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Hamilton v. Matrix Logistics

February 9, 2006

MICHELE HAMILTON AND LARRY HALL, PLAINTIFFS
v.
MATRIX LOGISTICS, INC., TIBBETT & BRITTEN GROUP NORTH AMERICA, INC., ROBERT DODSON, AND FRANK AYALA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lewis T. Babcock, Chief Judge

ORDER

This case is before me on Defendants' Amended Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. Oral argument would not materially assist in determination of the motion. After consideration of the motion, related pleadings, and the case file, I grant the motion in part and deny it in part for the reasons set forth below.

I. Background

Plaintiffs, a married couple, are former employees of Defendant Matrix Logistics, Inc. ("Matrix") and/or Defendant Tibbett & Britten Group North America, Inc. ("T&B"). Plaintiff Michele Hamilton ("Hamilton") alleges that she was sexually harassed by Defendants Robert Dodson ("Dodson") and Frank Ayala ("Ayala") during the course of her employment with Matrix and/or T&B. Plaintiff Larry Hall "(Hall") alleges that his employment with Matrix and/or T&B was terminated in retaliation for his assistance in Hamilton's pursuit of a sexual harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") under the pretextual reasons that he had sexually harassed a male co-worker and falsified company records regarding this alleged harassment. Based on these principal allegations, Plaintiffs have asserted a number of federal and state law claims. By the motion, Defendants seek to dismiss the following claims by Plaintiffs pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6): (1) Hall's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress; (2) Hall's claim for civil conspiracy; and (3) Hamilton's claim for violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act ("COCCA"), C.R.S. § 18-17-101, et seq. Defendants also seek to strike Plaintiffs' request for punitive damages from their prayer for relief.

II. Standard of Review

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a district court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). If the plaintiff has pled facts that would support a legally cognizable claim for relief, a motion to dismiss should be denied. Id. In reviewing the sufficiency of the complaint, all well-pled facts, as opposed to conclusory allegations, must be taken as true and all reasonable inferences must be liberally construed in the plaintiff's favor. Weiszmann v. Kirkland & Ellis, 732 F. Supp. 1540, 1543 (D. Colo. 1990).

III. Analysis

A. Plaintiff Hall's Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

To state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Hall must allege (1) that Defendants engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct; (2) that Defendants engaged in such conduct recklessly or with the intent of causing him severe emotional distress; and (3) that he in fact suffered severe emotional distress as a result of Defendants' conduct. Culpepper v. Pearl St. Bldg., Inc., 877 P.2d 877, 882 (Colo. 1994). In support of the dismissal of Hall's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Defendants argue that the allegations in Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint fail to establish the element of extreme and outrageous conduct directed at Hall as a matter of law. I disagree.

"Although the question of whether conduct is outrageous is generally one of fact to be determined by a jury, it is first the responsibility of the court to determine whether reasonable persons could differ on this issue." Culpepper, supra, 877 P.2d at 883. "Outrageous conduct" is that which is "so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious , and utterly intolerable in a civilized society." Culpepper, supra, 877 P.2d at 882 (quoting Destefano v. Grabrian, 763 P.2d 275, 286 (Colo. 1988)). In cases involving wrongful termination, the plaintiff must allege that the manner of his discharge was sufficiently outrageous to rise to the level of outrageous conduct. Bigby v. Big 3 Supply Co., 937 P.2d 794, 800 (Colo. App. 1996).

Here, Hall alleges that Defendants' conduct in terminating his employment based on false allegations that he had sexually harassed a male co-worker when the real reason for his termination was retaliation for his assistance in his wife's pursuit of a sexual harassment claim against Defendants was extreme and outrageous. I conclude that a jury could find that these actions, if proven, constitute extreme and outrageous conduct under Colorado law and therefore deny Defendants' motion with respect to Hall's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

B. Plaintiff Hall's Claim for Civil Conspiracy

To state a claim for civil conspiracy, Hall must allege (1) an object to be accomplished; (2) an agreement by two or more persons on a course of action to accomplish that object; (3) in furtherance of that course of action, one or more unlawful acts which were performed to accomplish a lawful or unlawful goal, or one or more lawful acts which were performed to accomplish an unlawful goal; and (4) damages. Double Oak Constr., L.L.C. v. Cornerstone Dev. Int'l. L.L.C., 97 P.3d 140, 146 (Colo. App. 2003). In support of the dismissal of Hall's claim for civil conspiracy, Defendants argue that he has failed to allege with particularity any overt act by the alleged co-conspirators to accomplish the object of the alleged conspiracy. I agree.

In support of his claim for civil conspiracy, Hall alleges that Defendants agreed to engage in a course of action to coerce Hamilton to have sexual relations with Dodson and to subsequently cover-up their actions by obstructing Hamilton's pursuit of her sexual harassment claim with the EEOC. Hall further alleges that in furtherance of this objective, Defendants unlawfully retaliated against him and unlawfully engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct in terminating his employment. Hall does not allege, however, that either Dodson or Ayala had any involvement in his termination. This deficiency is fatal to Hall's claim for civil conspiracy against these Defendants. See Nelson v. Elway, 908 P.2d 102, 106-7 (Colo. 1995) ...


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