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Block v. Vehicle Logistics Solutions LLC

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

May 3, 2018

TARA BLOCK, Plaintiff,


          Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge

         Tara Block (“Block”) filed suit against Vehicle Logistics Solutions, LLC (“VLS”), and several individual Defendants alleging, inter alia, discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, hostile environment, and wrongful termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Michigan's Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act. The Court dismissed without prejudice the individual Defendants from Block's complaint for failure to prosecute. Block filed a motion for leave to file a first amended complaint, seeking to re-add the individual Defendants.

         For the reasons that follow, that motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         Block alleges that while employed at VLS, she was subjected to sexual harassment. She says she was continuously harassed by a coworker, Defendant Arice Burton (“Burton”). Block claims her supervisor, Defendant April Randles (“Randles”), was aware of the harassment but did nothing to address it. VLS Management, according to Block, was also aware of the situation, and on certain occasions, made cruel and insensitive jokes about Burton's sexual harassment of Block. [Complaint, Par. 7, 22, 23, 25].

         Most severely, Block alleges that on one occasion she was working alone with Burton, and he cornered her in a back room and raped her. Block says she reported the assault to Randles, who failed to report the incident to her superiors, and tried to poke fun at the assault and defend Burton's actions. Block claims that in retaliation for reporting the assault, she was transferred to another position, where she suffered harassment and hostility. Due to bogus complaints made against her by a coworker, Gwen Glover (“Glover”) (named defendant in original complaint, but dropped in first amended complaint), Block says she was terminated. [Complaint, Par. 26-28, 30, 36, 38, 40-41].

         Block failed to serve her May 4, 2017 complaint on any of the individual defendants. On September 18, 2017, the Court issued an order requiring Block to show cause as to why her case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. [Doc. # 8]. Block filed a response saying that she was unable to serve them because she did not have their addresses. [Doc. # 9]. She asked the Court to either give her more time for service, to compel VLS to give her home addresses of the individual Defendants who were current VLS employees, or to allow her to effectuate alternative service. On October 25, 2017, the Court entered an order granting Block until November 1, 2017 to properly make these requests by motion. [Doc. # 10]. Block did not do that, and on January 5, 2018, the Court dismissed her claims against the individual Defendants, without prejudice. [Doc. # 11].

         In her motion for leave to file a first amended complaint, Block says that she now believes that she will be able to successfully serve the individual Defendants. In response, VLS argues that the individual Defendants were properly dismissed, and Block's proposed amendments are futile.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court should grant leave for a party to amend its pleading “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “Several factors influence whether the Court should allow a party to amend its pleading including undue delay in filing, lack of notice to opposing party, bad faith by the moving party, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of the amendment.” Seals v. Gen. Motors Corp., 546 F.3d 766, 770 (6th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and citations omitted). “A proposed amendment is futile if the amendment could not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.” Rose v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 420 (6th Cir. 2000).

         A motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996). A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint “must contain something more ... than ... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         Block's ability to serve the individual Defendants is not a factor the Court takes into consideration when deciding her motion. VLS primarily argues that Block's proposed amendments are futile, which is one of the factors influencing the Court's decision on a motion to amend. In analyzing the futility of Block's proposed amendments, the Court will, for the first time, conduct a merits-based review of Block's allegations under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard.

         A. Block Fails To State A Claim Against Defendants Angelo Filippis And Terry Rupe

         In her original complaint, Block makes general allegations against Defendants Angelo Filippis (“Filippis”) and Terry Rupe (“Rupe”). In Block's motion, she seeks to amend her complaint by re-adding the same general allegations - not associated with any count - against Filippis and Rupe. Neither Filippis nor Rupe are named as Defendants in any of the counts in Block's original or amended complaint.

         Block alleges that while employed at VLS, Filippis falsely accused her of walking off her job without permission, although she had received permission by Rupe to leave. She claims that Filippis' false accusation led to an investigation by VLS. While under investigation, she claims she was ...

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