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Erler v. Packaging

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 17, 2014

BRENDA ERLER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GRAHAM PACKAGING, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JEAN C. HAMILTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Graham Packaging Company, L.P.'s ("GPC") Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 19), and Defendant District 9, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers' ("District 9") Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 14).[1] Both motions have been fully briefed and are ready for disposition.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing a Complaint with this Court on May 15, 2014. (Complaint, ECF No. 1). According to their Complaint, the Plaintiffs worked "at the Berkeley, Missouri plant of Graham Packaging involved in the manufacture of plastic containers...." (Complaint ¶ 22). "On or about May 23, 2013, the Plaintiffs were notified that they were being placed on layoff due to a reduction in force at the Graham Packaging Company Berkeley, Missouri plant." Id. ¶ 24. GPC told the Plaintiffs they would have recall rights for twelve months following these layoffs, "and the Plaintiffs remained active employees in terms of their rights to pursue grievances and eligibility for employee benefits." Id. "On or about October 2, 2013, Graham Packaging issued a letter to some union workers, but not the plaintiffs, communicating the plant closing of the Berkeley facility in the 4th Quarter of 2013." Id. ¶ 27.

Plaintiffs allege that under the controlling collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), they are entitled to severance benefits, including pay, as a result of the plant closing. (Complaint, ¶¶ 32-33, 43-45). They never received such benefits and therefore filed a grievance with their union, District 9. Id. ¶¶ 38, 41. The grievance was denied. Id. The Plaintiffs then filed this Complaint, which contains two counts. Count I alleges violation of the CBA by GPC for failure to make severance payments to the Plaintiffs. Count II alleges breach of the duty of fair representation by District 9 based on its processing of the Plaintiffs' grievance.

MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

When ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must view the allegations in the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court must also "accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss must be granted if the complaint does not contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Stated differently, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint's factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 1965 (citations omitted).

MATTERS OUTSIDE PLEADINGS

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d), courts may not consider "matters outside the pleadings" in deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion without first converting the motion to one for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. "Most courts... view matters outside the pleading as including any written or oral evidence in support of or in opposition to the pleading that provides some substantiation for and does not merely reiterate what is said in the pleadings." Gorog v. Best Buy Co., 760 F.3d 787, 791 (8th Cir. 2014) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court may, however, consider "matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached the complaint whose authenticity is unquestioned;' without converting the motion into one for summary judgment" Dittmer Properties, L.P. v. F.D.I.C., 708 F.3d 1011, 1021 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Lab., Inc., 688 f.3d 928, 931 n.3 (8th Cir. 2012)).

While Plaintiffs refer only to the CBA and actions involving it in their Complaint, both Defendants contend that a later-executed severance agreement (the "Severance Agreement"), which District 9 has attached to its Motion, (ECF No. 14-5), amended the CBA and should be considered in determining the adequacy of Plaintiffs' Complaint. (GPC Support Memo, ECF No. 20, at 5; see D9 Support Memo, ECF No. 15, at 6). District 9 also suggests that the Court should consider several affidavits that it attached to its Motion. (ECF Nos. 14-1, 14-8, 14-12).

The Severance Agreement and the affidavits are not integral to the Complaint. The allegations in the Complaint relate only to the CBA. The CBA does not reference the Severance Agreement, and the Severance Agreement makes no reference to the CBA. The affidavits simply set forth facts to counter the allegations made in the Complaint. In other words, Defendants have requested that the Court consider evidence that does nothing more than oppose the allegations in the Complaint. The Severance Agreement and affidavits therefore fall squarely within the definition of matters outside the pleadings, and the Court will not consider them on this Rule 12(b)(6) motion.

DISCUSSION

Defendants have filed separate motions and memoranda in support of those motions. There are three arguments presented to the Court in those filings: (1) that Plaintiffs' Complaint is barred by the applicable statute of limitations; (2) that Plaintiffs have not adequately pleaded breach of contract; and (3) that ...


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