Vera v. The Donado Law Firm et al
OPINION AND ORDER: For the foregoing reasons, Defendants motion to dismiss is GRANTED. The Clerk ofCourt is respectfully directed to dismiss Defendant American Legal Counsels PLLC from thecase and close the motion at Docket Number 7.Motions terminate d: 7 MOTION to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, filed by American Legal Counsels PLLC Law Firm. American Legal Counsels PLLC Law Firm terminated. (Signed by Judge Lorna G. Schofield on 8/15/2017) (ap)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
PAOLA D. VERA, ESQ.,
THE DONADO LAW FIRM, et al.,
17 Civ. 3123 (LGS)
OPINION AND ORDER
LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge:
Plaintiff Paola D. Vera, Esq., a former employee of The Donado Law Firm, was
discharged after taking maternity leave, undergoing chemotherapy and raising concerns over her
employer’s alleged ethical violations. Plaintiff sues The Donado Law Firm and a number of
other Defendants based on her termination and the events preceding it, alleging gender
discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (“Title
VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (the “ADA”), the
New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 (the “NYSHRL”) and the New York
City Human Rights Law, N.Y. Admin. Code § 8-107 (the “NYCHRL”). Plaintiff also alleges
breach of contract. Defendant American Legal Counsels, PLLC Law Firm (“ALC”) moves to
dismiss the Complaint. For the following reasons, the motion is granted, and the Complaint is
dismissed with respect to ALC.
The following facts are taken from the Complaint and accepted as true for the purposes of
this motion. See Doe v. Columbia Univ., 831 F.3d 46, 48 (2d Cir. 2016).
In May 2013, The Donado Law Firm (the “Firm”) hired Plaintiff as an associate attorney.
In and around December 2013, Plaintiff learned that the Firm and American Hope Group
(“American Hope”) were the subject of numerous lawsuits and complaints to the New York State
Attorney General’s Office concerning allegations of fraud. American Hope is not identified in
the Complaint but apparently provided back office and marketing services to the Firm. Around
this time, Plaintiff raised concerns about ethical violations the Firm was committing, but her
concerns were dismissed.
Several months into her employment with the Firm, Plaintiff became pregnant. The Firm
refused to pay her during her maternity leave, which began in April 2014. Soon after her
maternity leave, the Firm hired a male associate attorney.
In mid-2014, Defendants Mauricio Villamarin, apparently a Firm partner, and Elizabeth
Martinez, the Firm’s Chief Financial Officer, closed American Hope and created ALC. Martinez
became the President of ALC. ALC is domiciled in New York and is an employer within the
meaning of the ADA, NYSHRL and NYCHRL.
In October 2014, Plaintiff was diagnosed with breast cancer. Approximately one month
later, she began chemotherapy treatment. Plaintiff continued to work at the Firm, missing only
those days when she received chemotherapy. Around this time, the Firm hired another male
In November 2014, Defendant Valmiro Donado personally fired Plaintiff without
providing a reason. In December 2014, Plaintiff received a letter of termination, which cited
purported changes in business and in the firm’s volume of work as grounds for Plaintiff’s
To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “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 Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). It is not enough for a
plaintiff to allege facts that are consistent with liability; the complaint must “nudge” claims
“across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “To survive
dismissal, the plaintiff must provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual
allegations sufficient ‘to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.’” ATSI Commc’ns,
Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). On
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “all factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and all
inferences are drawn in the plaintiff’s favor.” Apotex Inc. v. Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., 823 F.3d
51, 59 (2d Cir. 2016). Furthermore, a plaintiff’s pro se pleadings are liberally construed to “raise
the strongest [claims] that [they] suggest.” Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d. Cir. 2011)
The Complaint as it pertains to ALC is dismissed because it alleges no facts about ALC
that, if true, would plausibly state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Complaint
contains only three allegations about ALC: (1) ALC is domiciled in New York; (2) ALC is an
employer within the meaning of the ADA, NYSHRL and NYCHRL; and (3) in mid-2014,
American Hope was closed and ALC was created. None of these allegations plausibly suggests
any wrongdoing on the part of ALC.
Drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party and assuming that American
Hope somehow imparted successor liability to ALC, the Complaint similarly contains no
allegations that would state a claim against American Hope. The Complaint’s sole allegations
about American Hope are that Plaintiff learned that it and the Firm were the subjects of lawsuits
and complaints concerning allegations of fraud, and that in mid-2014, American Hope was
In her opposition to ALC’s motion to dismiss, Plaintiff asserts in substance that
Defendants Villamarin and Martinez created ALC while working at the Firm, that they aided and
abetted the Firm’s discriminatory acts while working for both ALC and the Firm, and that ALC
was therefore an aider and abettor to the Firm’s discriminatory acts. These allegations, even if
Plaintiff were permitted to add them to the Complaint, are insufficient to state a claim. Plaintiff
alleges no facts to suggest that ALC was involved in wrongdoing as it relates to her claims.
Plaintiff also asserts no facts to suggest that Villamarin and Martinez were acting within the
scope of their employment for ALC when they allegedly discriminated against Plaintiff. It is
well established that, under New York law, an employer is not liable for the wrongful acts of its
employees if the wrongful act did not occur within the scope of employment. Hamm v. U.S. 483
F.3d 135, 138 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Lundberg v. State, 255 N.E.2d 177, 179 (N.Y. 1969)).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s motion to dismiss is GRANTED. The Clerk of
Court is respectfully directed to dismiss Defendant American Legal Counsels PLLC from the
case and close the motion at Docket Number 7.
Dated: August 15, 2017
New York, New York
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