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AFSCME Council 25 AFL-CIO v. Nuance Communications

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 14, 2017



          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Judge

         The Plaintiffs filed a three-count complaint against the defendant Nuance Communications ("Nuance") and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital ("the Hospital"). In it, the Plaintiffs alleged traditional union labor law claims against the Hospital (Counts I and II), along with a claim for tortious interference with contract or business relationship against Nuance (Count III). On October 1, 2015, the Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that added no new parties or claims for relief. On November 24, 2015, the Plaintiffs and the Hospital stipulated to the dismissal of the First Amended Complaint and all causes of action as to the Hospital. Nuance then moved to dismiss Count III -- the only remaining claim. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Nuance's motion and dismiss the case.


         In sum and taken as true, the Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that between 2014 and 2018, the plaintiff union entities and the Hospital were subject to a contract that protected the wages and employment rights of various "transcriptionists" and other "associates" of the Hospital. F.A. Compl. 3, ECF 6. During the contractual period, in 2015, the Hospital decided to outsource the work of transcriptionists and others to Nuance. Nuance and the Hospital then entered into a contract for the employment of workers supplied by Nuance and agreed that the transcriptionists' wages would remain stable and that no positions covered by the union contract would be eliminated for six months. Notwithstanding those promises, the Plaintiffs theorized in their complaint that the Hospital's new relationship with Nuance would result in the loss of jobs for 13 transcriptionists who were union members.[1]Id. At 5. The Union thus sued the Hosptial for breach of contract employing traditional labor contract theories while lodging a single, additional count of tortious interference in business or contractual relationship against Nuance. Nuance's declined to answer the complaint and moved to dismiss Count III. Mot,, ECF 32.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court may only grant a 12(b)(6) motion if the allegations are not "sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ' and to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Hensley Mfg. v. ProPride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 609 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). In evaluating the motion, the Court presumes the truth of all well-pled factual assertions. Bishop v. Lucent Techs., 520 F.3d 516, 519 (6th Cir. 2008). Moreover, the Court must draw every reasonable inference in favor of the non-moving party. Dubay v. Wells, 506 F.3d 422, 427 (6th Cir. 2007). But a "pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).


         Nuance asserts that the Plaintiffs have pleaded insufficient facts to make out a claim for tortious interference with contractual or business relationship. The Plaintiffs allege specific allegations against Nuance in five paragraphs of the fifty-five paragraph complaint:

"Contrary to the existing contract had between [the Union] and [the Hospital], [the Hospital] conspired with Defendant Nuance to eliminate 13 Transcriptionist Jobs as represented by the AFSCME Union beginning on or about June 2015." ECF 6 ¶ 20 (emphasis in original).
"Defendant Nuance engaged in the intentional doing of a per se wrongful act and/or the intentional doing of a lawful act with malice and unjustified in law for the purpose of invading Plaintiffs' contractual rights or business relationship as had with [the Hospital]." Id. ¶ 31.
"[T]here exist [sic] a contract and a business relationship between [the Union] and [the Hospital] to which [the Union] and its members had a reasonable expectation of benefit." Id. ¶ 52.
"There existed a knowledge by Defendant Nuance of the contract or the business relationship and expectancy." Id. ¶ 53.
"There was intentional and improper interference by the Defendant Nuance, with the contract or business relationship and expectancy by improperly inducing or causing a breach, disruption, or termination of the contract of the business relationship and expectancy." Id. ¶ 54.

         Thus, the Plaintiffs allege, at most and in a conclusory fashion, that Nuance conspired with the hospital to eliminate 13 transcriptionist jobs, and that the conspiracy interfered with the Plaintiffs' ongoing business and contractual relationship with the hospital. The Plaintiffs allege that Nuance used bad acts or malice to invade the Plaintiffs' relationship with the hospital, but they allege no specific facts to demonstrate how. Thus, Nuance argues that Count III fails to state a claim upon which relief can ...

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