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Dooley v. United Industries Corp.

September 2, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 33, 44), Motion to Strike (Doc. 35), and Memoranda (Docs. 34, 45, 36) in support thereof.*fn1 Plaintiff Thomas Dooley (hereinafter "Dooley") filed Responses (Docs. 40, 49, 41) thereto, to which Defendants filed Replies (Docs. 50, 53, 51).

Dooley filed Motions to Strike (Docs. 57, 58) the replies to the motions to dismiss, and Defendants submitted Responses (Docs. 61, 62) thereto. Dooley's motions rest on a misunderstanding of the Local Rules, as Defendants' reply briefs were timely and proper in light of the complexity of the instant motions. See S.D. Ill. L. R. 7.1(c), 5.1(c). Accordingly, the Court DENIES said motions (Docs. 57, 58).

For the following reasons, the Court, inter alia, GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motions.


I. Facts

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, courts must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Tricontinental Indus., Ltd. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir. 2007). The Court, accepting all of Dooley's factual allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, finds as follows:

Starting sometime in 2006, Defendant Spectrum Brands, Inc. (hereinafter "Spectrum") and its subsidiary, Defendant United Industries Corporation (hereinafter "United"), hired Dooley to work in their Bridgeton, Missouri, facility. During his time with Spectrum/UIC, Dooley worked with Douglas Colvin (hereinafter "Colvin"), another employee of the two companies. Colvin is a convicted felon; more precisely, Colvin has been convicted of three felonies, for which he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment, and has been a suspect in more than one murder.

On August 29, 2009, Colvin broke into Dooley's office in the Spectrum/UIC warehouse and stole Dooley's personal computer. Dooley found Colvin in his office that day and, realizing things were amiss, asked Colvin to accompany him to the office of their supervisor, Defendant Eugene Hoge (hereinafter "Hoge"). Part of Spectrum/UIC's contract of employment requires employees to file reports of incidents, such as theft, to be made to supervisory officials. On their way to the office, Colvin thrice-said to Dooley, "I'm going to fucking kill you!", or words to that effect. After Dooley reported Colvin's theft and threats to Hoge, no remedial action was taken.

Dooley was not deterred, and, on September 21, he informed another supervisor, Defendant Allison Foley (hereinafter "Foley"), of Colvin's rap sheet and convicted felon status. Defendants still refused to take any remedial action; rather, for reporting the theft, threats, and criminal record to his supervisors and the City of Bridgeton Police Department, Spectrum/UIC continued to have Dooley work with Colvin. Spectrum/UIC ultimately discharged Dooley from his employment on September 23. Meanwhile, Defendants maintain that Dooley absented himself from work without a medical excuse and thereafter voluntarily resigned.

Dooley has fallen on hard times since leaving Spectrum/UIC. He has been unable to find work, in part, because prospective employers inevitably catch wind of Spectrum/UIC's reasons for his discharge. Further, although he now resides in Illinois, Dooley continues to fear that Colvin will act on his threats. Dooley suffers from mental stress and anxiety because of this fear, much of which developed after his move to Illinois.

II. Relevant Procedural Posture

On December 18, 2009, Dooley filed suit in Madison County, Illinois, alleging claims of wrongful discharge (Count I), breach of good faith (Count II), negligent hiring (Count III), violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (hereinafter "FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., (Count IV), civil conspiracy (Count V), and unsafe place to work (Count VI) against all Defendants. UIC and Spectrum removed the matter to this Court on January 19, 2010, asserting federal question jurisdiction existed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 due to the FMLA claim. Dooley eventually filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 23), which remains the operative complaint in this litigation. This complaint did not add any new claims but did add Foley as a defendant to all existing claims.

Defendants now move to dismiss all of Dooley's claims, excepting Count V under the FMLA, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rules of Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) respectively.


I. Choice-of-Law

Dooley's FMLA claim serves as the primary basis for this Court's original, federal question jurisdiction. As his other counts represent common law claims, they come under the supplemental jurisdiction of this Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) (2006). The Court notes the jurisdictional basis governing these common law claims because, as a preliminary matter, the parties dispute the substantive state law that applies thereto.

When addressing a conflict-of-laws issue with respect to state-law claims brought under a federal court's supplemental jurisdiction, the court applies the conflict-of-laws rules of the state in which it sits. See Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941); Baltimore Orioles, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Players Ass'n, 805 F.2d 663, 681 (7th Cir.1986); Zaitzeff v. Peregrine Fin. Group, Inc., No. 08 C 4053, 2010 WL 438158, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 2010). Per Klaxon's guidance, this Court will be applying the conflicts rules of Illinois.

Illinois follows the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws and employs the most-significant-contacts delineated therein. Wreglesworth ex rel. Wreglesworth v. Arctco, Inc., 738 N.E.2d 964, 971 (Ill. App. Ct. 2000) (tort); Olsen v. Celano, 600 N.E.2d 1257, 1260 (Ill. App. Ct. 1992) (contract). In the context of a tort claim, "Illinois courts apply the local law of the place of the injury unless Illinois has a more significant relationship with the occurrence and with the parties[, then the law of Illinois should apply.]" Vickrey v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 497 N.E.2d 814, 816 (Ill. App. Ct. ...

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