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Stark v. University of Southern Mississippi

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

April 3, 2014

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.

OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Defendant Dr. Martha Saunders' Motion for Stay of Discovery [104]; the Plaintiff Diane Stark's Motion to Strike Motion to Dismiss ("Motion to Strike") [112]; and the Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Response to Motion to Dismiss Until Order Rendered Regarding Motion to Strike ("Motion to Stay Response") [114]. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that:

1) Dr. Saunders' Motion for Stay of Discovery [104] should be denied;
2) Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [112] should be denied; and
3) Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Response [114] should be denied as moot.

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. On November 7, 2012, Plaintiff filed suit against USM, Jeff Hammond, [1] and Dr. Saunders[2] in the Circuit Court of Forrest County, Mississippi. ( See State 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. It is alleged, inter alia, that Hammond made the workplace intolerable, that USM and Dr. Saunders ratified 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 Hammond's misconduct.

On February 6, 2013, the 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 State Am. Compl. [5 at ECF p. 74].) These federal claims center upon alleged gender discrimination.

On February 15, 2013, 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 the 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].)

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 26, 2013, Dr. Saunders filed her Motion to Dismiss [62] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dr. Saunders sought the dismissal of all claims asserted against her in her individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court subsequently granted the motion in part and denied it in part. ( See Mem. Op. & Order [131].) The following of the Plaintiff's claims brought against Dr. Saunders in her individual capacity under § 1983 were dismissed without prejudice: (i) First Amendment retaliation claim; (ii) Equal Protection unequal pay claim; (iii) Procedural Due Process claim based on the existence of an alleged oral contract; (iv) Procedural Due Process claim based on McArn v. Allied Bruce-Terminix Co., 626 So.2d 603 (Miss. 1993); and (v) Substantive Due Process claim. Plaintiff's Procedural Due Process claim based on USM's employee handbook and Equal Protection failure to promote claim survived past the pleading stage.

On January 22, 2014, Dr. Saunders filed her Motion to Dismiss as to State Law Claims [100] pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Dr. Saunders seeks the dismissal of all state law claims asserted against her in both her individual and official capacities.

On January 27, 2014, Dr. Saunders filed her Motion for Stay of Discovery [104]. Dr. Saunders asks that all discovery against her be stayed pending resolution of her Motion to Dismiss [62] and Motion to Dismiss as to State Law Claims [100]. The Motion for Stay of Discovery [104] was filed prior to the Court's March 25, 2014 Order [131], addressing the Motion to Dismiss [62].

On February 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Motion to Strike [112]. This motion is aimed at Dr. Saunders' Motion to ...


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