Morgan v. Quest Diagnostic Inc., Civil Action 20-cv-430

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Writing for the CourtCLAIRE C. CECCHI, U.S.D.J.
Docket NumberCivil Action 20-cv-430
PartiesDR. MICHAEL B. MORGAN, Plaintiff, v. QUEST DIAGNOSTIC INC., Defendant.
Decision Date21 December 2021



Civil Action No. 20-cv-430

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 21, 2021




This matter comes before the Court on defendant Quest Diagnostic Inc.'s (“Defendant”) motion to dismiss (ECF No. 83) plaintiff Dr. Michael Morgan's (“Plaintiff”) Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 78) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 78. Plaintiff filed an opposition (ECF Nos. 88, 92), and Defendant replied (ECF No. 90). The Court decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to dismiss is denied in part and granted in part.


The instant action arises out of Defendant's termination of Plaintiff's employment. Plaintiff's operative employment agreement with Defendant signed in November 2012 (the “Employment Agreement”) included provisions allowing Defendant to terminate Plaintiff either “for cause” or “without cause.” ECF No. 78-1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant lacked cause for termination and did not make any severance payments to him, and thus breached the Employment Agreement under both the for cause and without cause provisions.

Plaintiff previously served as the medical director at three laboratories in Georgia and Florida owned and operated by Defendant. ECF No. 78 at 3. In 2014, while Plaintiff served as the


facilities' medical director, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant informed him it was reducing staff at all Defendant facilities, including those run by Plaintiff, by 15%. ECF No. 78 at 3. Plaintiff disagreed with this decision, believing it was “negligent” and would harm the facilities. Id. Plaintiff allegedly expressed his disagreement to Michael Kramer (“Kramer”), Defendant's Vice President. Id. Plaintiff stated that the reduction would leave the facilities understaffed, and that, because he believed Defendant's decision to be improper, he would file a complaint with the Florida regulatory authorities responsible for providing credentials to Defendant's facilities. Id. at 3-4.

Within six weeks of the 15% staff reduction taking effect, Plaintiff's facilities began misplacing pathology tissue specimens (the “specimens”). Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that the issues with accounting for the specimens were attributable to the 15% reduction in staff. Id. To mitigate the problem, Plaintiff attempted to complete the paperwork associated with maintaining the specimens himself, despite being the medical director, but mistakes at the facilities nevertheless continued. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that on January 21, 2015, Kramer asked him to attend a meeting at Defendant's Tampa, Florida offices to discuss the specimens lost at Plaintiff's facilities. Id. Plaintiff further alleges that, during that meeting, Kramer blamed Plaintiff for the lost specimens and implied that Plaintiff intentionally caused the accounting problems to justify his concerns over the staff reduction. Id. at 5. At the conclusion of the meeting, Kramer placed Plaintiff on paid administrative leave while Defendant further investigated the matter. Id.

On January 27, 2015, Defendant's Director of Human Resources, Dana Harbin (“Harbin”), asked Plaintiff to join a conference call with herself and Kramer. Id. at 6. On that call, Kramer and Harbin allegedly informed Plaintiff that he was to be terminated without cause. Id. Plaintiff alleges


that, after his employment concluded, Defendant continued to use his name, image, and likeness on company reports sent to customers. Id. at 6-8.

Plaintiff initiated this action on January 14, 2020. ECF No. 1. On July 31, 2020, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint alleging claims for breach of contract, unauthorized misappropriation of name and likeness, violations to the common law right of publicity, and unjust enrichment. ECF No. 39 at 11-17. This Court subsequently dismissed without prejudice the First Amended Complaint because Plaintiff failed to adequately allege how his termination violated the Employment Agreement and how Defendant received a direct benefit from using Plaintiff's name and likeness after his employment with Defendant ended. ECF No. 75. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint alleging claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. ECF No. 78 at 9-14. Defendant filed this motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims on May 12, 2021. ECF No. 83. Plaintiff filed an opposition on June 15, 2021 (ECF No. 88), to which Defendant replied on June 29, 2021 (ECF No. 90).


To survive dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted). A claim is facially plausible when supported by “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. A complaint that contains “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” supported by mere conclusory statements or offers “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement'” will not suffice. Id. (alteration in original) (citation omitted). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the court accepts all factual


allegations as true, draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, and disregards legal conclusions. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231-34 (3d Cir. 2008).


The Court finds, as explained further...

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