Glover v. University Village at Salisbury, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge James K. Bredar on 2/25/2015. (bmhs, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
BECKY L. GLOVER,
UNIV. VILLAGE AT SALISBURY, LLC,
CIVIL NO. JKB-14-1801
Plaintiff Becky L. Glover was employed for several years as a property manager at
University Village Apartments in Salisbury, Maryland.
She brought this suit claiming
employment discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2 and
2000e-3, against University Village at Salisbury, LLC (“University Village”); Onley Road
Associates, LLC (“Onley Road”); Lockwood Design and Construction, Inc. (“Lockwood
Design”); Darin Lockwood; and Donald Lockwood. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) All Defendants other
than Darin Lockwood, who has filed a motion to dismiss, have filed answers. (ECF Nos. 13 &
27.) In addition, University Village and Donald Lockwood filed a counterclaim against Glover
for alleged abuse of process, and University Village also counterclaimed against her for alleged
tortious interference with actual and prospective contractual and/or business relationships. (ECF
No. 13.) University Village, Lockwood Design, and Donald Lockwood also filed a third-party
complaint against Ambling Management Company, LLC (“Ambling”), claiming breach of
contract and a right to indemnification on the theory that Glover was actually, and only, an
employee of Ambling. (ECF No. 14.)
Now pending before the Court are (1) Glover’s motion to dismiss the counterclaim for
failure to state a claim (ECF No. 16), (2) Ambling’s motion to dismiss the third-party complaint
for failure to state a claim or, in the alternative, for summary judgment (ECF No. 24), and
(3) Darin Lockwood’s motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
(ECF No. 38). The motions have been briefed (ECF Nos. 16, 19, 35, 41, 42, 43), and no hearing
is required, Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). Darin Lockwood’s motion will be denied, and the
other two motions will be granted.
II. Standard of Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim
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) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists “when the
plaintiff 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. An inference of a mere
possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to support a plausible claim. Id. at 679. As the
Twombly opinion stated, “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” 550 U.S. at 555. “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’ . . . Nor does a complaint
suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Although when considering a motion to
dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, this principle does not
apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
II. Standard for Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1)
The burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff. Adams v. Bain, 697
F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982) (noting challenge may be either facial, i.e., complaint fails to
allege facts upon which subject-matter jurisdiction can be based, or factual, i.e., jurisdictional
allegations of complaint are not true). See also Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th
Cir. 2009) (same); Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Ry. Co., 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir.
1991) (same). In the case of a factual challenge, it is permissible for a district court to “consider
evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary
judgment.” Richmond, Fredericksburg, 945 F.2d at 768 (citing Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219).
A. Darin Lockwood’s Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1)
Because a challenge has been raised to the Court’s subject-matter jurisdiction in Darin
Lockwood’s motion, the Court will address this issue first.
Darin Lockwood contends that Glover did not charge him in her Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) complaint and, therefore, she has failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies with respect to him. A plaintiff’s failure to exhaust administrative
remedies for a Title VII claim deprives federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction over the
claim. Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009). Further, a civil action
may be brought under Title VII only against the respondent named in the EEOC charge. 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). “The purposes of this requirement include putting the charged party on
notice of the complaint and allowing the EEOC to attempt reconciliation.” Causey v. Balog, 162
F.3d 795, 800 (4th Cir. 1998). However, in various opinions from this Court, a “substantial
identity” exception has been recognized to this “naming requirement.” In Chastang v. Flynn &
Emrich Co., 365 F. Supp. 957 (D. Md. 1973), aff’d in relevant part, 541 F.2d 1040 (4th Cir.
1976), it was stated:
[W]here there is a substantial, if not complete, identity of parties before the EEOC
and the court, it would require an unnecessarily technical and restrictive reading
of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 to hold that this court lacks jurisdiction.
Id. at 964. See also Alvarado v. Bd. of Trs., Montgomery Community College, 848 F.2d 457, 461
(4th Cir. 1988) (noting that Chastang’s language had been quoted with approval in dictum in
EEOC v. Am. Nat’l Bank, 652 F.2d 1176, 1186 n.5 (4th Cir. 1981)).
Thus, the naming requirement “is not applied in a hyper-technical fashion.” Kronk v.
Carroll Cnty., Md., Civ. No. L-11-277, 2012 WL 245059, at *5 (D. Md. Jan. 25, 2012).
Consequently, if the purposes of the naming requirement are met—that is, if (1) the defendant
contesting jurisdiction had fair notice of the EEOC charge and if (2) the EEOC had the
opportunity to mediate the controversy—then a failure to name a specific defendant may be
excused. Elzey v. Wal-Mart Assocs., Inc., Civ. No. RDB-11-2151, 2012 WL 3715321, at *3 (D.
Md. Aug. 28, 2012); Vanguard Justice Soc. Inc. v. Hughes, 471 F. Supp. 670, 687 (D. Md.
1979). See also Chastang, 365 F. Supp. at 962 (actual attempt by EEOC to mediate is not
jurisdictional prerequisite; Title VII’s policy of encouraging informal negotiations and
conciliation efforts by EEOC satisfied as long as EEOC had opportunity to mediate). This is in
keeping “with the judicial policy of liberally construing Title VII.” Id. at 964.
The Court has been supplied with various documents relevant to the question at hand.
The first noted is the EEOC “Intake Questionnaire” filled out by Glover on January 3, 2012.
(Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 1, ECF No. 42-2.) In it, Glover indicates her belief that she was discriminated
against by her employer and the owner of the property where she worked; in the space for
“Organization Name,” she wrote, “University Village owner Darin Lockwood.” Glover named
both “Don Lockwood” and “Darrin Lockwood” as persons responsible for the discriminatory
actions taken against her. She indicated that at the end of December 2011, approximately two
weeks after she had reported her complaint of sexual harassment to Ambling, her employment
was terminated. Attached to her Intake Questionnaire was a narrative list of the acts of sexual
harassment committed by Darin Lockwood against her.
The next relevant document is a letter written by her former counsel on February 2, 2012,
and addressed to
University Village at Salisbury, LLC
Lockwood Design and Construction, Inc.
c/o Don Lockwood
(Darin Lockwood Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 3, p. 15, ECF No. 38-5.) In it, Glover’s then-attorney
invited the recipient to contact him regarding a settlement of her claims.
The third document of note is the formal EEOC “Charge of Discrimination,” dated
April 17, 2012, naming “Lockwood Design and Construction” as the respondent and describing
incidents of sexual harassment by Darin Lockwood as well as the retaliation against Glover in
the form of employment termination. (Id., p. 18.) She referred to him in the charge as a
principal of the company.
Next, on August 22, 2012, Darin Lockwood’s former counsel, Mr. John W. Paradee,
wrote a letter to the EEOC’s Baltimore office, in reference to the mediation conference
scheduled for August 27, 2012, pursuant to Glover’s EEOC claim. (Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 3, ECF
No. 42-4.) The attorney said his purpose in writing was
to request permission to attend the August 27th mediation conference on behalf of
my client—the accused and alleged perpetrator—Darin A. Lockwood. Although I
do not represent Lockwood Design & Construction, Inc. (“LDC”), the employer
named in the charge of discrimination, I do believe that my attendance and
participation in the mediation conference is critical for any prospect of resolving
the charge of discrimination via mediation—if for no other reason than it is my
client’s alleged conduct which is at issue, and, therefore, any effort to mediate the
claimant’s claims and/or fashion a remedy designed to provide redress to the
claimant will necessarily require input or response from my client.
Mr. Paradee copied Darin Lockwood as well as John O’Brien, the attorney representing
Lockwood Design, on the letter.
Then, on December 18, 2012, the EEOC’s investigator, James P. Norris, sent a letter to
this same attorney, Mr. Paradee:
This letter is to inform you that the above reference[d] charge has been assigned
to me for investigation. On May 16, 2012, the Commission sent a Notice of
Charge to your client’s attention regarding the above listed Charge of
Discrimination. The Commission requested that your organization provide a
statement of position with respect to the allegations set forth by the Charging
Party. Based on correspondence contained in the file, it appears the parties were
scheduled for a Mediation Conference on Monday, August 27, 2012. Due to a
failure to resolve this claim, the Charge was forwarded to our Enforcement Unit
for investigation. As a result, the Commission is now requesting a formal
statement of position with respect to the allegations set forth by the Charging
Party. Please submit the requested documentation no later than January 16, 2013.
(Id. Ex. 2, ECF No. 42-3 (emphasis omitted).) Further, Mr. Norris indicated the EEOC’s
willingness to engage in a predetermination settlement.
Mr. Paradee responded with an email message on January 3, 2013, advising Mr. Norris
that he did not represent the employer in the matter, but that he did represent Darin Lockwood,
“whose alleged conduct appears to be the subject of the claimant’s charge of discrimination.”
(Id. Ex. 4, p. 3, ECF No. 42-5.) He also indicated that Darin Lockwood was neither an owner
nor an employee of Lockwood Design, that Glover had never been an employee of Lockwood
Design, and that Glover’s charge should be dismissed with prejudice. Mr. Paradee copied Mr.
O’Brien on the message.
After Mr. Norris acknowledged Mr. Paradee’s message on January 9, 2013, Mr. Paradee
sent another message promptly and clarified that, while Mr. O’Brien was the appropriate contact
for Lockwood Design, Mr. Paradee was requesting that he be copied on all correspondence and
be kept apprised of all developments in the matter. (Id., p. 2.) Mr. O’Brien retired and was
replaced as counsel by Constantine Malmberg III, who, in his own response to Mr. Norris,
repeated the substance of Mr. Paradee’s email response to Mr. Norris as the position of
Lockwood Design. (Id., p. 1; Ex. 5, ECF No. 42-6.)
The EEOC issued its “Determination” on February 14, 2014, and in it, the EEOC
determined reasonable cause existed to believe that Glover had been retaliated against because of
her complaint of sexual harassment. (Compl., Ex. 1.) The respondent was invited to join in a
conciliation to resolve the EEOC charge. The conciliation effort was not successful, and Glover
was issued her right-to-sue letter on March 21, 2014. (Id. Ex. 2.) This suit was timely filed on
June 5, 2014.
The Court also notes certain allegations by Glover in her complaint:
¶ 4 – University Village is a Maryland limited liability company formed in 2004
by its members, Darin Lockwood and Donald Lockwood (collectively the
“Lockwoods”), for the purpose of acquiring real estate and developing, managing,
or otherwise maintaining it for profit. Upon information and belief, University
Village was formed by the Lockwoods to manage and operate the University
Village Apartments. The Lockwoods exercise ultimate control and final authority
of the University Village Apartments, including its management staff.
¶ 5 – Onley Road is a Delaware limited liability company formed in 2001 by the
Lockwoods. According to Maryland State Department of Assessments and
Taxation, Onley Road owns the real property on which the University Village
Apartments are situated, which is more particularly described as 202 Onley Road,
Salisbury, Maryland 21801. Upon information and belief, the Lockwoods formed
Onley Road to hold title to the University Village Apartments.
¶ 6 – Lockwood Design is a Delaware Corporation formed by the Lockwoods in
1984. The Lockwoods are shareholders of Lockwood Design. Upon information
and belief, Lockwood Design constructed the University Village Apartments.
According to the EEOC’s Determination, Lockwood Design contracted Ambling
Management Company (“Ambling”) to conduct the day-to-day operations of
University Village Apartments. Through Ambling, Defendants[ ] employed,
directed, and paid Ms. Glover to serve as Property Manager of the University
¶ 7 – Darin Lockwood employed Ms. Glover. He disregarded the corporate
formalities of his businesses by using the business names interchangeably for
matters pertaining to the University Village Apartments and exerted direct
authority over Ms. Glover.
¶ 8 – Donald Lockwood employed Ms. Glover. He disregarded the corporate
formalities of his businesses by using the business names interchangeably for
matters pertaining to the University Village Apartments and exerted direct
authority over Ms. Glover.
¶ 16 – Darin Lockwood and Donald Lockwood exercised significant control over
the terms and conditions of Ms. Glover’s employment. They defined Ms.
Glover’s job duties and responsibilities and required her to report on her
performance directly to them. Ms. Glover’s salary was paid from the profits of
the Lockwoods’ business(es).
¶ 17 – Darin Lockwood and Donald Lockwood visited the University Village
Apartments frequently and maintained constant email contact with Ms. Glover.
On any given day, Ms. Glover received multiple email messages from either
Darin Lockwood or Donald Lockwood directing her about the performance of her
The Court concludes that Darin Lockwood received fair notice of the EEOC charge,
which specifically referred to allegations of sexual harassment committed by him, and that the
EEOC had an opportunity to mediate with him to resolve it. Further, the Court concludes that
substantial identity of the parties before the EEOC and the Court allows a determination that
Glover exhausted her administrative remedies against Darin Lockwood. “Substantial identity”
can be derived from the overlapping layers and interchangeability of corporate entities as well as
the disregard of corporate formalities by the Lockwoods in the day-to-day operations of the
University Village Apartments.1
The Court acknowledges that Darin Lockwood has provided documents showing unresolved Delaware
state court litigation between Darin Lockwood and other Lockwood family members and entities, with the litigation
arising subsequent to the events detailed in Glover’s complaint. However, Glover cannot be held responsible for
Consequently, subject-matter jurisdiction exists in this Court over Glover’s suit. Darin
Lockwood’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction will be denied.
B. Glover’s Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim
Plaintiff seeks dismissal of the counterclaim filed against her by University Village and
Donald Lockwood on the ground that it fails to state a claim for relief. In the first count of the
counterclaim, Counterclaimants allege that Glover is liable for an alleged abuse of process.
Because this count arises under state law, the Court looks to the elements of the tort recognized
in Maryland law: (1) willful misuse of criminal or civil process against another party (2) for a
purpose other than the proceeding’s intended purpose, (3) thereby causing the other party
damage. State v. Rendelman, 947 A.2d 546, 556 n.9 (Md. 2008). “There is no liability where
the defendant has done nothing more than carry out the process to its authorized conclusion, even
though with bad intentions.” Palmer Ford, Inc. v. Wood, 471 A.2d 297, 311 (Md. 1984). An
abuse of process requires “a perversion of court process to accomplish some end which the
process was not designed to accomplish; it does not arise from a regular use of process, even
with ulterior motives.” Capitol Elec. Co. v. Cristaldi, 157 F. Supp. 646, 648 (D. Md. 1958),
quoted in Attorney Grievance Comm’n of Md. v. Roberts, 904 A.2d 557, 571-72 (Md. 2006).
Counterclaimants have failed to state a claim for relief. They have alleged that Glover
abused the EEOC’s process for charging violations of employment law, specifically, by claiming
that she was an employee of the Counterclaimants when she was never employed by them.
Further, they allege she has abused the process of the instant litigation by making false
allegations as to the Counterclaimants’ conduct. As to the former contention, the Court has
already decided that Glover has sufficiently alleged that she had more than one employer by
that internal discord in the Lockwood family and their various businesses, and its existence does not affect the
Court’s determination that Glover has properly exhausted her administrative remedies before filing this suit.
making factual allegations supporting the inference that several individuals and entities exercised
authority over her. Thus, it was not an abuse of process for her to involve them in the EEOC
proceeding; rather, it was a proper use of that process.
As to the second contention,
Counterclaimants have accused Glover of “false allegations” in her complaint in this Court, but
have done so in a conclusional fashion. This count fails to satisfy the Twombly-Iqbal standard of
factual specificity to permit the Court to draw a reasonable inference of wrongdoing by Glover.
The other count in the counterclaim is that asserted by University Village based upon
Glover’s alleged tortious interference with actual and prospective contractual and/or business
A claim for intentional interference with contractual or business relations requires
the following elements:
(1) intentional and wilful acts; (2) calculated to cause damage to the
plaintiffs in their lawful business; (3) done with the unlawful purpose to
cause such damage and loss, without right or justifiable cause on the part
of the defendants (which constitutes malice); and (4) actual damage and
Blondell v. Littlepage, 991 A.2d 80, 97 (Md. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations
This count also suffers from inadequately precise factual allegations to allow the Court to
draw a reasonable inference that Glover has engaged in wrongful conduct. University Village
has not plausibly alleged that Glover has actually interfered with any existing contract or any
prospective business relationship.
Consequently, Glover’s motion to dismiss the counterclaim will be granted.
C. Ambling’s Motion to Dismiss Third-Party Complaint
Ambling’s motion seeks dismissal of or, in the alternative, summary judgment on the
Third-Party Plaintiffs’ complaint against Ambling.
Considering the motion as one under
Rule 12(b)(6), the Court finds it should be granted because the third-party complaint fails to state
a claim for relief.
The third-party complaint alleges breach of contract in Count I and a claim of
indemnification in Count II.
Third-Party Plaintiffs contend in Count I that, under the
management agreement between University Village and Ambling, Ambling is solely and
completely responsible for all matters pertaining to Glover, her employment with Ambling, and
the termination of her employment.
(Third-Party Complaint (“TPC”) ¶ 16, ECF No. 14.)
Further, they contend, Glover’s asserted claims “are allegedly based squarely upon the
termination of her employment, which termination was Ambling’s sole act and decision (as
Glover’s employer).” (Id. ¶ 17.) Therefore, they continue, in regard to defending Glover’s
complaint and associated costs and expenses and to the extent that anyone is held responsible for
allegations of Glover proven to be true, then “Ambling bears such responsibility, solely and
completely, under the terms of the Agreement, and owes such contractual duty to Third-Party
Plaintiffs.” (Id. ¶ 18.) Then, they allege, “Ambling has breached such contractual duty(ies) and,
as a result, Third-Party Plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer economic losses.” (Id.
To evaluate the plausibility of Count I, it is necessary to determine if the management
agreement states what Third-Party Plaintiffs allege it states and then to determine whether
Third-Party Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient factual content to show that Ambling has breached
the agreement. Third-Party Plaintiffs attached a copy of the agreement to their complaint, and
since it is integral to their complaint and since its authenticity has not been questioned, the Court
will consider its contents in ruling upon Ambling’s motion to dismiss. See Am. Chiropractic
Ass’n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir. 2004).
The agreement does state in section 5.2(a), “All matters pertaining to the Manager’s
Employees, including their employment, supervision, compensation, promotion and discharge,
shall be the responsibility of Manager.” Ambling is the “Manager” in the agreement. However,
to read into that one statement that Ambling has “sole and complete responsibility” for
everything pertaining to its employees would effectively add language that does not exist in the
agreement. As well, to extend that nonexistent language to create a duty by Ambling to defend
and indemnify Third-Party Plaintiffs for any matter involving an Ambling employee would result
in the creation of a new term to the contract, something “expressly forbidden by Maryland
contract law.” Arthur E. Selnick Assocs., Inc. v. Howard Cnty., Md., 51 A.3d 76, 94 (Md. Ct.
Spec. App. 2012). The duty to defend and indemnify is explicitly addressed in section 8. Since
the parties carefully defined and limited that duty in section 8, it would be unreasonable to find
that another part of the contract created an implicit, overarching, broad duty to defend and
indemnify that nullified the limitations placed on it in section 8. The Court must consider all of
the contractual provisions and interpret them harmoniously so as to give meaning and effect to
all of them. Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Cook, 872 A.2d 969, 985-86 (Md. 2005) (court must give
“effect to every clause and phrase, so as not to omit an important part of the agreement”).
Because Third-Party Plaintiffs’ claim in Count I depends upon the Court’s finding a
contractual duty of Ambling that does not exist, Ambling’s motion will be granted as to Count I.
Count II also does not survive the motion to dismiss. In it, Third-Party Plaintiffs claim,
Under Section 8 of the Agreement, Ambling must indemnify Third-Party
Plaintiffs in regard to the claims asserted by Glover in the Complaint, and they
have failed to do so. As a result, Third-Party Plaintiffs have suffered and will
continue to suffer economic losses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and
(TPC ¶ 21.)
In the portion of section 8 that deals with Ambling’s duty to Third-Party Plaintiffs, it
states in part,
Manager agrees to defend Owner, and its officers, trustees, agents, and
employees from and against any and all claims, demands, losses, liabilities,
actions, lawsuits and other proceedings, and pay all judgments, awards, costs, and
expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees and disbursements) finally
awarded against Owner which arise out of a claim or demand by a third party to
the extent that such claim or demand arises from Manager’s breach of its
obligations under this Agreement, and results in personal injury, death, or
property damage, in proportion to the degree of fault attributable to
(TPC, Ex. A, section 8.1 (emphasis added).)
Thus, Ambling has a duty to defend Third-Party Plaintiffs from and indemnify them for
Glover’s claims only to the extent that her claims arise from a breach by Ambling of its
obligations under the agreement and, even then, only to the extent that any claimed injury is “in
proportion to the degree of fault attributable to” Ambling. Having reviewed Glover’s complaint,
the Court concludes that none of her claimed injury arises from a breach by Ambling of the
Glover is claiming sexual harassment by Darin Lockwood and
retaliation based on the termination of her employment, which she alleges, as to the latter event,
occurred via email from Donald Lockwood. Third-Party Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged
that any of Glover’s alleged injury was caused by Ambling’s breach of the management
agreement. Consequently, Ambling’s motion to dismiss will also be granted as to Count II.
Darin Lockwood’s motion to dismiss will be denied. Glover’s motion to dismiss and
Ambling’s motion to dismiss will be granted. A separate order follows.
DATED this 25th day of February, 2015.
BY THE COURT:
James K. Bredar
United States District Judge
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