Long John Silver's suits won't go back to Mercer County, federal judge rules

By Steve Korris | Jun 4, 2010

BLUEFIELD – Angela Dyson, former manager of Long John Silver's restaurant in Princeton, can't pursue a sexual harassment claim in Mercer Circuit Court.

On May 25, U.S. District Judge David Faber consolidated two suits she filed in Mercer County and ruled that he would either keep the single claim or refer it to arbitration.

He denied a motion to remand her second suit to Mercer County, where Kathryn Reed Bayless of Princeton filed suits last August and December.

The first alleged assault, discrimination, outrage, retaliation, negligent supervision and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The second sought declaratory judgment.

Dyson claimed she resigned due to the behavior of district manager Ray West.

She claimed he showed her his blue underwear and said he would rock her world.

She claimed he said he wanted a pretty little blonde with big boobs.

She claimed that as she tried with both hands to pull fish from a fryer vat, he stuck his hand in her pants and grabbed her butt.

"Plaintiff responded that if he ever touched her again she would put his ass in the fryer vat," Bayless wrote.

Dyson claimed that at a conference in Virginia, she went to his room to help him with a presentation. She claimed he made advances and she tried to leave.

She claimed he grabbed her room key and placed her in a headlock.

She claimed that after a telephone conversation with his wife, he punched the floor and broke a hand. She claimed he smoked crack to ease the pain.

Long John Silver's Restaurants removed both cases to federal court, asserting diversity of citizenship among the parties, and moved to compel arbitration.

Dyson didn't contest federal jurisdiction on the first suit, but did on the second.

She argued that the declaratory judgment action did not meet the $75,000 minimum for federal jurisdiction because it didn't seek monetary damages.

By merging the actions, Faber squashed the argument. He wrote that Dyson seeks compensatory and punitive damages, plus damages for distress and humiliation.

He wrote, "Clearly the amount at stake in the lawsuit exceeds $75,000."

Susan Snowden of Martinsburg represents Long John Silver's Restaurants. Jim Shortt of Tazewell, Va., represents West.

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