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Dorsett-Felicelli, Inc., D/B/A Pyramids,Pyraminds Pre-School, Inc v. County of Clinton

March 22, 2011

DORSETT-FELICELLI, INC., D/B/A PYRAMIDS,PYRAMINDS PRE-SCHOOL, INC., AND MELISSA DORSETT-FELICELLI, PLAINTIFFS
v.
COUNTY OF CLINTON, PAULA CALKINS LACOMBE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR OF THE COUNTY OF CLINTON DEPARTMENT OFPUBLIC HEALTH, AND KATHERINE O'CONNOR, INDIVIDUALLYAND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS EARLY INTERVENTION OFFICIAL AND PRESCHOOL RELATED SERVICES COORDINATOR, NORTH COUNTRY KIDS, INC., STEPHANIE GIRARD, KELLY MCCAULEY, AND MELISSA PUCHALSKI, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is the Motion to dismiss filed by North Country Kids, Inc., Stephanie Girard, Kelly McCauley, and Melissa Puchalski ("Defendants") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Memorandum of Law (Dkt. 80-4). The claim at issue was brought under the New York common law (Amended and Supplemental Complaint, (Dkt. 74) ¶ 1 ("Complaint")) pursuant to the Court's supplemental jurisdiction, asserting that Defendant tortuously interfered with contractual relations existing between Dorsett-Felicelli, Inc., d/b/a Pyramids Pre-School, Inc. and Dorsett-Felicelli Inc. ("Plaintiffs") and the County of Clinton. Id. ¶ 90. Melissa Dorsett-Felicelli was added as a plaintiff in the present action only as to two claims arising under the First Amendment against the County of Clinton and two of its employees, Paula Calkins Lacombe and Katherine O'Connor. Memorandum-Decision and Order (Dkt. No. 73) at 48. She is not a plaintiff, however, for purposes of the tortuous interference with a contract claim and the present Motion to dismiss. See id. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to dismiss is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are providers of early intervention and preschool services under a written agreement entered into February 5, 2003 between Plaintiffs, the County of Clinton, and the Clinton County Department of Public Health. Early Intervention Contract, Ex. B (Dkt. No. 80-4) ("Provider Agreement"). Under the Provider Agreement, Plaintiffs agreed to provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities. Provider Agreement at 1. Plaintiffs would be reimbursed for providing these services by the County of Clinton. Id. ¶ 10. The Provider Agreement can be terminated by the County upon thirty days notice or immediately for cause. Provider Agreement ¶ 21. The Provider Agreement, while requiring Plaintiffs to be available as a provider on a twelve month basis, does not bind Clinton County for any specific duration. Provider Agreement at 1. Plaintiffs affirmatively concede that the Provider Agreement remains effective between the parties. Complaint ¶ 25.

Plaintiffs state in the Complaint that Defendants Girard, McCauley, and Puchalski were employees of Plaintiffs prior to January 30, 2004. Complaint ¶ 30. Plaintiffs alleged that on January 30, 2004 they gave Plaintiffs thirty days notice of their anticipated resignation from their positions and effectively left the employment on February 13, 2004. Id. ¶ 32--33. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants Girard, McCauley, and Puchalski were awaiting final approval of their own business from the Clinton County Legislature at the time of their resignation, to be known as North Country Kids, Inc., to serve as an early intervention service provider. Id. at 34. Plaintiffs assert that once approval was granted Clinton County began assigning provider sessions previously handled by Plaintiffs to North Country Kids, Inc. Id. ¶ 41, 47.

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Puchalski, McCauley, and Girard strategically set their termination date so it was possible to have students to whom they provided services transferred to Plaintiff's employees at North Country Kids, Inc. Id. ¶ 32. Plaintiffs also assert that Defendants had knowledge of the existence of the Provider Agreement. Id. ¶ 66.

Plaintiffs further allege North Country Kids, Inc. is not a multi-service provider, as required under applicable New York state regulations, and has thus entered into a subcontracting agreement with Teddy Bear, Inc. (the only other agency providing pre-school services in the Clinton County district) whereby North Country Kids, Inc.'s teachers provide services to students referred by Clinton County to Teddy Bear Inc. Id. ¶ 49--51. Plaintiffs contend that this subcontracting agreement allows Clinton County to refer sessions to North Country Kids, Inc. through Teddy Bear, Inc. Id. ¶ 51.

In addition to the claim at issue in this Motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs also brought a First Amendment claim against Clinton County. Id. ¶ 86. Plaintiffs assert that session hours were transferred away from Plaintiffs to North Country Kids Inc. in retaliation for Plaintiffs' complaints that Clinton County was giving independent contractor status to individual service providers. Id. at 28. Plaintiffs also claim that Clinton County, Defendants Puchalski, McCauley, Girard, and two county employees expedited the vote to approve North Country Kids, Inc. as an early intervention provider so the sessions assigned to Defendants Puchalski, McCauley and Girard while employed by Plaintiffs could be transferred to them at North Country Kids, Inc. Id. ¶ 36.

Plaintiff Pyramids Preschool, Inc. filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the pendency of this case. Voluntary Petition, Ex. A (Dkt. 80-3) ("Bankruptcy Petition"); Henry Aff. (Dkt. No. 80-2) ¶ 5. Plaintiffs' petition for bankruptcy does not list the present action as an asset of the estate. Henry Aff. (Dkt. 58-2) ¶ 7.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

In reviewing a complaint on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the facts stated in the complaint must be accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences from those facts are to be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. In re NYSE Specialists Sec. Litig., 503 F.3d 89, 91 (2d Cir. 2007). The court assumes the truth of only the plaintiff's well-pleaded facts-legal conclusions are not afforded the same treatment. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S.__, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). For the complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, "the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Plausibility requires more than just a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

Thus, in reviewing a complaint on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court's analysis consists of two prongs: First, the court "begin[s] by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 1950. Second, as to a plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations, the court will "assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. This determination is "a ...


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