered "extreme and outrageous" under Ohio law, conduct must be "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." Long, 193 F.Appx. at 502-03. An employee's termination alone, even if unlawful and based upon impermissible discrimination, does not rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct. Godfredson v. Hess & Clark, Inc., 173 F.3d 365, 376 (6th Cir. 1999). In addition, serious emotional injury exists only where "a reasonable person, normally constituted, would be unable to cope adequately with a mental distress engendered by the circumstances of the case." Smith v. Ameriflora 1992, Inc., 96 Ohio App.3d 179, 644 N.E.2d 1038, 1045 (Ohio App. 1994).

Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress alleges merely that "Defendant's wrongful discharge of Plaintiff resulted in the intentional infliction of emotional distress on Plaintiff" and that as a result of "Defendant's action, Plaintiff has suffered injury, damage, and loss." (Complt., ¶¶ 9, 10.) These allegations are insufficient to demonstrate a plausible claim for relief. In his opposition brief, plaintiff also asserts that "Defendant's discharge of Plaintiff came without any warning and caused Plaintiff to experience loss of sleep, extreme nervousness and severe emotional distress" and that "Defendant falsely accused Plaintiff of sleeping on the job and retaliatory conduct." (Opp. at 5.) However, these assertions are also insufficient to state a claim. Plaintiff does not allege that PPG intended to cause him emotional distress, which is an element of the intentional tort. Further, all of the conduct attributed to PPG -- i.e., suddenly and wrongfully terminating plaintiff and falsely accusing him of sleeping on the job and retaliatory conduct -- even if true, characterizes an alleged unlawful termination, which is not "extreme and outrageous" conduct as a matter of Ohio law. See, e,g, Godfredson, 173 F.3d 365 (employment discrimination without more is not extreme and outrageous conduct). Further, Plaintiff's assertions that he suffered sleeplessness and nervousness do not demonstrate "serious emotional injury," which, as stated above, is emotional injury with which a reasonable person, normally constituted, would be unable to cope.

In sum, plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to show a plausible claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Ohio law. Therefore, defendant's motion to ...


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