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Brandt v. Anheuser-Busch

April 19, 2007

WILLIAM BRANDT AND DONNA BRANDT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ANHEUSER-BUSCH, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William J. Martini

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Anheuser-Busch's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint in its entirety pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs oppose the motion. The Court adjudicates this matter on the papers. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons expressed herein, Defendant's motion is GRANTED, and Plaintiffs' Complaint is DISMISSED.

BACKGROUNDANDPROCEDURALHISTORY

According to the Complaint, the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Newark, NJ, where Plaintiff William Brandt began working in 1989, has a written policy requiring employees to submit to drug testing. (Compl. at 2.) Pursuant to this policy, Mr. Brandt was tested for drugs in 2001, by means of submitting a hair for testing at an independent laboratory. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that although the drug test reading was below the "minimum detection level," and thus was not reliable, Mr. Brandt was nonetheless discharged by Defendant on August 14, 2001 for testing positive for drugs. (Id.)

As a result of Mr. Brandt's allegedly wrongful discharge, Mr. Brandt and his wife, Donna Brandt, filed this action in the Superior Court of New Jersey on September 1, 2006, alleging (1) common law breach of contract, (2) infliction of emotional distress, and (3) loss of consortium. Defendant properly removed the case to this Court, and now moves to dismiss all three counts for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

DISCUSSION

I. Standard for Dismissal Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claims or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). In deciding such a motion, a court must take all allegations in complaint as true, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975). A court need not, however, accept legal or unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

Generally, a district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). However, "a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered without converting the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment." In re Burlington Coat Factory, 114 F.3d at 1426 (internal quotations omitted).

If, after viewing the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it appears beyond doubt that "no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations," a court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

II. Count One: Breach of Contract

A. Preemption

Defendant argues that because Plaintiffs' common-law breach of contract claim is necessarily dependent upon the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement, it is completely preempted by federal labor law. Intended to avoid inconsistent, state-specific resolutions of disputes arising under collective bargaining agreements, § 301 of the Labor and Management Relations Act ("LMRA") completely preempts state law claims which depend upon the meaning of a collective bargaining agreement. 29 U.S.C. § 185(a); Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 405-06 (1988); Angst v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 969 F.2d 1530, 1536 (3d Cir. 1992). As the Supreme Court has held, "questions relating to what the parties to a labor agreement agreed, and what legal consequences were intended to flow from breaches of that agreement, must be resolved by reference to uniform federal law, whether such questions arise in the context of a suit for breach of contract or in a suit alleging liability in tort." Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 211 (U.S. 1985). Where the resolution of a state law claim is substantially dependent upon the analysis of terms in a collective bargaining agreement, the claims must either be treated as a § 301 claim or dismissed as preempted by federal law. Id. at 220.

Although the parties dispute which of two collective bargaining agreements was in effect at the time of Mr. Brandt's termination - the 1994-1998 Agreement between Anheuser-Busch and Teamsters Local 102, or the 1998-2004 Agreement which had not yet been fully drafted, reviewed and signed - Defendant argues, and Plaintiffs apparently concede, that Plaintiffs' claim for common-law breach of contract in this action is dependent upon interpretation of whichever collective bargaining agreement was then in effect. (Def.'s Reply Br. Supp. Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Reply Br.") 7-8; Pls.' Br. Opp. Mot. to Dismiss ("Pls.' Br.") 2-3.) Plaintiffs argue that the drug-testing provisions in the 1994-1998 Agreement were still applicable at the time of Mr. Brandt's termination, and claim that because the prior agreement required three positive drug tests before termination, Mr. Brandt should not have been discharged after only two such tests. (Pls.' Br. 2-3.) However, the Court need not determine which of the two labor contracts actually applied. It is clear that resolution of Plaintiffs' claim would require this Court to interpret the drug-testing ...


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