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Ramer v. Crain

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

September 23, 2019

BRYAN RAMER, Plaintiff,
v.
CECIL L. CRAIN, DONALD F. DOERR, DAN TATTERSON, and AIR COMFORT, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN DOWDELL, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4). Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s complaint should be dismissed in its entirety pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons set out below, Defendants’ motion to dismiss is hereby granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Bryan Ramer, who proceeds pro se, brought this action after his employer, Defendant Air Comfort, Inc., fired him from his job as a journeyman HVAC service technician in October 2015. The allegations put forth in his complaint can be summarized as follows[1]:

         Air Comfort, an HVAC service company, hired Mr. Ramer as a technician in 2007, and he worked diligently over the next several years, leading to two pay raises. Then, in 2013, Air Comfort ran into financial trouble and, according to Mr. Ramer’s complaint, started “defrauding customers when the opportunity presented itself.” Defendant Donald Doerr, Air Comfort’s service manager, “pressured” Mr. Ramer to “be part of it, ” but Mr. Ramer “continually refused, ” leading to “a constant battle between Ramer and Doerr.” (Doc. 1 at 2).

         In 2015, Mr. Ramer suffered a hip injury that required surgery, which he underwent in June of that year, defraying the cost via a substantial claim on Air Comfort’s group insurance policy. (Doc. 1 at 3, 9). He returned to work in September of that year but was fired shortly thereafter. Management told Mr. Ramer that he was being terminated for harassing female customers while on service calls, an accusation that he denied. (Doc 1 at 9–10). Mr. Ramer asked to see documentation of the complaints but was refused (Doc. 1 at 7). He was 57-years old at the time.

         Mr. Ramer accuses Air Comfort of fabricating the customer complaints as a pretext for firing him. (Doc. 1 at 2, 4). Air Comfort really fired him, he claims, because it wanted to get rid of an employee whose honesty was getting in the way of its fraudulent business practices and because he was older and the company wanted to reduce its insurance costs. (Doc. 1 at 2–3). Mr. Ramer’s complaint further alleges that Air Comfort’s management “maliciously” publicized the grounds for his firing by “leaking their fabricated story out where it could be repeated in the parts houses” and “spreading the story among his peers and friends in the hvac trade.” (Doc. 1 at 4). In doing so, the company hampered his ability to find work and generally damaged his reputation, he claims.

         II. Legal Standards

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a plaintiff to include in his complaint “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Defendants argue that he has failed to meet this burden and move to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         The Court’s function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh the evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff’s complaint is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted. Brokers’ Choice of Am., Inc. v. NBC Universal, Inc., 757 F.3d 1125, 1135 (10th Cir. 2014). A complaint is legally sufficient only if it contains factual allegations such that it states a claim to relief that “is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Where the well-pleaded facts permit the court to infer merely the possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not shown, that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 679.

         In assessing a claim’s plausibility, the Court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Brokers’ Choice, 757 F.3d at 1165. The Court is not bound, however, to accept an allegation as true when it amounts to no more than a legal conclusion masquerading as fact. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         The Court is mindful that Mr. Ramer proceeds pro se. While pro se pleadings must be liberally construed and held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), a district court should not assume the role of advocate. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991); United States v. Pinson, 584 F.3d 972, 975 (10th Cir. 2009); Garret v. Selby Connor Maddux & Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir. 2005). Moreover, even pro se plaintiffs are required to comply with the “fundamental requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure” and substantive law, and the liberal construction to be afforded does not transform “vague and conclusory arguments” into valid claims for relief. Ogden v. San Juan County, 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994).

         III. Discussion

         Mr. Ramer’s complaint can be reduced to three basic claims: a federal claim for age discrimination, and two state claims-one for wrongful termination and another for defamation. (Doc. 1 at 2). Because the federal claim serves as the foundation for the ...


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