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Clay v. Campbell County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

June 26, 2013

Christopher H. Clay, Plaintiff,
v.
Campbell County Sheriff's Office, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Norman K. Moon Judge

Plaintiff Christopher H. Clay (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office (the “Sheriff’s Office”), former Sheriff Terry Gaddy (“Gaddy”), and Campbell County, alleging that he was discharged as a deputy sheriff in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; and the Virginians with Disabilities Act (“VDA”), Va. Code § 51.5-40 et seq. The Sheriff’s Office and Gaddy (“Defendants”) have filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).[1] For the following reasons, I will grant Defendants’ motion.

I. Background

Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy sheriff when, on or about April 2, 2011, he experienced debilitating pain associated with his kidneys. He learned that he had several kidney stones that were causing severe back pain and blood in his urine. He requested sick leave and met with a urologist on April 6, 2011. The urologist advised that Plaintiff undergo a lithotripsy to break up the kidney stones, but he recommended that Plaintiff wait until April 12, 2011, to undergo the procedure, in hopes that Plaintiff would be able to pass the stones on his own. The doctor therefore excused Plaintiff from work until April 12, the date of his next appointment. Plaintiff underwent the lithotripsy, and he was on “no work status” from April 12 until April 18, 2011. Plaintiff alleges that he was placed on suspension by Gaddy, then the Campbell County Sheriff, on April 18, and that his employment was terminated on April 28, 2011. Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and received a right to sue letter on July 26, 2012.[2] He then filed this action on October 24, 2012, seeking “equitable relief, reinstatement of benefits, compensatory, liquidated and punitive damages in the amount of $1, 000, 000.00 (one-million dollars), pre-judgment interest, attorney’s fees, costs and other such relief as may be just and equitable.”

II. Legal Standard

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

A motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). As a general matter, the plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating that subject-matter jurisdiction properly lies in federal court. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Division of Standex Int’l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). “When a defendant challenges subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), ‘the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding into one for summary judgment.’” Id. (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)). “[I]f the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law, ” the Rule 12(b)(1) motion should be granted. Richmond, 945 F.2d at 768. Thus, even though the motion is not converted into one for summary judgment, it is effectively the summary judgment standard that applies. Accordingly, reasonable inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

B. Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint to determine whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim; “it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Legal conclusions in the guise of factual allegations, however, are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679–81 (2009).

Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. In other words, Rule 12(b)(6) does “not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

III. Discussion

A. Definition of “Disability” Under the ADA

Although Plaintiff alleged violations of Title VII and the VDA in his Complaint, his counsel stated at oral argument that he wished to dismiss those claims; I will therefore focus solely on Plaintiff’s ADA claim. The ADA prohibits discrimination “against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to . . . discharge of employees.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a); see also Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 707 F.3d 437, 443 (4th Cir. 2013). “[I]n order to come within the ADA’s protected class, a plaintiff must first show that [he] is disabled within the meaning of the Act.” Pollard v. High’s of Baltimore, Inc., 281 F.3d 462, 467 (4th Cir. 2002). The ADA defines disability as “(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). “[M]ajor life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.” Id. § 12102(2)(A).

Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to adequately allege that he has a disability as defined by the ADA because his kidney stones were simply a short-term, temporary medical issue that was resolved in two weeks and did not substantially affect any major life activity.[3]Prior to the enactment of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553 (2008) (“ADAAA”), it was clear in the Fourth Circuit that a temporary medical condition generally did not qualify as a “disability” under the ADA. See Pollard, 281 F.3d at 468 (“[A] temporary impairment, such as recuperation from surgery, will generally not qualify as a disability under the ADA. An impairment simply cannot be a substantial limitation on a major life activity if it is expected to improve in a relatively short period of time.”); Halperin v. Abacus Tech. Corp., 128 F.3d 191, 199 (4th Cir. 1997) (“[I]t is evident that the term ‘disability’ does not include temporary medical conditions even if those conditions require extended leaves of absence from work.”) (internal citations omitted), abrogated on other ground by Baird ex rel. Baird v. Rose, 192 F.3d 462 (4th Cir.1999). Courts addressing the issue often relied on regulations then in effect that provided that “in determining whether an impairment is substantially limiting, courts may consider the ‘nature and severity of the impairment, ’ the ‘duration or expected duration of the impairment, ’ and the ‘permanent or long term impact’ of the impairment.” Pollard, 281 F.3d at 467–68 (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)); see also Halperin, 128 ...


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