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Davis v. Conley Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 6, 2017

LARRY DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CONLEY CORPORATION, a Domestic For Profit Business Corporation, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TERENCE KERN, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Claim for Relief (Doc. 12) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (“Rule 12(b)(6)”).

         I. Factual Background

         In March 2015, Plaintiff Larry Davis, who is African-American, was hired by Defendant Conley Corporation as a supervisor of quality control in the piping department. Plaintiff was hired as a supervisor despite lacking experience in the industry or as a manager. Defendant told Plaintiff that he would be trained to be a “great supervisor.” (Compl. ¶ 11, Doc. 2-2.) Shortly after being hired, Plaintiff was instructed to “discipline and ultimately fire” another African-American employee. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that he was hired into the supervisor position “in order for the Defendant to have an African American supervisor to terminate their African American employee.” (Id.) Approximately two months after being hired, Plaintiff was instructed to work on the plant floor to help perform the task of winding pipe, despite having no experience performing that task. Plaintiff alleges he was given no further training or support as a supervisor.

         After being assigned to work on the plant floor, Plaintiff suffered a “severe chemical rash, ” allegedly due to resin chemicals he was exposed to while winding pipe. (Id. ¶ 14.) When Plaintiff reported his injury, he was given Benadryl but was not sent for medical treatment. A month later, Plaintiff's injury had worsened. Plaintiff asked to go to the doctor and was sent to an urgent care facility. The physician who treated him “could not believe that Defendant had waited so long to allow him to go to the doctor.” (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff was put on restrictions not to work with resin until his injury healed. Defendant allegedly “refused to accommodate the restriction and terminated the Plaintiff's employment on June 15, 2015.” (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Plaintiff alleges that during the course of his employment with Defendant, he was subjected to disparate treatment and a racially hostile work environment and that he was terminated on the basis of race. Plaintiff alleges that he heard the word “n*gger” used on several occasions; he heard employees telling racist jokes; and other supervisors harassed him on the basis of his race and made other racially offensive comments. One supervisor “joked with [Plaintiff] by stating he could not go into a certain break room or was not given certain supplies because he was black, ” and the same supervisor also called Plaintiff a “do gooder [sic] negro.” (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Plaintiff filed suit in Tulsa County District Court alleging (1) deprivation of rights protected by 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Defendant removed the case to this Court and now moves for dismissal of Plaintiff's claim for IIED.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. “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.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[T]he mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original).

         The Tenth Circuit has interpreted “plausibility” to “refer to the scope of the allegations in a complaint” rather than to mean “likely to be true.” Robbins v. Okla. ex rel. Okla. Dep't of Human Servs., 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008). Thus, “if [allegations] are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). “The allegations must be enough that, if assumed to be true, the plaintiff plausibly (not just speculatively) has a claim for relief.” Id. “This requirement of plausibility serves not only to weed out claims that do not (in the absence of additional allegations) have a reasonable prospect of success, but also to inform the defendants of the actual grounds of the claim against them.” Id. at 1248.

         B. Analysis

         Oklahoma recognizes IIED as an independent tort. Eddy v. Brown, 715 P.2d 74, 76 (Okla. 1986). “An action for intentional infliction of emotional distress will lie only where there is extreme and outrageous conduct coupled with severe emotional distress.” Miller v. Miller, 956 P.2d 887, 900 (Okla. 1998). In order to state a claim for IIED, a plaintiff must allege facts showing: (1) the defendant's conduct was intentional or reckless; (2) the defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) the defendant's conduct caused the plaintiff to suffer emotional distress; and (4) the plaintiff's emotional distress was severe. Daemi v. Church's Fried Chicken, Inc., 931 F.2d 1379, 1387 (10th Cir. 1991) (applying Oklahoma law).

         Defendant challenges Plaintiff's IIED claim based on the second and fourth elements. Oklahoma law directs the district court to act as a “gatekeeper” and make an initial determination about the outrageousness of the defendant's conduct, as well as whether severe emotional distress can be found, before sending the claim to a jury. Trentadue v. United States, 397 F.3d 840, 856 n.7 (10th Cir. 2005). To satisfy the “extreme and outrageous” element, a plaintiff must prove the defendant's conduct was so extreme and outrageous as to be beyond all possible bounds of decency. Eddy, 715 P.2d at 77 (“Conduct which, though unreasonable, is neither beyond all possible bounds of decency in the setting in which it occurred, nor is one that can be regarded as utterly intolerable in a ...


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