Malamatis v. ATI Holdings, LLC, Civil Action ELH-21-2226

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Writing for the CourtEllen Lipton Hollander United States District Judge.
PartiesJAMES MALAMATIS Plaintiff, v. ATI HOLDINGS, LLC Defendant
Decision Date19 May 2022
Docket NumberCivil Action ELH-21-2226

JAMES MALAMATIS Plaintiff,
v.

ATI HOLDINGS, LLC Defendant

Civil Action No. ELH-21-2226

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 19, 2022


MEMORANDUM OPINION

Ellen Lipton Hollander United States District Judge.

This Memorandum Opinion concerns a motion to compel arbitration in an age discrimination suit lodged by plaintiff James Malamatis against his former employer, defendant ATI Holdings, LLC (“ATI”).

On July 14, 2021, plaintiff filed a ten-count Complaint in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. See ECF 1-3. Defendant removed the case to federal court on August 30, 2021, asserting federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331; diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332; and supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1367(a) and 1441(c). See ECF 1 (the “Notice”), ¶¶ 2, 3-7.[1] A First Amended Complaint followed on September 24, 2021. ECF 17.[2] Malamatis claims, among other things, that when he was an employee of ATI, he was subjected to discriminatory conduct because of his age and to retaliation based on his complaints about this treatment, which ultimately led to his termination and the denial of severance.

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In particular, the Amended Complaint contains ten claims against ATI, as follows: age discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. (Count I); retaliation, in violation of the ADEA (Count II); age discrimination, in violation of the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”), Md. Code (2021 Repl. Vol.), §§ 20-601 et seq. of the State Government Article (Count III); retaliation, in violation of MFEPA (Count IV); “Breach Of Contract (Promissory Estoppel)” (Count V); intentional misrepresentation (Count VI); negligent misrepresentation (Count VII); constructive fraud (Count VIII); fraud in the concealment (Count IX); and “Declaratory Judgment Relief As To Arbitration” (Count X). ECF 17 at 21-41.

Malamatis has filed a “Motion For Clarification . . .” as to defendant's purportedly untimely removal of the case to federal court. ECF 13 (the “Clarification Motion”). The Clarification Motion is supported by two exhibits. ECF 13-1; ECF 13-2. Defendant opposes the Clarification Motion. ECF 18. Plaintiff has not replied, and the time do so has expired. See Local Rule 105.2(a).

ATI has filed a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the suit. ECF 19. It is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 19-1) (collectively, the “Motion” or “Arbitration Motion”) and one exhibit. ECF 19-2.[3] Plaintiff opposes the Motion (ECF 20), supported by two exhibits. ECF 20-1; ECF 20-2. And, defendant has replied. ECF 21.

No hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall deny the Clarification Motion and I shall grant the Arbitration Motion.

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I. Clarification Motion

A.

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and “may not exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). “A court is to presume, therefore, that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to be proper.” United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).

The “burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on . . . the party asserting jurisdiction.” Robb Evans & Assocs., LLC v. Holibaugh, 609 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2010); accord McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010). Thus, “[i]f a plaintiff files suit in state court and the defendant seeks to adjudicate the matter in federal court through removal, it is the defendant who carries the burden of alleging in his notice of removal and, if challenged, demonstrating the court's jurisdiction over the matter.” Strawn v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 296 (4th Cir. 2008).

A federal court “should construe removal statutes narrowly, [with] any doubts . . . resolved in favor of state court jurisdiction.” Barbour v. Int'l, Union, 640 F.3d 599, 617 (4th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (abrogated in part on other grounds by the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011, Pub. L. No. 112-63, 125 Stat. 758 (Dec. 7, 2011) (“JVCA”)). The Fourth Circuit has said: “Because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns, we must strictly construe removal jurisdiction.” Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chemicals Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100 (1941)).

Under the general removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction” may be “removed

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by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.”[4] Notably, “[e]ach defendant shall have 30 days after receipt by or service on that defendant of the initial pleading or summons . . . to file the notice of removal.” Id. § 1446(b)(2)(B).

B.

As noted, defendant removed the case to federal court on August 30, 2021. ECF 1. On August 31, 2021, the Court issued a “Standing Order Concerning Removal” (ECF 6, the “Standing Order”), which required that “all parties removing actions to this court, shall, no later than fourteen (14) days after filing a removal, file and serve a statement ....” In the event that removal occurred more than thirty days after any defendant was first served, the statement must explain “the reasons why removal [took] place at this time and the date on which the defendant(s) was (were) first served with a paper identifying the basis for such removal.” ECF 6, ¶ 3.

On September 7, 2021, defendant timely filed a “Statement In Response To Standing Order On Removal”. ECF 10. ATI stated: “Removal took place thirty (30) days after Defendant was first served.” Id. ¶ 3. Thereafter, Malamatis filed the Clarification Motion. ECF 13.

In the Clarification Motion, plaintiff asserts that ATI was served with a copy of the summons and the Complaint on July 30, 2021. ECF 13, ¶ 1; see ECF 1, ¶ 1; see also ECF 1-4 at

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4-5. Malamatis claims that defendant did not remove the case to federal court until thirty-one days later, on August 30, 2021. ECF 13, ¶ 1; see ECF 1. Therefore, plaintiff asks the Court to require ATI to explain why it removed the suit to federal court “more than thirty (30) days after original service.” ECF 13, ¶ 1; see id. at 2.

In response (ECF 18), defendant notes that service was effected on July 30, 2021, and August 29, 2021, was the thirtieth day. But, that date fell on a Sunday. Id. ¶ 4. In such circumstances, the federal rules provide that the applicable filing period “continues to run until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a)(1)(C).

Accordingly, the relevant time period for plaintiff to remove the suit to federal court was extended to Monday, August 30, 2021. It follows that defendant timely removed the case to federal court. See ECF 1. Therefore, I shall deny the Clarification Motion.

II. The Arbitration Motion

A. Factual Background

1.

Malamatis was employed by ATI from March 2018 until September 6, 2019. ECF 17, ¶ 15.[5] Notably, “ATI operates approximately 860 clinics across more than 24 states within the U.S. and offers physical therapy services and specialty therapies, some of which are in Maryland.” Id. ¶ 5.

As an employee of ATI, plaintiff “worked as a ‘Practice Partner/Sales Consultant' for the region commonly known as ‘Baltimore West', which encompassed several counties within

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Maryland and parts of Baltimore City.” ECF 17, ¶ 24. In this role, he “was in essence an old-fashioned salesman for ATI, whose primary responsibility was generating referrals, ” and he “worked to introduce providers (most orthopedic surgeons) to the ATI facilities network.” Id. ¶¶ 25, 26. He was primarily evaluated based on his “ability to obtain referrals from the medical providers, and his bonus was determined on that basis.” Id. ¶ 27.

According to the Amended Complaint, “Malamatis came to work with ATI after an inveterate and successful career within the orthopedic profession, ” specifically with more than fifteen years' experience in “orthopedic and neurosurgery sales.” Id. ¶ 28. At the time plaintiff began his employment with ATI, he was sixty-four years of age. Id. ¶ 29. “[T]his made him the oldest employee in a team of employees where the average years-of-age was, upon information and belief, about 25.” Id. Indeed, plaintiff asserts: “No workers had attained Mr. Malamatis' age, and only a handful were over the age of 55.” Id. ¶ 30.

In seeking a position with ATI, plaintiff “had hoped that that position would be his last, continuing his career's work in the medical sales field over the course of decades.” Id. ¶ 31. “When seeking the position, Mr. Malamatis made that fact known to ATI.” Id. ¶ 32. During plaintiff's employment with ATI, he proved, “by virtually all metrics, ” to be “an extraordinarily well-performing employee who consistently contributed to ATI's bottom line.” Id. ¶ 34. According to the Amended Complaint, “Mr. Malamatis's sale results were superior to other employees.” Id. ¶ 36. And, “[a]s one of the top performers in ATI, he was praised by management . . . .” Id. ¶ 35.

Nonetheless, plaintiff claims that, “[f]rom the date of his engagement with ATI in March of 2018 until his wrongful termination on September 6, 2019, [he] endured a systematic, relentless and escalating campaign of harassment as the oldest worker in his department.” Id. ¶15. He

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states: “At the hands of his direct superiors, Mr. Charlton Cooper (‘Mr. Cooper') and Ms. Priya Amin [(]‘Ms. Amin'), ATI's campaign of harassment against Mr. Malamatis began with the assertion and...

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