United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JOSEPH S. VON KAENEL, Plaintiff,
ARMSTRONG TEASDALE, LLP, Defendant.
AMENDED OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings, [Doc. No. 25]. The matter is filed
by Plaintiff under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq.
For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.
Joseph von Kaenel (“Plaintiff”) began working as
an attorney at Defendant Armstrong Teasdale LLP
(“Defendant”) on June 1, 1972. Plaintiff
eventually joined Defendant partnership as an equity partner.
Plaintiff turned 70 years old in November 2014. Defendant has
a policy requiring equity partners to leave the firm at the
end of the calendar year in which the partner turns 70 years
old. As such, Defendant informed Plaintiff that he would not
be allowed to work past December 31, 2014. Plaintiff was
entitled to severance benefits after this termination on the
condition that he ceased the private practice of law.
Plaintiff chose to continue the private practice of law, and
Defendant terminated Plaintiff's severance benefits.
Plaintiff claims that if Defendant did not have its policy
requiring equity partners to retire at 70, he would have
retired at 75, stopped practicing law, and received his
December 11, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the
“EEOC”) and the Missouri Commission on Human
Rights (the “MCHR”) alleging employment
discrimination by Defendant based on Plaintiff's age of
70. On February 17, 2015 MCHR issued a Notice of Termination
of Proceedings informing Plaintiff that MCHR lacked
jurisdiction over his complaint because he was 70 years old
and therefore outside the protected age group under the
Missouri Human Rights Act (the “MHRA”).
October 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Writ of
Mandamus in the Circuit Court for Cole County, Missouri (the
“Cole County court”) asking the court to issue a
Writ of Mandamus directing the MCHR to either issue a Notice
of Right to Sue Letter or reopen and fully investigate
Plaintiff's case. The Cole County court held an
evidentiary hearing on the Petition, at which the Defendant
argued, inter alia, that Plaintiff was not an
“employee” protected by the MHRA by virtue of his
position as an equity partner of Defendant partnership. At
the evidentiary hearing, Plaintiff testified as to his rights
and obligations as an equity partner under the partnership
agreement. The Cole County court's judgment, issued
October 19, 2017, dismissed Plaintiff's Petition and
found that “as an equity partner of Armstrong Teasdale
LLP, [Plaintiff] is not a covered employee protected by the
[MHRA.]” The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue to
Plaintiff for his ADEA claim on June 24, 2016. Plaintiff
filed his Complaint in the instant action on September 1,
support of its motion for judgment on the pleadings,
Defendant argues that the issue of whether Plaintiff was an
“employee” of Defendant was already litigated by
the Cole County court and thus Plaintiff is collaterally
estopped from relitigating this issue in the instant action.
Defendant claims that since Plaintiff cannot challenge his
status as a non-employee, his claim necessarily fails.
opposes the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The matter
has been fully briefed.
the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay
trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.”
Fed.R.Civ.P.Rule 12(c). “A motion for judgment on the
pleadings should be granted when, accepting all facts pled by
the nonmoving party as true and drawing all reasonable
inferences from the facts in favor of the nonmoving party,
the movant has clearly established that no material issue of
fact remains and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Schnuck Markets, Inc. v. First Data
Merch. Servs. Corp., 852 F.3d 732, 737 (8th Cir. 2017).
As a general rule, a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings is reviewed under the same standard as a 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss.” Ginsburg v. InBev NV/SA,
623 F.3d 1229, 1233 n. 3 (8th Cir.2010); accord Gallagher
v. City of Clayton, 699 F.3d 1013, 1016 -1017 (8th Cir.
2012). Thus, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) - and, hence,
judgment pursuant to Rule 12(c) - is appropriate when a claim
or action is fatally flawed in its legal premises. See
Stringer v. St. James R-1 Sch. Dist., 446 F.3d 799, 802
(8th Cir.2006) (citing Young v. City of St. Charles,
244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir.2001)).
well-settled that when considering a motion for judgment on
the pleadings, the court generally must ignore materials
outside the pleadings, but may consider some materials that
are part of the public record or do not contradict the
complaint, as well as materials that are necessarily embraced
by the pleadings. Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp.,
186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999) (citing Missouri ex
rel. Nixon v. Coeur D'Alene Tribe, 164 F.3d 1102,
1107 (8th Cir. 1999); Piper Jaffray Cos. v. National
Union Fire Ins. Co., 967 F.Supp. 1148, 1152 (D. Minn.
support of its Motion, Defendant invokes the doctrine of
collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, arguing that
because the Cole County Court determined that Plaintiff was
not an “employee” of Defendant under the MHRA,
Defendant should not be required to re-litigate the issue of
whether Plaintiff was an “employee” under the
collateral estoppel, once a court has decided an issue of
fact or law necessary to its judgment, that decision may
preclude relitigation of the issue in a suit on a different
cause of action involving a party to the first case.”