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Raven v. DaVita Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 9, 2018

GLORIA RAVEN, Plaintiff,
DaVITA INC. et al.,




         This action was brought by pro se plaintiff Gloria Raven against, inter alia, her former employer and supervisor under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Plaintiff's complaint and accompanying motion for leave to proceed in the action in forma pauperis ("IFP") have been forwarded to me for review. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's IFP application is granted, but I recommend that her complaint be dismissed, with leave to replead.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was hired by defendant DaVita Inc. on August 22, 2016, as a Dialysis Technician. Dkt. No. 1 at 11. "[A]fter five very successful months" on the job, plaintiff was offered a promotion to Administrative Assistant. Id. In her position as Administrative Assistant, plaintiff was supervised by defendant Dareni Lowe. Id. at 14. Plaintiff served in her capacity as Administrative Assistant until June 5, 2017, when she was fired. Id. at 25.

         Plaintiff's complaint, which is thirty-eight pages in length and set forth in narrative form, describes plaintiff's experience while working under defendant Lowe, including plaintiff's successes and strengths, as well as defendant Lowe's conduct towards plaintiff. By way of one example, plaintiff alleges that on or about February 23, 2017, she relocated a printer to her workstation when no one else who might need the printer was in the office. Id. at 16. When defendant Lowe learned of what plaintiff did, she demanded that plaintiff return the printer to its original location, reprimanded her, and threatened to write a formal complaint against her. Id. at 16-17. Plaintiff contends that defendant Lowe regularly abused her authority and acted unprofessionally towards plaintiff until plaintiff complained directly to defendant Kate Hooks, defendant Lowe's supervisor, concerning Lowe's conduct. Id. at 21. Within two days of plaintiff speaking with defendant Hooks, defendant Lowe filed the first of three formal written complaints against plaintiff. Id. at 22, 24. Plaintiff alleges that the written complaints were made in retaliation for plaintiff complaining to defendant Hooks, and designed to provide pretext for firing plaintiff. Id. at 24.


         A. Plaintiff's IFP Application

         When a civil action is commenced in a federal district court, the statutory filing fee, currently set at $400, must ordinarily be paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). A court is authorized, however, to permit a litigant to proceed IFP if it determines that she is unable to pay the required filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).[1] In this instance, because I conclude that plaintiff meets the requirements for IFP status, her application for leave to proceed without prepayment of fees is granted.[2]

         B. Plaintiff's Complaint

         1. Legal Standard

         Because I have found that plaintiff meets the financial criteria for commencing this case IFP, I must next consider the sufficiency of the claims set forth in her complaint in light of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Section 1915(e) directs that, when a plaintiff seeks to proceed IFP, "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In deciding whether a complaint states a colorable claim, a court must extend a certain measure of deference in favor of pro se litigants, Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990) (per curiam), and extreme caution should be exercised in ordering sua sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint before the adverse party has been served and the parties have had an opportunity to address the sufficiency of plaintiff's allegations, Anderson v. Coughlin, 700 F.2d 37, 41 (2d Cir. 1983). The court, however, also has an overarching obligation to determine that a claim is not legally frivolous before permitting a pro se plaintiff's complaint to proceed. See, e.g., Fitzgerald v. First East Seventh St. Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 363 (2d Cir. 2000) (holding that a district court may sua sponte dismiss a frivolous complaint, notwithstanding the fact that the plaintiff paid the statutory filing fee). "Legal frivolity . . . occurs where 'the claim is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory [such as] when either the claim lacks an arguable basis in law, or a dispositive defense clearly exists on the face of the complaint.'" Aguilar v. United States, Nos. 99-MC-0304, 99-MC-0408, 1999 WL 1067841, at *2 (D. Conn. Nov. 8, 1999) (quoting Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir. 1998)); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) ("[D]ismissal is proper only if the legal theory . . . or factual contentions lack an arguable basis."); Pino v. Ryan, 49 F.3d. 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1995) ("[T]he decision that a complaint is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, for purposes of dismissal under section 1915(d), may be based upon a defense that appears on the face of the complaint.").

         When reviewing a complaint under section 1915(e), the court is guided by applicable requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Specifically, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of Rule 8 "is to give fair notice of the claim being asserted so as to permit the adverse party the opportunity to file a responsive answer, prepare an adequate defense and determine whether the doctrine of res judicata ...

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