KAREN E. GUILBEAULT, Plaintiff,
MARCO PALOMBO, JR., Individually, and in his capacity as Chief of the Cranston Police Department; JOHN SCHAFFRAN, Individually, and in his capacity as a member of the Cranston Police Department; ROBERT W. RYAN, Individually, and in his capacity as a member of the Cranston Police Department; RUSSELL HENRY, Individually, and in his capacity as a member of the Cranston Police Department; ALAN LOISELLE, Individually, and in his capacity as a member of the Cranston Police Department; STEPHEN ANTONUCCI, Individually; CARL ROBERT RICCI, Individually; VINCENT McATEER, Individually; ALLEN W. FUNG, Individually, and in his capacity as Mayor of Cranston; CITY OF CRANSTON by and through its Treasurer, DAVID CAPUANO; and John Doe, Alias, Defendants
Plaintiff: Stephen E. Breggia, Esq. Sonja L. Deyoe, Esq.
Defendant: William J. Conley, Jr., Esq.; Gina Lemay, Esq.;
Jeffrey W. Kasle, Esq.; John L.P. Breguet, Esq.; Joseph V.
Cavanagh, Esq.; John Tarantino, Esq.; Anthony M. Traini,
Esq.; Joseph J. McGair, Esq.
GIBNEY, P. JUDGE
Defendant, Stephen Antonucci (Defendant or Antonucci), brings
this Super. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss against
Plaintiff Karen E. Guilbeault (Plaintiff or Guilbeault) in
lieu of answer to the Plaintiff's Second Amended
Complaint. The Defendant contends that this action brought
against him in his individual capacity should be dismissed
based on a defense of qualified immunity. The Plaintiff
contends that she has met the required pleading standard in
respect to each of her claims in order to survive a motion to
dismiss. Further, the Plaintiff maintains that the Defendant
cannot properly assert a qualified immunity defense, and
therefore, the Defendant's motion should be denied. This
Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 §
Plaintiff, a member of the Cranston Police Department (CPD),
filed this action on May 3, 2013 against numerous defendants
for claims of gender discrimination. On November 30, 2016,
the Plaintiff amended her Complaint a second time to include
the present Defendant. She asserted claims of gender
discrimination and retaliation in violation of G.L. 1956
§ 42-112-1, the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act (RICRA),
and sought damages under 42 USC § 1983 (§ 1983) for
the Defendant's actions taken in his individual capacity.
The Plaintiff did not assert any claims under G.L. 1956
§ 28-5-1, Rhode Island's Fair Employment Practices
Act (RIFEPA), against the Defendant. The Plaintiff also named
the Defendant solely in his individual capacity.
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, the operative
complaint, alleges that the Defendant, in his individual
capacity, participated in a retaliatory internal
investigation against the Plaintiff brought after she filed
the instant action alleging gender discrimination at the CPD.
With respect to the present Defendant, the Plaintiff
specifically alleges that Antonucci engaged in gender-based
harassment against the Plaintiff that was hostile, abusive,
severe, pervasive, and continuous and which deprived the
Plaintiff of the right to work in a reasonable workplace
environment free from gender-based harassment.
Plaintiff alleges in her Second Amended Complaint that on or
about October 31, 2013, the Defendant-along with
co-defendants-initiated an internal investigation against the
Plaintiff, citing a violation of CPD rules. This violation
allegedly stemmed from the Plaintiff's supervision of CPD
Sgt. Josefson and the Plaintiff's suggestion to Sgt.
Josefson that he document any incidents of discrimination in
order to protect himself, after he reported that he was being
discriminated against or was not being treated equally. The
Plaintiff's alleged failure to report Sgt. Josefson's
use of a taping device and the Plaintiff's alleged
unauthorized recording of Major Schaffran served as the basis
for the internal investigation against the Plaintiff.
Plaintiff contends in her Second Amended Complaint that while
conducting this internal investigation, the Defendant knew
that no one in the CPD was aware of any rule against
recording fellow employees or the usage of taping devices.
The Plaintiff maintains that earlier in December of 2012, the
Defendant was directed by other members of the CPD to create
a rule and regulation prohibiting members of the CPD from
surreptitiously recording other employees. After doing so,
the Plaintiff then alleges that the Defendant was
specifically instructed not to disseminate the new policy
amongst members of the CPD before conducting his internal
investigation of the Plaintiff for violation of the
Plaintiff alleges that this internal investigation led by the
Defendant for violation of an unpublished rule was in
retaliation for her filing claims of gender discrimination.
She further asserts that this investigation violated her
First Amendment right to free speech and constituted an
attempt to delay the Plaintiff's promotion to Captain. On
January 12, 2017, the Defendant filed his motion to dismiss,
asserting a defense of qualified immunity against the
Defendant asserts that the Plaintiff has not pled sufficient
facts for her claims under RICRA and § 1983 in order to
survive a motion to dismiss. Additionally, the Defendant
maintains that the Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed
because her allegations are not based on individual actions
of the Defendant; rather, they are founded on the
Defendant's actions which were taken in his official
capacity as a member of the CPD. The Defendant argues that
plaintiffs cannot seek recovery under § 1983 for actions
of a defendant taken in an official, rather than in an
the Defendant contends that the Plaintiff's claims should
be dismissed based on a defense of qualified immunity. The
Defendant argues a qualified immunity defense applies when a
plaintiff fails to establish a constitutional violation and
when the violation was not clearly established by law so that
a reasonable person would know that he or she violated an
individual's constitutional rights. The Defendant
maintains that the Plaintiff's right to freedom of speech
was not violated, and further, that the Defendant, acting as
a reasonable person, was not aware of any violation because a
right is not clearly established by law.
Plaintiff maintains that she has met her burden for pleadings
in respect to both her gender discrimination and retaliation
claim. The Plaintiff contends that she has provided
sufficient specific factual allegations against the Defendant
to survive a motion to dismiss. Further, she argues that her
claims are properly based on the Defendant's actions
which were taken in his individual capacity, and that she
does not name the Defendant in his official capacity; rather,
she alleges that the Defendant individually participated in a
retaliation effort that was outside the scope of his
authority as a member of the CPD.
Plaintiff contends that a defense of qualified immunity does
not apply because she has alleged a proper constitutional
violation of her First Amendment right to free speech. She
argues that the filing of a gender discrimination claim is
protected speech as a matter of public concern and that the
Defendant attempted to chill her exercise of free speech when
he engaged in a retaliatory investigation. Further, the
Plaintiff contends that the law regarding her right to
freedom of speech was clearly established at the time and
that any reasonable defendant would know that a retaliatory
investigation would violate such a right. Therefore, the
Plaintiff maintains that the Defendant cannot assert a
defense of qualified immunity and, as such, his motion to
dismiss should be denied.
sole function of a motion to dismiss is to test the
sufficiency of the complaint[.]" Palazzo v.
Alves, 944 A.2d 144, 149 (R.I. 2008) (citations
omitted). Looking at the four corners of a complaint, this
Court examines the allegations in a plaintiff's
complaint, assumes them to be true, and views them in a light
most favorable to the plaintiff. Barrette v.
Yakavonis, 966 A.2d 1231, 1234 (R.I. 2009). This Court
is mindful of the policy to interpret the pleading rules
liberally so that cases are not "disposed of summarily
on arcane or technical grounds." Haley v. Town of
Lincoln, 611 A.2d 845, 848 (R.I. 1992).
complaint need not include the precise legal theory upon
which the claims are based or even the ultimate facts to be
proven; all that is required is fair and adequate notice to
the opposing party of the claims being asserted. Gardner
v. Baird, 871 A.2d 949, 953 (R.I. 2005) (citations
omitted); see also Berard v. Ryder Student Transp.
Servs., Inc., 767 A.2d 81, 83-84 (R.I. 2001).
Consequently, "[a] motion to dismiss is properly granted
'when it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the
plaintiff would not be entitled to relief from the defendant
under any set of facts that could be proven in support of the
plaintiff's claim.'" Woonsocket Sch. Comm.
v. Chafee, 89 A.3d 778, 787 (R.I. 2014)
(quoting Mendes v. Factor, 41 A.3d 994, 1000 (R.I.
2012)); see also Goddard v. APG Sec.-RI, LLC, 134
A.3d 173, 175 (R.I. 2016).
Court in Jones v. State of R.I. discussed the
standard for a court's consideration of a motion to
dismiss on a § 1983 complaint. 724 F.Supp. 25, 31
(D.R.I. 1989). That Court stated that with respect to §
"We require more than conclusions or subjective
characterizations. We have insisted on at least the
allegation of a minimal factual setting. It is not enough to
allege a general scenario which could be dominated by
unpleaded facts . . . Therefore, although we must ask whether
the 'claim' put forth in the complaint is capable of
being supported by any conceivable set of facts, we insist
that the claim at least set forth minimal facts, not
subjective characterizations, as to who did what to whom and
why." Jones, 724 F.Supp. at 31 (citing Dewey v.
Univ. of N.H., 694 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1982), cert.
denied, 103 S.Ct. 2121 (1983)).
of the Pleadings
Defendant contends that the Plaintiff has not alleged
sufficient facts in her Second Amended Complaint to support
her claims of gender discrimination and retaliation under
RICRA. The Defendant maintains that such facts are required
at the pleading stage in order to survive a motion to
dismiss. The Plaintiff contends that she has alleged
sufficient factual allegations in her ...