Submitted: May 23, 2014
Upon Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
Samuel L. Guy, Esquire, attorney for Plaintiff.
William W. Bowser, Esquire, Lauren E.M. Russell, Esquire, of YOUNG CONAWAY STARGATT & TAYLOR LLP, attorneys for Defendants.
HONORABLE ANDREA L. ROCANELLI
Plaintiff, Lugenia Anthony, has been employed with Defendant, Diamond State Corporation ("Diamond State"), a governmental agency,  since 1998 at the Port of Wilmington. Plaintiff is a member of the International Longshoremen's Association, Local 1694-1, AFL-CIO ("Union"). Defendant, Erin Bickley, is Diamond State's Safety and Training Manager. Among other responsibilities, Bickley conducted Diamond State's forklift certification program which Diamond State offers regularly to employees to become certified to operate forklifts on Diamond State property.
Plaintiff attended the Diamond State forklift certification program operated by Bickley in November 2010. Plaintiff received a failing grade for the course on November 23, 2010. Plaintiff alleges that she again participated in Diamond State's forklift certification program in December 2012. Plaintiff alleges that she was informed that she successfully completed the program on December 3, 2012, and further alleges that her certification was revoked by Bickley on December 6, 2012. Defendants deny that Plaintiff participated in any forklift training certification classes since November 2010. However, for the purpose of consideration of Defendants' motion, Defendants acknowledge that the Court must accept Plaintiff's assertion as true, that Plaintiff took the forklift certification course in 2012.
Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on December 6, 2012, seeking a writ of certiorari to review Defendants' actions taken regarding Plaintiff's forklift certification. In her Complaint, Plaintiff further alleges that Bickley tortiously interfered with Plaintiff's employment contract with Diamond State and that Defendants violated Plaintiff's civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 because of Plaintiff's race and/or gender.
Plaintiff's initial pleading was a "Notice of Appeal." Plaintiff stated that she "does hereby appeal to the Superior Court from the revocation of a forklift operator certificate by the Diamond State Port Corporation." The Court entered an Order on January 15, 2013 allowing Plaintiff's petition for a writ of certiorari after a review of Plaintiff's assertions in Plaintiff's Complaint. Defendants filed an Answer on February 18, 2013. Defendants then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. The issues raised by Defendants have been fully briefed by all parties.
Standard of Review
A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed, but within such time as not to delay trial. "The nonmoving party is entitled to the benefit of any inferences that may fairly be drawn from its pleading." For purposes of considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all facts must be accepted as true and all reasonable inferences must be construed in favor of the non-moving party. The plaintiff must plead sufficient facts that, if supported by record evidence, would create a material dispute. "The motion should be granted when no material issues of fact exist and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." However, when the pleadings present any issues of material fact, the motion for judgment on the pleadings may not be granted.
If "matters outside of the pleadings are presented and not excluded by the Court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56 . . ." Plaintiff, in her response to Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, provided a newspaper article, indicating that the article will "help the Court understand the context of this case." Plaintiff further argues that the news article attached, which shows "[a] picture of [a] white Senator . . . who does not work at the Port, driving a forklift, demonstrates that African American women are treated differently." This article was not attached as an exhibit to the Complaint. More importantly, the article is hearsay and does not address Plaintiff's claims that are at issue before the Court. It is therefore not relevant.
Moreover, in order to consider statements outside of the pleadings, Rule 56 requires affidavits made on personal knowledge and sworn or certified copies of all statements referred to in the affidavits must be provided to the Court Rule 56(e). "[A]n adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Super. Ct. Civ. R. ...