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Paul v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.

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

August 25, 2017

RICK S. PAUL, Plaintiff,
v.
HEWLETT PACKARD ENTERPRISE CO., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (DKT. 18)

          TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         In this age-discrimination case, Plaintiff Rick Paul is suing his former employer, Defendant Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.

         Defendant says that Plaintiff is barred from filing this lawsuit under the doctrine of judicial estoppel because, prior to filing this lawsuit, Plaintiff failed to disclose his age-discrimination claims in his bankruptcy case. Defendant has therefore moved for judgment on the pleadings, and in the alternative for summary judgment, and Plaintiff has opposed the motion. For the reasons outlined below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff began working for Defendant in 2006. Dkt. 18, Pg. ID 86. In June of 2012, Plaintiff filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Dkt. 18, Pg. IDs 86-88. Plaintiff was required to list all personal property assets, including "[o]ther contingent claims of every nature" in Schedule B of his Chapter 13 Plan. Dkt. 18, Pg. ID 86; Dkt. 18-4, Pg. ID 136. With the assistance of his bankruptcy counsel, William Calunas, Plaintiff amended Schedules D, F, I, and J on five occasions between July 2012 and March 2013. Dkt. 18, Pg. ID 87.

         In August of 2014, Plaintiff was told he was being removed from his position with Defendant and that he should apply for other openings within the company. Dkt. 21-1, Pg. ID 339. In early January 2015, Plaintiff made an internal complaint of age discrimination. Plaintiff was terminated on January 23, 2015. Id. at Pg. ID 340.

         Plaintiff notified his bankruptcy counsel on January 26, 2015 that he was going to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which he did on the following day. Id; Dkt. 18, Pg. ID 89. Plaintiff informed his bankruptcy counsel in August 2015 that mediation of the EEOC claim was futile and that the next step would be filing a lawsuit in federal court. Dkt. 21-1, Pg. ID 340. The EEOC issued a right to sue letter on March 2, 2016. Dkt. 1, Pg. ID 5. The complaint in this case was filed on May 31, 2016. Dkt. 1. Plaintiff states that he informed his bankruptcy counsel of the fact that the federal lawsuit was filed in July 2016. Dkt. 21-1, Pg. ID 340.

         Plaintiff states that he was unaware that he needed to amend his bankruptcy schedules to reflect the fact that he had made a claim for damages, that he relied on his bankruptcy counsel to advise him of such an obligation, and that if he had been so advised, he would have instructed his counsel to amend the schedules. Id. at Pg. ID 341. Prior to filing this lawsuit, however, Plaintiff had not amended Schedule B of his plan to reflect his age-discrimination claim as one of his assets as required by 11 U.S.C. § 521(a)(1)(B).

         On January 13, 2017, Defendant filed this motion for judgment on the pleadings, which sought to have Plaintiffs complaint dismissed on judicial estoppel grounds because Plaintiff had not disclosed this claim to the bankruptcy court. Dkt. 18. After learning of his obligation to amend his schedules, Plaintiff discharged his former bankruptcy counsel and instructed new counsel to correct his schedules. Dkt. 21-1, Pg ID 341. The amended schedules reflecting this claim were filed on March 28, 2017. Dkt. 31-4, Pg. ID 1, 680.

         Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and in the alternative for summary judgment is now before the Court. Dkt. 18. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Dkt. 21.

         Having considered the Parties' arguments, the Court concludes that oral argument would not help the Court resolve Defendant's motion. Thus, the Court will decide the motion based on the Parties' written submissions. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f).

         III. Standard of Review

         The Parties dispute under which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure the Court should review Defendant's motion. Defendant argues that because it relies solely on the pleadings, EEOC documents referenced in Plaintiffs complaint, and Plaintiffs bankruptcy pleadings (which are matters of public record), the Court should decide the motion using Rule 12(c) (which relates to judgment on the pleadings). Dkt. 18, Pg. ID 91. In response, Plaintiff submits that the appropriate standard of review is that of Rule 56 (which relates to summary judgment). Dkt. 21, Pg. ID 329. To resolve Defendant's motion, the Court need only consider matters of public record, so the Court will not convert Defendant's motion into one for summary judgment. See JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget,510 F.3d 577, 581 (6th Cir. 2007) (stating that courts use the same standard of review for motions brought pursuant to Rule 12(c) as they do for motions brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)); New England Health Care Employees Pension Fund v. Ernst & Young, ...


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