Trials & Litigation

Federal judge tosses bias suit, citing same 'boilerplate' claims in lawyer's unrelated cases

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A federal judge in in Fort Worth, Texas, has tossed a woman’s bias lawsuit against General Motors after accusing her lawyer of using the same “boilerplate” allegations in multiple cases.

U.S. District Judge John McBryde ruled the allegations had not been sufficiently pleaded and the case should be dismissed without the possibility of refiling an amended complaint, Law360 (sub. req.) reports.

The plaintiff, Letosha Anderson, had alleged GM did not give her the training and tools she needed to succeed in GM’s electrical apprenticeship program, though those opportunities were given to white males.

She was transferred out of the program to work in GM’s body shop, her suit says, where co-workers “hazed, bullied, harassed, insulted, ridiculed, humiliated and disrespected” her for being a female, African-American over 41 years old. The co-workers called Anderson “lazy” and placed “Hello Kitty” stickers on her toolbox, she alleged.

In their motion to dismiss, GM’s lawyers at Ogletree Deakins included copies of nine complaints filed in unrelated cases by Anderson’s lawyer, Hiram McBeth of the McBeth Law Office.

The dismissal motion asserted the Anderson’s lawsuit “is almost an exact copy” of many other complaints filed by McBeth in other cases.

“The claims asserted along with the bare allegations and conclusory statements that attempt to support them often match word-for-word, with only the name of the plaintiff defendant, and particular causes of action changed,” the motion says. “It is as if McBeth plugs into a template complaint any and all possible protective categories the client may fall under—with complete disregard of the specific facts of each case—and files the insufficient pleading with the court. The instant complaint is no different.”

McBeth responded that GM was seeking to hold Anderson to a higher pleading standard than is required at this stage of the litigation. Anderson cited facts specific to her claims, and pleadings filed by her lawyer in other cases are not relevant, McBeth said.

McBryde said the motions from the other cases supported the GM lawyers’ contention.

“While boilerplate pleading language is often used as to commonly-expressed legal principles,” McBryde said, “the court is highly suspicious of factual allegations that are alleged to be in common in unrelated lawsuits involving unrelated defendants. The use by plaintiff, through her attorney, of factual allegations that are almost copies of factual allegations made in other complaints filed in this court and other federal courts bear on the plausibility of the claims asserted by plaintiff in this action.”

McBryde also said Anderson’s age bias claim failed because it apparently was related to conduct that occurred before she turned 40; she had not shown an adverse employment action related to her race, gender bias, disparate treatment and retaliation claims; and alleged harassment was not sufficiently severe to constitute a hostile work environment.

McBeth didn’t immediately respond to a voice mail left at his law firm’s general number or to a message sent through the State Bar of Texas website.

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