Balderrama v. Pride Indus., Inc.

Decision Date27 August 2013
Docket NumberNo. EP–13–CV–169–KC.,EP–13–CV–169–KC.
Citation963 F.Supp.2d 646
PartiesBenito BALDERRAMA, Plaintiff, v. PRIDE INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Texas


Don Wayne Minton, The Minton Law Firm, PC, El Paso, TX, for Plaintiff.

Bruce A. Koehler, Mounce, Green, Myers, Safi, Paxson & Galatzan, P.C., El Paso, TX, for Defendant.



On this day, the Court considered Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 2, in the above-captioned case. As explained below, Plaintiff's statutory claims of discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Texas Labor Code are sufficiently alleged to withstand Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Defendant's Motion is therefore denied as to these claims. Defendant's Motion must be granted, however, with respect to Plaintiff's claims of negligence, gross negligence, and negligent investigation. Finally, Defendant's request for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is granted with respect to Plaintiff's claims of intrusion upon seclusion, intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), wrongful termination, and negligent hiring. For these reasons, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


Plaintiff filed a Petition in El Paso County Court at Law No. 384 on April 19, 2013. Def.'s Notice of Removal 7 (“Plaintiff's Petition”), ECF No. 1. In his Petition, Plaintiff alleges that he is a resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and that he began working in October 2011 as a laborer in “El Paso/Fort Bliss, Texas” for Defendant, a corporation headquartered in California. Pl.'s Pet. 1–4.

Plaintiff alleges that he has a mental disability. Id. at 2. According to the Petition, Defendant's employees discriminated against Plaintiff by subjecting him to unsafeworking conditions and harassment because of his mental disability. Id. at 2–4. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant's unsafe practices, such as requiring employees to work in rat-infested sewers without proper safety equipment, were in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”). Id. at 3. Plaintiff also alleges that he became physically injured at his workplace while using a motor vehicle that was attached to a damaged trailer. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the trailer became unhooked and caused the motor vehicle to stop abruptly, thereby injuring Plaintiff. Id.

According to the Petition, Plaintiff subsequently filed a workers' compensation claim based on Plaintiff's workplace injury. Id. at 5–6. Plaintiff also allegedly filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) regarding the discriminatory treatment that Plaintiff had experienced while working for Defendant, after which Defendant's employees retaliated against him with additional harassment. Id. at 4.

Although the Petition is ambiguous about the circumstances surrounding the termination of Plaintiff's employment, Defendant is alleged either to have constructively discharged Plaintiff in October 2012 or fired Plaintiff on April 11, 2013. Id. at 3–4. According to the Petition, Plaintiff's employment was terminated either because of his mental disability, because Plaintiff filed the worker's compensation claim after his workplace injury, because Plaintiff filed a complaint with the EEOC, or because Plaintiff refused to participate in Defendant's violations of OSHA. See id. at 3–11.

Plaintiff's Petition raises ten causes of action based on Defendant's treatment of Plaintiff, four of which arise under federal or Texas statutes and six of which arise under Texas common law. Id. at 2–10. As to all of his claims, Plaintiff alleges that the injurious conduct was committed by Guadalupe Hernandez, Luis Marquez, Alejandro Cortez, and Alma Blair, all of whom were “agents, servants, and employees of Defendant and were acting in the course and scope of their authority when they allegedly caused injury to Plaintiff. See id. at 3, 9–10. Though none of these individuals is a named defendant in this case, Plaintiff claims that responsibility for these individuals' actions should be imputed to Defendant under the doctrine of vicarious liability. See id.

In support of his first and second statutory claims, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of his mental disability and thereby violated the federal ADA and § 21.051 of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (“TCHRA”).1Id. at 4–5. In his third claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated § 21.055 of the TCHRA by retaliating against Plaintiff for contacting the EEOC. Id. at 4. In his fourth claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant also violated § 451.001 of the Texas Labor Code (“the Anti–Retaliation Law”) 2 by retaliating against Plaintiff after he instituted a claim under the Texas Workers' Compensation Act (“TWCA”) based on his workplace injury involving the damaged trailer. Id. at 5.

Plaintiff brings his fifth claim for common-law negligence and gross negligence based on Defendant's failure to follow proper safety protocols and creation of hazardous working conditions. Id. at 3, 9. In his sixth claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant committed the tort of negligent investigation by firing Plaintiff on the basis of an inadequate investigation. See id. at 10–11. In his seventh claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant intentionally invaded Plaintiff's solitude, seclusion, and privacy by making lewd comments, physically touching Plaintiff, eavesdropping on Plaintiff's private conversations, and continually berating and harassing Plaintiff. Id. at 7. In his eighth claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant committed the common-law tort of IIED. Id. at 8. In his ninth claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant wrongfully terminated Plaintiff for refusing to participate in an illegal act. Id. at 3, 11. In his tenth and final claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated a common-law duty owed to Plaintiff by negligently hiring, training, and retaining Plaintiff's supervisors, and thereby causing injury to Plaintiff. See id. at 6.

Defendant removed this action on May 17, 2013, invoking this Court's jurisdiction on two distinct grounds. First, Defendant asserts that this case falls within the Court's federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, because Plaintiff asserts a claim under the ADA and because the conduct at issue occurred on Fort Bliss, which Defendant characterizes as a federal enclave. Def.'s Notice of Removal 2, ECF No. 2. Second, Defendant asserts that this case falls within the Court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, because Plaintiff is a citizen of New Mexico, Defendant is a citizen of California, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Id. at 2–3.

On June 14, 2013, Defendant filed the present Motion to Dismiss. See Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 2.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) challenges a complaint on the basis that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Calhoun v. Hargrove, 312 F.3d 730, 733 (5th Cir.2002); Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir.2000). Though a complaint need not contain “detailed” factual allegations, a plaintiff's complaint must allege sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); Colony Ins. Co. v. Peachtree Constr., Ltd., 647 F.3d 248, 252 (5th Cir.2011).

“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). [A] plaintiff's obligation to providethe grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (internal quotation marks omitted); Gulf Coast Hotel–Motel Ass'n v. Miss. Gulf Coast Golf Course Ass'n, 658 F.3d 500, 506 (5th Cir.2011). Ultimately, the [f]actual allegations [in the complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (internal citation omitted). Nevertheless, a “well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.’ Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974)).

B. Analysis

In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant raises three categories of arguments. First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims for discrimination and retaliation under the TCHRA and the Anti–Retaliation Law must be dismissed because the relevant provisions of these statutes were enacted after Fort Bliss became a federal enclave and, therefore, have no force on Fort Bliss under the federal enclave doctrine. Def.'s Mot. 3. Second, Defendant argues that each of Plaintiff's six common-law claims must be dismissed to the extent that they are based on the same conduct as Plaintiff's claims under Texas statutes. See id. at 11; Def.'s Reply 3, ECF No. 3. Third, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to support eight of his ten claims under Rules 8(a) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, although this argument is not raised with respect to Plaintiff's claims of retaliation under the TCHRA and the Anti–Retaliation Law. See Def.'s Mot. 6–11. Finally, in the event that the Court does not dismiss Plaintiff's claims on these...

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