United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
ROBERT L. MATTHEWS, Plaintiff,
TRACY GEE, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING PLAINTIFFS MOTION TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND DISMISSING THE
E. Hudson United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Robert L.
Matthews's ("Plaintiff) Motion to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis. (ECF No. 4.) The Court concludes that
Plaintiff is unable to pay the required fees. Therefore,
Plaintiffs Motion will be granted. Plaintiff may proceed in
this case without paying the Court's filing fee. The
Court will direct the Clerk to file Plaintiffs
Complaint. (ECF No. 1.)
who is pro se, brings suit against Lunenburg County,
Virginia, as well as Tracy Gee and Nicole Clark, in their
respective capacities as County Administrator and Human
Resource Professional for Lunenburg (collectively, the
"Defendants"). According to Plaintiff, the
Defendants are liable for defamation and for multiple
violations of the American with Disabilities Act
("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.,
related to the termination of Plaintiff s employment.
reasons set forth below, however, the Court finds Plaintiffs
Complaint fails to state a claim and is largely frivolous.
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2).
required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, the Court assumes Plaintiffs well-pleaded
allegations to be true and views all facts in the light most
favorable to him. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P.
& Patricia A. Brennan, LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th
Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7
F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). At this stage, the
Court's analysis is both informed and constrained by the
four corners of Plaintiff s Complaint. Viewed through this
lens, the facts are as follows.
case arises from Plaintiffs employment with Lunenburg County.
(Compl. ¶¶ 5-6.) In June 2007, the County hired
Plaintiff as a "buildings and grounds technician, "
though "no job description was provided ... at the time
of hire." (Id. ¶ 5.) Three years later, in
July 2010, the Defendants offered Plaintiff additional
part-time work as an assistant Animal Control Officer
("ACO"). (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff
received initial training for the ACO position in March 2011.
(Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff subsequently requested
that the Defendants provide him with additional training as
well as personal protective equipment. (Id.
¶¶ 10-11.) Those requests were denied.
20, 2012, while working as an ACO, Plaintiff responded to a
call reporting a dog attack. (Id. ¶ 12.)
Immediately after Plaintiff arrived at the scene and exited
his vehicle, the dog assaulted him as well. (Id.)
Plaintiff suffered multiple lacerations and punctures to his
throat, hands, and wrists. (Id.) He also sustained
injuries that caused an "11% permanent disability"
in each shoulder. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.)
result of the dog attack, Plaintiff filed a Worker's
Compensation ("W.C.") claim, which was approved.
(Id. ¶ 13.) However, that "claim is still
pending resolution and settlement." (Id.)
the incident on May 20, 2012, "Defendants] terminated
Plaintiffs employment in the position of ACO."
(Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Plaintiff remained out of
work for two years while recovering from his work-related
injuries. (Id. ¶ 16.)
1, 2014, Plaintiff returned to part-time work as a buildings
and grounds technician with Defendants' approval of
light-duty restrictions. (Id. ¶ 19.) He then
resumed full-time work in August 2014. (Id. ¶
20.) Despite the Defendants' accommodations, Plaintiff
continued to experience pain in his right shoulder.
(Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) He alleges that this pain
necessitated further surgery, which he scheduled for
September 11, 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 19-21.)
September 4, 2015, one week prior to the surgery, Plaintiff
received a letter from Clark referencing the Family and
Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). (Id. ¶
21.) The letter explained that Plaintiffs surgery qualified
for leave pursuant to the FMLA and that he could continue to
be paid through W.C., with the possibility of supplementing
his income through sick leave. (Compl. Ex. l, a 11, ECF No.
1-1.) The letter also stated that Plaintiffs FMLA leave would
be exhausted on December 4, 2015. (Id. at 1-2.)
subsequently spoke with Clark and told her that he
"would use [his] sick leave time from 11 Sept 2015 (the
date of surgery) until 30 Sept 2015 (Intermittent Leave),
then Plaintiff would switch to W.C. on 1 Oct 2015 and start
receiving W.C. payments from VACORP, the county's
insurance carrier." (Compl. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff
asserts that he memorialized this conversation in a written
letter and then took it to Clark, who subsequently
"accepted the agreement." (Id., see also
Compl. Exs. 2-3, ECF Nos. 1-2, 1-3.)
underwent shoulder surgery on September 11, 2015, and began
his period of FMLA leave. (Compl. ¶¶ 19-20.)
December 2, 2015, Gee sent Plaintiff a certified letter
reminding him that his FMLA leave would expire on December 4,
2015, and verifying that he intended to return to full-duty
work on December 7, 2015. (Id. ¶ 23; see
also Compl. Ex. 4, ECF No. 1-4.) Plaintiff reported to
work on December 4, seeking to return with his prior
light-duty restrictions in place. (See Compl. ¶
24 (referencing his treating physician's "orders for
sedentary work on approximately 4 Dec 2015").) However,
Gee stated, "No light duty work is available. You are
terminated." (Id.) On December 14, 2015,
shortly after his termination, Plaintiff asserts that his
"restrictions were upgraded" by his attending
contends that on December 8, 2015, he received a certified
letter from Gee stating that "[he was] considered to
have resigned from [his] position." (Compl. Ex. 5, ECF
No. 1-5.) Plaintiff then alleges that he republished this
statement on January 4, 2016 (id. ¶ 30 (filing
his EEOC charge)), May 14, 2016 (id. ¶ 31
(sending additional papers to the EEOC)), August 30, 2016
(id. ¶ 32 (filing his original Complaint in the
Lunenburg County Circuit Court)), and December 30, 2016
(id. ¶ 33 (filing his First Amended Complaint
in the Lunenburg County Circuit Court)).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
statute governing in forma pauperis
("IFP") filings provides that "the court shall
dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that the
action or appeal is frivolous or ... fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii); see also Michau v. Charleston
Cty, 434 F.3d 725, 728 (4th Cir. 2006) ("28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)... governs IFP filings in addition to
complaints filed by prisoners ...." (emphasis added)).
determining whether an action is "frivolous, " the
Fourth Circuit has noted that "[t]he word ... is
inherently elastic and 'not susceptible to categorical
definition.'" Nagy v. FMCButner, 376 F.3d
252, 256 (4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Adams v. Rice, 40
F.3d 72, 74 (4th Cir. 1994)). "It is designed to confer
on district courts the power to sift out claims that Congress
found not to warrant extended judicial treatment under the in
forma pauperis statute." Id. "The
term's capaciousness directs lower courts to conduct a
flexible analysis, in light of the totality of the
circumstances, of all factors bearing upon the frivolity of a
claim." Id. at 257. "[D]istrict courts are
at liberty to consider any factors that experience teaches
bear on the question of frivolity." Id.
assessing whether an IFP complaint "fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted, " courts conduct a
similar analysis to that used when considering a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, 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) (citation
omitted). Rule 8(a)(2), which governs pleading generally,
"requires only 'a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, '
in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the
... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'"
Id. (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,
47 (1957)). A complaint need not assert "detailed
factual allegations, " but it must contain "more
than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action."
Id. (citations omitted).
the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level" to one that
is "plausible on its face, " rather than merely
"conceivable." Id. at 555, 570. "A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). When
considering an IFP filing, a plaintiffs well-pleaded
allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in
the light most favorable to the ...