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Larry Hoff v. Wpix

October 18, 2011

LARRY HOFF, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WPIX, INC., TRIBUNE COMPANY, AND BETTY ELLEN BERLAMINO, IN HER PROFESSIONAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANT.
WPIX, INC., TRIBUNE COMPANY, AND BETTY ELLEN BERLAMINO, IN HER PROFESSIONAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KAREN SCOTT THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sand, J.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court is Third-Party Defendant Karen Scott ("Scott")'s motion to dismiss the third-party complaint filed by WPIX, Inc. ("WPIX), Tribune Company, and Betty Ellen Berlamino ("Berlamino") (collectively, "Third-Party Plaintiffs"), pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons discussed below, Scott's motion to dismiss is denied.

I.Background

This case concerns a claim of age discrimination brought by Larry Hoff, a former television reporter at WPIX. Hoff is an experienced broadcaster, who worked as a reporter at WPIX from June 2000 until December 2009, when his contract with the station was not renewed.

Hoff Compl. ¶¶ 13--14. At the time of his termination in 2009, Hoff was around 58 years old. Id. ¶ 13. In a Complaint filed with this Court on March 8, 2011, Hoff claimed that he was fired because of his age, in violation of the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq., and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), N.Y. Admin. Code §§ 8-101 et seq. Hoff sought injunctive and equitable relief, as well as monetary damages and costs, from the Third-Party Plaintiffs. Id. ¶¶ A--J.

Plaintiffs responded to Hoff's Complaint by filing an Answer denying all of the substantive allegations against them. They also filed a Third-Party Complaint in which they asserted a claim for contribution from Scott in the event that they were found liable to Hoff. In the Third-Party Complaint, Plaintiffs argued that because Scott, who worked as News Director at WPIX until August 2009, played a role in the decision to terminate Hoff, she should share in whatever liability they are found to possess. Third-Party Compl. ("TPC") ¶ 2.

In response, Scott filed the motion that is the subject of this Order.

II.Standard of Review

On a motion to dismiss, a court reviewing a complaint will consider all material factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lee v. Bankers Trust Co., 166 F.3d 540, 543 (2d Cir. 1999). To survive dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), "the plaintiff must provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through 'factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" ATSI Commc'ns Inc. v. The Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 93 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 ( 2009).

Rather, the plaintiff's complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1940 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

The same standards apply to a motion to dismiss a third-party complaint.

III.Discussion

Scott makes two arguments in favor of dismissal. First, she argues that the Third-Party Complaint fails to establish a plausible claim for contribution under New York law because it fails to adequately demonstrate that Scott "had a part in causing or augmenting the injury for which contribution is sought," as state law requires before liability can attach to third parties. Nassau Roofing & Sheet Metal Co. v. Facilities Dev. Corp., 71 N.Y.2d 599, 602 (N.Y. 1988).

In support of this argument, Scott notes the undisputed fact that she lost her job as News Director at WPIX two months before Hoff was informed by Berlamino that the station had decided not to renew his contract. Third Party Def.'s Memo. Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("Scott Memo") at 2. Scott argues that this fact undermines the plausibility of Third-Party Plaintiffs' claim that she actively ...


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