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David Griffin v. Metromedia Energy

February 7, 2011

DAVID GRIFFIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METROMEDIA ENERGY, INC., JONATHAN MORRIS, AND LAURENCE MORRIS,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson, U.S.D.J.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION & ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Metromedia Energy, Inc., Jonathan Morris, and Laurence Morris's Motion to Dismiss [docket # 8] and Plaintiff David Griffin's Cross-motion to Amend the Complaint [11]. The Court has decided the motions after considering the parties' written submissions, without holding oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons given below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted, and Plaintiff's motion to amend is denied.

BACKGROUND

The following allegations, which are laid out in Plaintiff's Complaint [1], are accepted as true for the purpose of deciding these motions.

Plaintiff David Griffin is a former employee of Metromedia Energy, Inc. ("MME") who claims he was wrongfully terminated by MME in retaliation for complaining about fraudulent business practices to his supervisors. Plaintiff began working at MME in December 1999.

(Compl. ¶ 7.) He was a Regional Manager who reported directly to management in New Jersey, including to the two individual defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 7--8.)

According to Plaintiff, in December 2008, he "became aware that the Company was fraudulently overbilling customers for its products" through manipulation of its billing systems. (Id. ¶ 9.) Defendants Jonathan and Laurence Morris are alleged to have known and approved of the fraud. (Id.) Plaintiff complained to Defendants and refused to participate in the fraudulent practices, although the Complaint does not specify when Plaintiff communicated with the Defendants. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff was then "summarily and abruptly terminated . . . in retaliation for said objections, opposition, and refusal" on July 28, 2009.*fn1 (Id. ¶¶ 7, 11.)

Plaintiff filed this suit on July 23, 2010, alleging that his termination violated the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("CEPA"), N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq. He claims his termination caused severe emotional distress, anxiety, and humiliation. (Compl. ¶ 13.)

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) [8]. They argue that Plaintiff's complaint fails to plead sufficient factual detail to support a claim under CEPA. (Defs.' Mem. 1) [8-1]. In response, Plaintiff argues that the motion satisfies the pleading requirements. (Pl.'s Br. 1) [11-1]. However, Plaintiff also cross-moves to amend the complaint, adding factual allegations and asserting two new causes of action-for wrongful termination and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15-- 18, 19--20, attached as Patterson Cert. Ex. A) [11-2] (hereafter, "Am. Compl.") Defendants oppose the motion to amend because the two additional counts are preempted by CEPA, (Defs.' Reply Br. 4--6) [15], and because the proposed amended complaint still pleads insufficient facts to support Plaintiff's claims, (Id. at 7, 11).

ANALYSIS

A.Legal Standard

Courts should "freely grant leave [to amend the pleading] when justice so requires." Fed.R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2); see also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Dole v. Arco Chem. Co., 921 F.2d 484 (3d Cir. 1990). Before dismissing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must permit a curative amendment unless the amendment would be inequitable or futile. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004)). An amended complaint is "futile" if it still fails to ...


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