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Pebsworth v. Spirit Aerosystems, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 30, 2018

SPIRIT AEROSYSTEMS, INC., a foreign corporation, and JORDAN C. KENTZLER, individually, Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count Six of Plaintiff's Complaint (“Motion to Dismiss”) (Doc. 14) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (“Rule 12(b)(6)”). For the foregoing reasons, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Roger Shane Pebsworth (“Plaintiff”) was employed by Defendant Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. (“Spirit”) from February 2010 to February 2016. (Compl. ¶ 7, Doc. 2-2.) On January 17, 2016, Plaintiff injured an ulnar nerve at work. (Id. ¶ 9-10.) Plaintiff immediately reported the injury to his supervisor, Bryan Waller (“Waller”). (Id. ¶ 10.) Waller told Plaintiff that because it was close to the end of the work shift, he would fill out the appropriate injury reporting forms the next day, although he never did so. (Id. ¶ 16.) Spirit later refused Plaintiff permission to leave work to seek medical treatment. (Id.)

         On January 25, 2016, Waller instructed Plaintiff to attend a meeting with Defendant Jordan C. Kentzler (“Kentzler”), the Human Resources Supervisor. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 47.) When Plaintiff entered the meeting, a security guard of Spirit immediately frisked him for weapons. (Id. ¶ 13.) Kentzler also asked Plaintiff to sign a blank statement, which Plaintiff refused to do. (Id.) Plaintiff repeatedly asked Kentzler for an explanation for this treatment, but Kentzler did not answer. Instead, Kentzler asked Plaintiff about criminal conduct, as well as firearms and weapons that he owned, and required Plaintiff to answer the questions. (Id. ¶ 14.) At the end of the meeting, Kentzler terminated Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         On June 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Petition against Spirit and Kentzler in Creek County District Court. In his Petition, Plaintiff alleges (1) Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) Interference; (2) FMLA Retaliation; (3) Assault; (4) Battery; (5) False Imprisonment; (6) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”); and (7) Malicious Interference with a Contractual Relationship. (Doc. 2-2.) Counts (1) through (6) are alleged against Spirit, and Count (7) is alleged against Kentzler.

         Spirit was served with a copy of the Petition and Summons on September 29, 2016. On October 18, 2016, Spirit timely removed this case from Creek County District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. It is undisputed that this Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's FMLA claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Id.) The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims, including the IIED claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. (Id.) On November 15, 2016, Spirit filed its Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 14.)

         II. Applicable Law

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 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)).[1] “[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. In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court generally may not consider facts outside of those alleged in the complaint.[2]

         B. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

         Oklahoma recognizes IIED as an independent tort. Eddy v. Brown, 715 P.2d 74, 76 (Okla. 1986). 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). IIED does not provide redress for every invasion of emotional serenity or every anti-social act that may produce hurt feelings. Miller v. Miller, 956 P.2d 887, 900 (Okla. 1998). Rather, the emotional distress must be so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it. See Robbins Motorsports, L.L.C. v. Nat'l Fire & Marine Ins. Co., No. CIV-10-245, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59365, *12-13 (N.D. Okla. June 3, 2011) (internal citations omitted).

         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. See Bingaman v. Spirit Aerosystems, Inc., No. 14-CV-677-GKF, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183267, at *7 (N.D Okla. Feb. 4, 2015) (evaluating a motion to dismiss); Johnson v. ORS Nasco, LLC, No. 13-CV-777-JED, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 197073, *1 (N.D. Okla. Sept. 30, 2014) (evaluating a motion to dismiss). 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 ...

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