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Wright v. Centennial Healthcare Corp.

March 12, 2008

R. L. WRIGHT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CENTENNIAL HEALTHCARE CORP. ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas F. Hogan Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Rosalind Wright alleges that defendants Centennial Healthcare Corporation and Centennial Healthcare Management Corporation (collectively, "Centennial") subjected her to race discrimination, retaliation, and defamation. Complaint ("Compl."). [dkt. #1] Pending before the Court is defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for Failure to State a Claim or Alternatively, for Summary Judgment. [dkt. #3] Centennial argues that plaintiff's claims are barred because all or some of her claims were discharged pursuant to the order confirming Centennial's Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan. Upon consideration of defendants' motion, plaintiff's opposition, defendants' reply thereto, and the record in this case, the Court will grant defendants' motion.

Background

From August 1995 until her termination in October 2003, Ms. Wright, a black female, served as Executive Director of the Grand Park Care Center, a nursing home owned and operated by Centennial. Plaintiff alleges: (a) race discrimination in the form of a hostile work environment from early 2001 until her termination in October 2003; (b) retaliation for her complaints about racism and discriminatory practices in the form of a negative performance evaluation and her termination; and (c) defamation following her termination. On September 29, 2004, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. On November 8, 2004, defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. [dkt. #1]

On December 22, 2002 ("Petition Date"), defendants filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia. On December 18, 2003, plaintiff filed an Administrative Claim Request with the bankruptcy court. The claim request form asserts a claim against defendants in excess of $150,000, stating that the "Basis for Claim" was "Employment Discrimination/Tort Claim" and that the debt was incurred on October 10, 2003, which is the date defendants terminated her. Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss. ("Mot. Dismiss") Exh. A. [dkt. #4-2]

On June 22, 2004 ("Confirmation Date"), the Bankruptcy Court issued its Confirmation Order. See Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Confirming the Third Amended Joint Plan of Reorganization Filed by the Debtors ("Confirmation Order"), Mot. Dismiss Exh. C. [dkt. #4-4] The Reorganization Plan became effective on August 4, 2004 ("Effective Date"). See Notice of Occurrence of Effective Date of Plan, Deadline for Final Professional Fee and Committee Expense Applications, and Limitation of Notice, Mot. Dismiss Exh. D. [dkt. #4-5] Defendants argue that the Confirmation Order precludes plaintiff from bringing her claims in this Court, while plaintiff contends that she may bring her claims in this Court due to an exception in the Confirmation Order.

Discussion

A. Legal Standard

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 56. Because the Court will take into consideration matters outside the complaint, the Court will analyze the motion under the summary judgment standard.See, e.g., Rann v. Chao, 346 F.3d 192, 194 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Bowie v. Ashcroft, 283 F. Supp. 2d 25, 30 (D.D.C. 2003).

Under Rule 56, a motion for summary judgment should be granted only if it is shown "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party's "initial responsibility" consists of "informing the [trial] court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).

If the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To meet his burden, the non-moving party must show that "'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict'" in his favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1241 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Such evidence must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials; rather, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322 n.3. If the evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment should be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

B. Analysis

Defendants contend that a provision in the Confirmation Order bars plaintiff's pre-confirmation claims. Specifically, the Confirmation Order provides:

Except as provided for in the Plan or herein, the rights afforded in the Plan and the Distributions to be made thereunder shall be in exchange for and in complete satisfaction, discharge, and release of all existing debts and Claims, and shall terminate all Interests, to the extent provided in the Plan, of any kind, nature, or description whatsoever, including any interest accrued on such Claims after the Petition Date, against or in the ...


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