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Stark v. University of Southern Mississippi

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

October 8, 2013

DIANE STARK, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI, JEFF HAMMOND, INDIVIDUALLY AND OFFICIALLY, DR. MARTHA SAUNDERS, INDIVIDUALLY AND OFFICIALLY; BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF STATE INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiff Diane Stark's Motion for Relief Pursuant to FRCP Rule 56(d) [56] and Motion for Relief Pursuant to FRCP Rule 56(d) and Local Rule 16 [74]. The former motion pertains to Defendant Jeff Hammond's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment [52], while the latter motion pertains to Defendant Dr. Martha Saunders' Motion to Dismiss [62]. Plaintiff argues that she should be allowed to conduct discovery prior to responding to either of Defendants' dispositive motions. Having considered the parties' submissions, the record and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion for Relief Pursuant to FRCP Rule 56(d) [56] should be granted and the Motion for Relief Pursuant to FRCP Rule 56(d) and Local Rule 16 [74] should be denied. In addition, Defendant Hammond's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment [52] will be denied without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff asserts numerous federal and state law claims relating to her former employment with the University of Southern Mississippi ("USM") as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Affairs. Plaintiff reported directly to the Director of Athletics at USM through this position. Plaintiff claims that her employment at USM was terminated in June of 2012.

On November 7, 2012, Plaintiff filed suit against USM, Jeff Hammond and Dr. Martha Saunders in the Circuit Court of Forrest County, Mississippi. ( See Compl. [1-2 at ECF p. 4].) The Complaint asserts the following claims for relief under state law: intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; breach of implied contract; constructive discharge; outrage; negligence; menace; promissory estoppel; equitable estoppel; and detrimental reliance. Most, if not all, of these claims arise out of the allegation that Defendant Hammond used his position in the Athletics Department "to threaten, intrude upon, frighten, attempt to extract funds from, act outrageously, intimidate, insult, disrespect, yell at, confront, and threaten violence towards Plaintiff." (Compl. [1-2 at ECF p. 5].) It is alleged, inter alia, that Defendant Hammond made the workplace intolerable, that USM and Defendant Saunders (as USM's President) ratified Defendant Hammond's conduct, that USM breached a contractual obligation to compensate the Plaintiff through June of 2012, and that the Plaintiff was wrongfully terminated as a result of reporting Defendant Hammond's misconduct.

On February 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed an amended pleading in the state court, adding federal claims under Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. ( See Am. Compl. [5 at ECF p. 74].) These federal claims center upon alleged gender discrimination.

On February 15, 2013, Defendant Hammond removed the proceeding to this Court. ( See Notice of Removal [1].) Subject matter jurisdiction is asserted under Title 28 U.S.C. § 1331 based on the federal claims alleged in Plaintiff's amended state court pleading. On February 18, 2013, USM and Dr. Saunders joined in and consented to the removal. ( See Doc. No. [3].) All of the Defendants subsequently answered Plaintiff's Complaint, and a Case Management Order [12] was entered on May 15, 2013.

On July 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint [38] in this Court, adding the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning as a Defendant. The Amended Complaint also includes a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of Plaintiff's Equal Protection and Due Process rights, as well as her rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. ( See Am. Compl. [38] at ¶ 7.)

On August 9, 2013, Defendant Hammond, in his individual capacity, filed his Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment [52]. In certain instances, Defendant Hammond makes arguments under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and asserts that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In other instances, Defendant Hammond relies on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and argues that the Plaintiff lacks sufficient proof to avoid dismissal. On August 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed her Motion for Relief Pursuant to FRCP Rule 56(d) [56], contending that Defendant Hammond's request for summary judgment is premature, and that significant discovery needs to be completed before she can file an appropriate response to his motion. By agreement of the parties, an Order [70] has been entered staying the time for Plaintiff's response to Defendant Hammond's dispositive motion pending the Court's ruling on the Motion for Relief Pursuant to FRCP Rule 56(d) [56].

On August 26, 2013, Defendant Saunders filed her Motion to Dismiss [62] pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Defendant Saunders seeks the dismissal of all claims asserted against her in her individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through this motion. On September 20, 2013, Plaintiff filed her Motion for Relief Pursuant to FRCP Rule 56(d) and Local Rule 16 [74], which largely incorporates by reference her request for relief pertaining to Defendant Hammond's dispositive motion. By agreement of the parties, an Order [77] has been entered staying the time for Plaintiff's response to Defendant Saunders' dispositive motion pending the Court's ruling on the Motion for Relief Pursuant to FRCP Rule 56(d) and Local Rule 16 [74].

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) provides as follows:

If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to ...

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