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McManus v. District of Columbia

December 31, 2007

EDNA MCMANUS, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The Plaintiffs in this action are sixteen*fn1 current and former employees of various District of Columbia government agencies, who bring an amalgam of claims against fourteen Defendants: the District of Columbia (the "District"), five labor unions (the "Labor Union Defendants"),*fn2 five health care management companies (the "Health Care Defendants"),*fn3 two insurance companies,*fn4 and one physician (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint is rather opaque, but generally appears to allege that the Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to violate Plaintiffs' rights by depriving them of administrative relief in connection with a "benefit derived from [their] employment." Although Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint includes eight Counts, four of those Counts are more properly described as prayers for relief than legal causes of action (Counts 5-8). The four substantive Counts of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint allege that all of the Defendants breached the employment contract and collective bargaining agreements in place among the District, its employees, and the Labor Union Defendants (Counts 1 and 2), that the Labor Union Defendants breached their duties of fair representation to Plaintiffs (Count 3), and that the District and the Labor Union Defendants deprived Plaintiffs of due process of law (Count 4).

Twelve of the Defendants have now moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims by filing motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6). Upon a searching review of the filings currently before the Court in connection with those motions to dismiss, the attachments thereto, the relevant statutes and case law, and the entire record herein, the Court shall GRANT each of the currently pending motions to dismiss, and shall dismiss this action in its entirety. Two of the Defendants to this action--AFGE and Concentra--have also filed separate motions for sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c). The Court concludes that Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint and Oppositions are devoid of factual or legal merit, but declines to impose sanctions on the grounds that Plaintiffs' counsel was aware of the Amended Complaint's deficiencies before filing it. In contrast, the Court shall grant Concentra's motion for sanctions insofar as it is based on Plaintiff's counsel's filing of an inaccurate Return of Service with respect to Concentra while on notice that Concentra had not been validly served with process in this action.The Court shall therefore DENY AFGE's Motion for Sanctions, and shall GRANT Concentra's Motion for Sanctions.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Parties

The Amended Complaint contains two boilerplate allegations regarding each Plaintiff: (1) that he or she was "at all times set forth herein an employee of an agency of the District of Columbia;" and (2) that he or she "has filed appropriate notice of claim at various times, with the appropriate agencies during the events of this matter, and has exhausted all 'KNOWN' administrative remedies." See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2-17. In addition, the Amended Complaint includes the following particularized allegations as to the individual Plaintiffs:

* Plaintiff Edna McManus was employed by the Department of Corrections as a Correctional Officer and was a member of a local affiliated with Defendant FOP. McManus suffered an unidentified work-related job injury on February 26, 2002, was subsequently diagnosed with bi-lateral carpal tunnel syndrome, and filed a workers' compensation claim on March 27, 2002. McManus alleges that her claim was improperly denied on April 8, 2002 and that she was denied "monetary, medical, Cost of Living Adjustments (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006), transportation mileage, medical prescriptions, and life insurance benefits" on January 30, 2006. McManus further alleges that on July 27, 2006 she was denied medical expenses for a claim processed by CLW/CDM, on the ground that no injury existed. McManus also alleges that subsequent claims were denied on April 5, 2005; July 25, 2006; January 3, 2007; March 6, 2007; and March 29, 2007. Id. ¶ 2.

* Plaintiff Gaynell Nixon was employed as an Assistant Housing Manager by the Housing Authority and was a member of a local affiliated with Defendant AFGE. Nixon filed a claim for a work-related injury to her right foot and ankle on January 23, 1996, which was initially denied on or about October 31, 1996. That denial was subsequently reversed by an Administrative Law Judge on October 8, 1997, and then denied again on September 28, 1998 by a claims examiner for "Cor Vel Corp." Nixon's claim was denied again on September 2, 2004 under a new claim number. Nixon filed a second claim on or about March 5, 2001 relating to a February 21, 2001 injury, which was denied on October 4, 2005; January 6, 2006, and January 23, 2006. Id. ¶ 3.

* Plaintiff Shirley Massey was employed as a Secretary/Administrative Assistant by the University of the District of Columbia and was a member of a local affiliated with AFSCME. Plaintiffs do not allege that Massey filed any workers' compensation claims or that her employment was terminated. Id. ¶ 4.

* Plaintiff Sandra Mitchner was employed as a Position Classification Specialist for the Office of Personnel and was not a member of any labor union. Mitchner incurred an injury on February 12, 1990 from inhaling a mist in the air near her workspace and was taken to Providence Hospital. "After filing claims, and suffering a series of denials, [Mitchner] was terminated in 2004." Id. ¶ 5.

* Plaintiff William Workcuff was employed as a Maintenance Mechanic by the Housing Authority and was a member of a local affiliated with AFGE. Workcuff was injured on the job on February 21, 2002, and was treated by a doctor on March 13, 2002. Workcuff "filed an authorized claim," which "was improperly denied by Defendants, acting through [a doctor] at Providence Hospital, on or about June 13, 2002, based upon an unsubstantiated determination that the subjective complaints of Workcuff were not causally related to the work-related accident." Id. ¶ 6.

* Plaintiff Edward Clark was employed as a School Bus Driver by the District of Columbia Public Schools for approximately 10 years, and was a member of a local affiliated with AFSCME. On June 23, 2005, Clark was terminated for allegedly having residue of illegal drugs in a urine test. Clark attempted to appeal his termination, but on October 19, 2006 "was denied to be heard and never received any termination papers." Id. ¶ 7.

* Plaintiff Slatel Dillon was employed as an Electrical Repair Mechanic by the Water and Sewer Authority for eighteen years, and was a member of a local affiliated with AFSCME. Dillon incurred injury to his lower back in the course of his employment on or about September 15, 2003. Although a medical report dated February 3, 2006 determined that Dillon had suffered injury to his lower back and required vocational rehabilitation, "[Dillon]'s claim was denied, and [Dillon] was terminated." Dillon was previously injured in June 27, 2002, and asserts that each of his claims was "unjustifiably denied." Id. ¶ 8.

* Plaintiff Audrey Tucker was employed as a School Bus Attendant and was a current dues paying member of Teamsters Local 639. "Tucker's Union records have been destroyed, and the Union has denied Tucker representation." Tucker alleges that she "has been repeatedly denied employee benefits for injuries suffered and incurred related to employment," but does not provide further details as to the nature of her injuries or the claims she filed, and does not detail the context in which she was denied union representation. Id. ¶ 9.

* Plaintiff Arzella Smith was employed as a School Bus Driver by the District of Columbia Public Schools and was a member of a local affiliated with AFSCME. Smith was served with a traffic citation on March 20, 2006 for being involved in a traffic accident, and was terminated on April 5, 2006. Smith alleges that she "had previously been suspended based upon an allegation which physically could not have occurred, as she was not present, on October 3, 2005," and that her "union representatives had abandoned her, in violation of her union contract." Id. ¶ 10.

* Plaintiff Geraldine Talley Hobby was employed as an Art Teacher by the District of Columbia Public Schools and was a member of a local affiliated with WTU. Plaintiffs allege that Hobby filed a claim on March 1, 1997, but do not indicate the nature of Hobby's claim or whether it involved a work-related injury. Id. ¶ 11.*fn5

* Plaintiff Erwin Diggs was employed as a School Bus Driver by the District of Columbia Public Schools and was a member of a local affiliated with AFSCME. Diggs filed disability claims in May 2000 and April 2006, which were denied. Diggs "was then subjected to a wrongful termination and his medical and dental benefits were extinguished. The local union failed to represent him." Id. ¶ 12.

* Plaintiff John Lewis was employed as an Engineer by the District of Columbia Public Schools and was a member of a local affiliated with AFSCME. Lewis alleges that he filed a claim as a result of an injury on August 26, 1998, but also alleges that he "had initially been injured on October 1, 1975 when he stepped into an open floor drain. Since that time, the symptoms have remained, and his claim(s) and requests for benefits have been denied." Id. ¶ 13.

* Plaintiff Velerie Jones Coe was employed as a Staff Assistant by the Department of Mental Health and was a member of a local affiliated with AFGE. Coe alleges that she suffered an injury to her neck and upper thoracic area on or about August 14, 1989, as well as a left shoulder strain and carpal tunnel of the left wrist and hand on or about August 30, 1996, her claim for which was denied on December 11, 1997. Coe alleges that her additional claims were denied without justification on May 29, 1998, and "again on January 6, 2003, as it was again determined that this injury was not caused, nor related to, [Coe's] employment." Coe was apparently thereafter determined to have fully recovered from her injury and to be able to return to work. Id. ¶ 14.

* Plaintiff Fletcher Scott was employed as an Industrial Arts Teacher by the District of Columbia Public Schools and was a member of a local affiliated with AFGE. Scott alleges that "he had filed claims, which are based upon work related injuries, and which claims are in the possession of the Defendants. His claims have been systematically and unjustifiably denied." Scott does not provide further details regarding the nature of his alleged injuries or claims. Id. ¶ 15.

* Plaintiff Ronald Minor was employed as an Investigator by the Attorney General of the District of Columbia and was a member of a local affiliated with AFSCME. Minor alleges that he "filed claims based upon work related injuries," that the "information relating to each specific claims [sic] are in the possession of the Defendants," and that his "claims have been systematically and unjustifiably denied." Minor does not provide further details regarding the nature of his alleged injuries or claims. Id. ¶ 16.

* Plaintiff Otis Mahoney, Sr. was employed as a Maintenance Mechanic/Laborer by the Housing Authority and was a member of a local affiliated with AFGE. Mahoney alleges that "he was paid less than the wages of a person in his position, and is due and owing back pay. Forms have been allegedly lost which document his improper pay checks." Mahoney alleges that he complained about his improper paychecks and was fired on August 29, 2003. Mahoney further alleges that his local union, "of which he was a current dues paying member, ignored his complaints and abandoned representation . . . . Since that time, the Union has failed to represent him." Id. ¶ 17.

Plaintiffs also include boilerplate allegations as to all Defendants (other than the District of Columbia), alleging that each is "licensed to transact business within the jurisdiction of this Court, and is . . . involved in claims and actions which are a part of the foundational elements of the conspiracy pled herein." Id. ¶¶ 18-31. As to the Labor Union Defendants, Plaintiffs further allege that each is "located in the District of Columbia." Id. ¶¶ 18-23. As to the Health Care Defendants, Plaintiffs further allege that each "is believed to have offices and/or agents located in the District of Columbia, or have employees who carry on transactions within the District of Columbia." Id. ¶¶ 24-28.*fn6 As to Genex, Plaintiffs add only that it is a subsidiary of Unum Provident "and is believed to be located in the District of Columbia, or have employees who carry on transactions within the District of Columbia." Id. ¶ 29.*fn7

Plaintiffs recite the same boilerplate allegations as to Unum, and further allege that Unum is a party to legal actions in other jurisdictions "wherein injunctions and settlement decrees, have been entered into with various States Attorney's General [sic], which called for cessation of illegal activities, which are the same as the facts pled in this complaint." Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiffs provide detail for this allegation later in the Amended Complaint, under two headings: "Unum Provident Criminal Enterprise Claim" and "Outline of Unum Provident Settlement Agreement." Id. ¶¶ 44-54. Most of the allegations under those headings appear to be lifted verbatim from the New York State Attorney General's press release announcing the settlement agreement at issue. See New York State Attorney General, Press Release, available at http://www.oag.state.ny.us/ press/2004/nov/nov18a_04.html. In sum, Plaintiffs assert that Unum and five of its subsidiaries (not including Genex) entered into a settlement agreement with certain state insurance regulators regarding allegations that Unum had inappropriately denied claims for benefits under individual and group long-term disability insurance policies (hereinafter the "RSA"). Id. ¶¶ 45-47.*fn8 The RSA required Unum to reassess approximately 200,000 long-term disability claims that had previously been denied, as well as to restructure its claim handling procedures to ensure objectivity and fairness. Id. ¶ 48.

In the context of Count 7 of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs further allege that it is "obvious" that Unum and Genex "have breached the previous settlement" and that Plaintiffs "are suffering irreparable injury because of Defendants' failures to comply with the law and the applicable agreements and related obligations." Id. ¶¶ 88, 90. However, as Unum points out, Plaintiffs do not plead that any of them was insured under one of the long-term disability insurance policies issued by Unum (or a subsidiary) that were at issue in the RSA. See Unum Reply at 4. Rather, the Amended Complaint appears to relate solely to workers' compensation claims submitted pursuant to the District of Columbia's Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act ("CMPA"), D.C. Code §§ 1-601.1 et seq. Moreover, Unum asserts that after receiving Plaintiffs' Opposition to its Motion to Dismiss, it "looked for and could find no record that any of these Plaintiffs ever filed a disability claim or sought review of a denied claim under the RSA. Indeed, it appears from Unum's records that is has never even insured these Plaintiffs." Id. at 4-5 n.1. Plaintiffs have not moved to file a sur-reply in response to Unum's assertion, and the Court notes that Unum's statement is not inconsistent with the allegations in the Amended Complaint, which does not assert that Plaintiffs were insured under long-term disability plans issued by Unum. Thus, accepting the allegations of the Amended Complaint as true, Plaintiffs allege that Unum and its subsidiaries entered into the RSA but do not demonstrate how the RSA is in any way relevant to the workers' compensation claims that Plaintiffs allegedly filed with the District. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 44-54, 86-90. In addition, the Court notes that the Amended Complaint does not allege that any Defendants other than Unum were parties to the RSA. Id.*fn9

B. Plaintiffs' Conspiracy Allegations

The "Facts" section of the Amended Complaint serves two purposes: describing the RSA, as detailed above, and alleging that Defendants "have and are engaging in a conspiracy, combination and agreement, wherein the rights of the Plaintiffs . . . have been and continue to be violated." Id. ¶ 32. In support of this allegation, Plaintiffs assert they "were and are entitled to administrative remedies and notice as to what administrative remedies are available to [them]," but were "denied the benefit of cognizable administrative relief as the Defendants have engaged in a pattern and practice" designed to prevent Plaintiffs from exhausting their administrative remedies. Id. ¶¶ 33[C]-[L]. Plaintiffs further assert that Defendants substituted "a singular city wide formal administrative remedy" with "a series of agency controlled administrative remedy procedures for each individual agency" and failed "to inform the Plaintiffs in writing as to what the administrative remedy process is." Id. ¶¶ 33[D]-[E]. Plaintiffs next allege that "[w]hen administrative law judges or judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia or United States District Court Judges, enter orders or take actions that are adverse to these Defendants, the Defendants simply ignore the orders, as if the courts lack any power of enforcement." Id. ¶ 33[M]. Plaintiffs do not, however, point to any specific orders allegedly ignored by Defendants.

Finally, Plaintiffs allege that the "primary reasoning" for Defendants' actions "is a plan created by the Defendants to circumvent judicial scrutiny and review by the Attorney Generals [sic] of the States [with whom] Defendant Unum Provident" entered into the RSA. Id. ¶ 33[N].

Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants agreed: (1) that the Labor Union Defendants would not challenge the "maze of unpublished regulations . . . in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the Union Defendants and the city," id. ¶ 34; and (2) "to employ the health care Defendants as third parties, who will create policies and procedures, which are impossible to comply with, and that the Defendants . . . knew or should have known [would] violat[e] the civil rights and due process rights of the Plaintiffs," id. ¶ 35. Plaintiffs do not provide further factual allegations as to either of these agreements. Similarly, Plaintiffs allege that the Health Care Defendants "are engaged in a fraud wherein [they] randomly change corporate names and transfer assets of one another to other third parties to avoid a Federal Court order issued in the State of New York," id. ¶ 36, but do not specify which Defendants are alleged to have engaged in such activity, or how any Defendant is actually alleged to have perpetrated a fraud.

The Amended Complaint also contains a number of allegations more specifically addressed to the Labor Union Defendants and to the District. In particular, Plaintiffs assert that the Labor Union Defendants collect union dues for union representation which does not exist, because Plaintiffs (with the exception of Mitchner, who is not a member of a labor union) "are entitled to fair, competent representation in all matters relating to their employment with the City, which is being denied by the Union Defendants who have shut their collective eyes to the city's tampering with the administrative and benefit systems which have been previously agreed to . . . ." Id. ¶¶ 36, 37. Plaintiffs continue to allege that they have "filed timely grievances, requested arbitration hearings in accordance with set policy and have been subjected to denials based upon fathom [sic] reasoning, without due process of law." Id. ¶ 38. Plaintiffs assert that "neither the Unions nor the City have been complying with either the Collective Bargaining Agreements or the Personnel Rules and Regulations," because they have "failed to investigate employee grievance claims in a timely manner" and to keep adequate records, which has resulted in delayed arbitrations; have collaborated to dismiss or settle pending grievance cases without the knowledge or approval of the employees concerned; and have tampered with Plaintiffs' files by inserting forged documents or removing documents favorable to Plaintiffs. Id. ¶¶ 39-40. According to Plaintiffs, the Labor Union Defendants and the District "have treated employee claims in a perfunctory manner, acted arbitrarily, negligently, incompetently, and have willfully delayed and/or failed to provide fair, prompt, and effective representation and hearing." Id. ¶ 41.

Finally, Plaintiffs assert that they "have attempted to raise their claims and concerns before the City's Personnel Board and the City's Labor Board and have exhausted such claims as the faux system set in place by the Defendants permit." Id. ¶ 42. Plaintiffs do not, however, specify which, if any, administrative remedies each Plaintiff has pursued. Similarly, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants' actions have "resulted in poverty, homelessness, economic disadvantage and suffering both emotionally and physically based upon unlawful termination, unlawful transfer, unlawful demotion, unlawful denial of benefits, and unlawful cancellation of benefits," but do not specify which, if any, of these alleged injuries each Plaintiff has suffered. Id. ¶ 43.

C. Plaintiffs' Asserted Claims for Relief

Based upon the foregoing allegations, Plaintiffs assert eight "Claims for Relief." Count 1 is styled as a claim for breach of employment contract and alleges that the District "and its employees have an employment contract, consisting in part of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the City and the Unions, and present and past employment practices," and that all Defendants' "failures to engage in meaningful mediation, other dispute resolution efforts, or arbitration, and the denial of prompt grievance hearings violate the employment contracts." Id. ¶¶ 56-59. Count 2 asserts a claim for breach of collective bargaining agreement, alleges that Plaintiffs are third party beneficiaries of the collective bargaining agreements between the District and the Labor Union Defendants, and asserts that all Defendants conspired to violate the collective bargaining agreements by denying prompt disciplinary and contract grievance hearings. Id. ¶¶ 60-63. Count 3 asserts a claim for breach of duty of fair representation, and alleges, inter alia, that the Labor Union Defendants breached their duties "to engage in negotiations in good faith and to represent and advance the rights and interests of the Plaintiffs in meritorious grievance claims," as well as fraudulently collected union dues that the Labor Union Defendants knew they had not earned Id. ¶¶ 64-72. Count 4 asserts a claim for violation of right to due process against the Labor Union Defendants and the District, alleging that Plaintiffs "have a property interest in their employment, [] can only be disciplined, refused benefits and/or fired for good cause, [] are entitled to pre-termination and post-termination hearings and process," and "have been denied their constitutional rights to substantive and procedural due process of law." Id. ¶¶ 73-76.

The remainder of Plaintiffs' Counts are more properly described as prayers for relief than legal causes of action. In Count 5, Plaintiffs assert a claim for declaratory judgment, alleging that all Defendants "are engaging in criminal and civil wrongdoing," and requesting "declaratory rulings to determine the respective contractual and constitutional rights and obligations of the parties." Id. ¶¶ 77-79. In Count 6, Plaintiffs request injunctive relief against all Defendants, asserting that "[w]ithout issuance of an injunctive order and/or a Writ of Mandamus, Defendants will continue to refuse or delay compliance with the law, and will continue to deny and compromise Plaintiffs' rights and interests." Id. ¶¶ 80-85. Count 7 is framed as a "special request for judicial notice, injunctive relief, temporary restraining order and pendant jurisdictional ruling over Defendant Unum Provident's failure to comply with the New York settlement agreement already in place, with a request for a criminal referral to the individual Attorneys General who are part of the previous settlement referenced herein." Id., Count 7. In support of this "special request," Plaintiffs allege that Unum and Genex have breached the RSA and that "[w]ithout issuance of an injunctive order and referral from this court these Defendants will be free to continue to defraud U.S. citizens nationwide." Id. ¶¶ 86-90. Finally, in Count 8, Plaintiffs seek a "restraining order as to retaliation," alleging that "Defendants have a history of retaliatory conduct" against whistleblowers, which is prohibited under the Constitution and various federal laws, and asserting that "Plaintiffs anticipate the Defendants or parties affiliated with the Defendants will seek retribution and punish these Plaintiffs for their assistance in this litigation." Id. ¶¶ 91-100.

D. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed their initial Complaint in this action on February 1, 2007, naming as Defendants all of the entities discussed above. Nine (9) of these Defendants subsequently filed a total of seven (7) motions seeking to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint.*fn10 On June 11, 2007, Plaintiffs moved to amend their original Complaint. Thereafter, six (6) Defendants filed a total of five motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint.*fn11 On June 28, 2007, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion to amend, denied without prejudice all of the motions to dismiss filed with respect to Plaintiffs' original Complaint, and ordered all Defendants who had not yet responded to Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint to do so on or before July 27, 2007. See Order, Docket No. 36. Thereafter, the remaining six (6) Defendants filed a total of five motions to dismiss.*fn12

On August 1, 2007, the Court issued a Minute Order noting the ten pending motions to dismiss, and directing Plaintiffs to file "an INDIVIDUAL Opposition" to each of those pending motions to dismiss, on or before September 5, 2007. See Minute Order (D.D.C. Aug. 1, 2007). On September 6, 2007, Plaintiffs filed ten separate Oppositions to the pending motions to dismiss. See Docket Nos. [58]-[67].*fn13 As various Defendants note in their reply memoranda, despite the Court's instruction that Plaintiffs file "INDIVIDUAL" oppositions, Plaintiffs' ten Oppositions are largely identical (with the exception of a few introductory paragraphs).

See Corvel Reply at 2 & n.2 (describing minimal differences between Oppositions). Each Opposition nominally responds to a separate motion to dismiss, but none of them substantively addresses the various arguments made by the individual Defendants in their respective motions to dismiss. Furthermore, in response to the AFSCME/WTU joint motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs filed an "Opposition to Defendant Washington Teachers' Union Local No. 6 Motion to Dismiss," which does not mention AFSCME's motion. In a Notice of Plaintiffs' Failure to File Opposition, AFSCME argues that its motion to dismiss should be deemed conceded pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7(b). The Court agrees that Plaintiffs have not opposed AFSCME's motion to ...


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