Myers v. Howmedica Osteonics Corporation
ORDER denying 4 Motion to Dismiss; striking Defendant's reply brief 18 , and finding as moot 19 Motion to deny. Signed by Chief Judge Dana L. Christensen on 3/30/2015. (dle)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
JEREMY R. MYERS,
HOWMEDICA OSTEONICS CORP.
DBA STRYKER ORTHOPAEDICS,
Before the Court is Defendant’s motion to dismiss. For the reasons
explained, the Court denies the motion.
Plaintiff Jeremy Myers (“Myers”) brings this diversity action against
Defendant Howmedica Osteonics Corp. (“Howmedica”) asserting one claim of
wrongful discharge from employment under Montana’s Wrongful Discharge from
Employment Act, Montana Code Annotated §§ 39-2-901 – 914 (“WDEA”).
Howmedica moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(e). On Howmedica’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss,
all of the allegations in the Complaint are presumed true. Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
Myers alleges that he was employed by Howmedica as a sales representative
beginning in March of 2005. He was promoted to Sales Manager for the
Northwest Branch effective July 1, 2010. He routinely received excellent
performance reviews and routinely met or exceeded his sales quotas.
Without receiving any warning of an issue concerning his work
performance or notice of any violation of Howmedica’s employee policy, Myers
was terminated on December 10, 2013. At the time of his termination, Myers was
not advised of the reasons for the termination and was not given an opportunity to
respond to any issues that Howmedica some time later relied upon to justify his
termination. Myers was not in a probationary period and his employment was not
covered by a written contract for a specified term.
Montana’s Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act provides that a
discharge is wrongful if it is “not for good cause” or if “the employer violated the
express provisions of its own written personnel policy.” Mont. Code Ann. §§ 392-904(1)(b)–(c).
Rule 12(b)(6) motions test the legal sufficiency of a pleading. Under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). Rule 8 “does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more
than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations and quotations omitted). “To
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id.
(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim has
facial plausibility when the court can draw a “reasonable inference” from the facts
alleged that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. On a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept all factual allegations in the
complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Kneivel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir. 2005).
Under Rule 12(e), “[a] party may move for a more definite statement of a
pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or
ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(e). A Rule 12(e) motion “attacks intelligibility, not simply lack of detail.”
Gregory Village Partners, L.P. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 805 F.Supp.2d 888, 896
(N.D. Cal. 2011). Due to the liberal pleading requirements of Rule 8, motions for
a more definite statement are “viewed with disfavor and are rarely granted.”
Sanchez v. City of Fresno, 914 F.Supp. 2d 1079, 1122 (E.D.Cal. 2012) (internal
citation omitted). A Rule 12(e) motion is inappropriate when the factual details
sought are obtainable through discovery. Id.
Howmedica contends that Myers’ Complaint fails to meet the pleading
standard because Myers does not specifically allege that he did not violate the
policies Howmedica has ultimately relied on to justify his termination. Myers
alleges that he was wrongfully terminated, that he always received excellent
performance reviews, and that he has still never received notice of the facts
underlying his alleged violations of Howmedica’s employee policies. The Court
must view these allegations in the light most favorable to Myers and determine if
Myers’ claim for wrongful discharge from employment is plausible. Under this
standard, it would be wholly unreasonable for the Court to infer from the facts
alleged that Myers admits to violating Howmedica’s employee policies. To do so
would turn the standard on its head. Myers’ Complaint alleges sufficient factual
information for the Court to infer that he was terminated without good cause.
Howmedica also contends that the Complaint must be dismissed because it
does not describe in any detail how Howmedica violated its own written personnel
policies in terminating Myers. Myers alleges that he was terminated without
warning, without being supplied with the reasons for his termination, and without
being afforded an opportunity to respond to the reasons later supplied by
Howmedica to justify his termination. Rule 8 does not require detailed factual
allegations, only facial plausibility. Written personnel policies routinely require
an employer to provide some process to an employee before termination,
including, warning, notice of the reasons for termination, and an opportunity to
respond. The factual allegations in Myers’ Complaint are sufficient to allow the
Court to draw a reasonable inference that Howmedica violated its written
personnel policy when it terminated Myers. Howmedica’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion is
Howmedica’s Rule 12(e) motion does not attack the intelligibility of Myers’
Complaint. It merely seeks additional details about the factual basis for Myers’
Complaint. Such information is easily obtainable through discovery.
Accordingly, Howmedica’s Rule 12(e) motion is denied.
Howmedica raises a host of arguments, including, notably, that Myers’ suit
is frivolous, brought in bad faith, and that amendment of the Complaint would be
futile, for the first time in its reply brief. Howmedica also submits a variety of
evidence in its reply brief, including an affidavit, and more than 100 pages of
exhibits, that are obviously inappropriate for consideration on a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss. Howmedica’s reply brief is also not signed by local counsel.
Local Rule 83.1(d)(5), governing the duties of local counsel working with pro hac
vice counsel, provides that “local counsel must sign all pleadings, motions and
briefs,” unless otherwise ordered. No such order has been entered in this case, and
no such order will be entered. Howmedica’s reply brief is stricken for failure to
comply with Local Rules. All future filings must be signed by local counsel and
comply with Local Rules.
IT IS ORDERED that:
Howmedica’s motion to dismiss (Doc. 4) is DENIED.
Howmedica’s reply brief (Doc. 18) is STRICKEN.
Myers’ motion to deny (Doc. 19) is DENIED AS MOOT.
DATED this 30th day of March 2015.
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