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DURAN v. JAMAICA HOSP.

August 2, 2002

MARIA DURAN, PLAINTIFF,
V.
JAMAICA HOSPITAL AND JOSEPH DETOMA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garaufis, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Maria Duran commenced the above titled action on October 9, 2001, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff also asserts state law claims of negligence, slander, and wrongful termination. Defendants Jamaica Hospital and Joseph DeToma (together "Defendants") move pursuant to FED R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss Plaintiffs negligence claim against Jamaica Hospital, Plaintiffs slander claim against Jamaica Hospital and DeToma, and Plaintiffs wrongful termination claim against Jamaica Hospital for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The wrongful termination claim was converted to a motion for summary judgment pursuant to FED R. Civ. P. 56, in accordance with this court's consideration of additional exhibits relevant to the claim. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion with respect to all three claims is GRANTED in its entirety.

I. Background

The following factual allegations are accepted as true for purposes of this motion to dismiss. See Jaghory v. New York State Dep't of Educ., 131 F.3d 326, 329 (2d Cir. 1997).

Plaintiff Duran is an Hispanic woman from the Dominican Republic who was employed by Jamaica Hospital in the position of Supportive Care Associate. Duran began her employment with Jamaica Hospital on or about February 1999. DeToma was at all relevant times also an employee of Jamaica Hospital. From about May 1999, until October 1999, DeToma made derogatory and harassing comments to Plaintiff regarding her proficiency with the English language. DeToma further harassed Plaintiff by assigning her duties not within her job description as Supportive Care Associate. On or about October 5, 1999, DeToma falsely reported that Plaintiff unlawfully had her hand inside another employee's pocket book, resulting in the termination of Plaintiffs employment on or about October 7, 1999. Prior to Plaintiffs termination, no investigation or hearing had been conducted by Jamaica Hospital. Plaintiff subsequently filed a timely claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights and received a Right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, dated July 17, 2001.

On October 9, 2001, Duran commenced the instant proceeding against Defendants Jamaica Hospital and DeToma. Defendants now seek to dismiss Plaintiffs claims for negligence, slander, and wrongful termination for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to FED R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

II. The Legal Standard

In reviewing a motion brought pursuant to FED R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994); Burnette v. Carothers, 192 F.3d 52, 56 (2d Cir. 1999). The complaint may be dismissed only if "it appears beyond doubt, even when the complaint is liberally construed, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Hoover v. Ronwin, 466 U.S. 558, 587, 104 S.Ct. 1989, 80 L.Ed.2d 590 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). In deciding such a motion, the "issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Bernheim v. Litt, 79 F.3d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal quotations omitted).

III. The Moving Defendants' Arguments

A. The Negligence Claim

Plaintiff claims that Jamaica Hospital was negligent in the hiring and retention of DeToma. (Complaint ¶ 31.) Defendants argue that Plaintiffs negligence claim should be dismissed on the grounds that it is barred by New York Workers' Compensation Law ("NYWCL"), which provides an exclusive remedy for negligence actions by an employee against his/her employer.

The exclusivity provision of NYWCL provides that an employer's negligence liability under the NYWCL "shall be exclusive and in place of any other liability." See N.Y. Work. Comp. § 11 (McKinney 2002). Sister courts have consistently interpreted this provision to bar negligence claims brought in federal court by an employee against an employer. See Walker v. Weight, 961 F. Supp. 32, 35 (E.D.N.Y. 1997) (holding that negligent hiring and retention claims brought by an employee are barred by NYWCL); Chrzanowski v. Lichtman, 884 F. Supp. 751, 756 (W.D.N.Y. 1995) (concluding negligence claims are clearly barred by the exclusivity provision of the NYWCL). Plaintiff has not brought her negligence claim pursuant to the NYWCL. Therefore, Plaintiff's negligence claim is barred and must be dismissed.

B. The Slander Claim

Plaintiffs brings a claim of slander against DeToma and Jamaica Hospital, alleging that on or about October 5, 1999, DeToma falsely reported that Plaintiff unlawfully had her hand inside another employee's pocket book. (Complaint ¶ 9.) Plaintiff further alleges that the false report damaged her reputation and caused her termination. (Complaint ¶ 41.) Defendants argue that Plaintiffs complaint was filed more than two years after DeToma told the alleged lies and is thus timebarred by the one-year statute of limitations for slander actions.*fn1 In response, Plaintiff argues that the claims brought before the New York State ...


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