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Owoeye v. State

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 18, 2016




I. Introduction

The Plaintiff, Faluke Owoeye (“Owoeye”), brings this action directly against the State of Connecticut (the “State”) and directly against the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Service (“DMHAS”), an agency of the State of Connecticut (collectively, the “Defendants”) in a four count Complaint alleging: (i) discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") (Count One), (ii) violations of Plaintiff’s rights under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution (Count Two), (iii) violations of Plaintiff’s rights under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60 et seq. (Count Three), (iv) common law claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) (Count Four). Among the remedies sought by the Plaintiff are front and back pay and she asserts that she is entitled to a jury determination of her entitlement to those remedies.

Defendants have moved to dismiss Count One of the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5) on the grounds that the summons and Complaint were not served on Defendants until after the 120 day service period provided in Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m). [Dkt. 24]. Defendants have also moved to dismiss Counts Two, Three and Four of the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Id. Plaintiff did not oppose the Motion to Dismiss insofar as it sought dismissal of Counts Two, Three and Four. [Dkt. 35].

For the reasons that follow, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. Plaintiff’s case may proceed with respect to Count One only.

II. Factual Background

The following facts and allegations are taken from Plaintiff’s Complaint. [Dkt. 1].

Plaintiff was employed by DMHAS as a Registered Nurse serving in the Neuro Research Unit of the Connecticut Mental Health Center (“CMHC”) from on or about March 2012 through September 17, 2012. [Id. ¶¶ 14, 16, 60]. Plaintiff describes herself as a black, African female, states that she was born in Nigeria, and states that Yoruba, and not English, is her first language. [Id. ¶ 10].

Plaintiff alleges that her co-workers and her immediate supervisor were hostile to her when she started in her position and expressed dissatisfaction with her hiring. [Id. ¶¶ 21-22]. Specifically, Plaintiff’s supervisor is alleged to have told her that people could not understand her because of her accent, and that the job the plaintiff was doing was “not for [her]” and that the plaintiff did not “fit in”. [Id. ¶ 23]. Plaintiff’s supervisor and coworkers are repeatedly alleged to have gotten angry with the plaintiff on the one hand when she tried to ask questions, but on the other hand to have criticized her job performance when she did not understand what to do. [Id. ¶¶ 22, 26, 28, 31-37]. Her supervisor allegedly rebuked Plaintiff openly in the presence of other staff and suggested that the plaintiff did not know how to do her job. [Id. ¶ 24]. Plaintiff also alleges that her supervisor condescendingly forced her to re-take medical and administrative examinations that she had already passed in order to become a registered nurse. [Id. ¶¶ 47-50].

Plaintiff complained directly to DMHAS about the conduct she alleges on the part of her coworkers and supervisor in the form of letters filed on May 20, 2012 and September 3, 2012. [Id. ¶¶ 42, 59]. DMHAS thereafter terminated Plaintiff's employment on September 17, 2012.

Plaintiff alleges that she has received a Notice of Right To Sue letter from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and a Release of Jurisdiction from the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”). [Id. ¶ 62]. Plaintiff subsequently commenced the instant civil action on May 9, 2014. [Dkt. 1]. However, Plaintiff’s attorney, William Palmieri, failed to request issuance of a summons and to effect service on the Defendants within 120 days, as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m). Plaintiff moved for an extension of time to complete service of process, claiming that a medical condition prevented attorney Palmieri from meeting applicable deadlines. [Dkt. 11]. The motion was denied. [Dkt. 12]. Plaintiff thereafter moved to dismiss the case without prejudice to re-filing. [Dkt. 13]. The Court declined to dismiss the case and instead ordered that service be completed within a specific time pursuant to Rule 4(m), giving the Plaintiff until May 11, 2015 to complete service.

Defendants then moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5) and 12(b)(6), citing, among other arguments for dismissal, Plaintiff’s late service of the Complaint. [Dkt. 24]. Plaintiff’s attorney, Palmieri, initially requested an extension of time until August 24, 2015 to respond to the motion. [Dkt. 27]. One week after the Plaintiff’s requested deadline had passed, Palmieri filed an opposition “brief” and a motion for leave to file nunc pro tunc. [Dkt. 35]. As is customary with legal memoranda filed by Palmieri, the opposition memorandum was composed of thirteen pages, the first eleven of which were simply the Plaintiff’s entire Complaint, ‘copied and pasted’ verbatim. Id. The document contained no citation to any legal authority and objected only to the dismissal of Count One of the Complaint. Id. Attorney Palmieri later appeared before the Court for his repeated failure to produce timely discovery, contrary to multiple Orders of this Court resulting in a Motion to Compel [Dkt. 40, Dkt. 45] and a Motion to Dismiss the case [Dkt. 43] as a sanction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b) and 41(b). [Dkt. 50].

III. Standard of Review

a. Failure to State a Claim, ...

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