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McCarthy v. The University of Virginia Health System

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

June 25, 2019

KAREN MCCARTHY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA HEALTH SYSTEM, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Senior United States District Judge

         Karen McCarthy, proceeding pro se, filed this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") against the University of Virginia Health System, Dr. Nathan Fountain, Jan Garnett, Emile Patterson, and Linda Anderson. The case is presently before the court on the defendants' motion to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the defendants' motion.

         Background

         The following factual allegations, taken from the plaintiffs complaint, are accepted as true for purposes of the pending motion to dismiss. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 924 (2007) ("[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.").

         McCarthy is a registered nurse who worked in the University of Virginia Health System ("UVA Health System") from 2000 to 2018. Compl. ¶ 10, Dkt. No. 1. Since 2016, McCarthy has suffered from "multiple psychiatric diagnoses," including post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, and anxiety. Id. ¶¶ 10, 11. "She has lost over 60 pounds ... [and] has to take Valium, three times a day, to avoid a constant near panic level of anxiety." Id. ¶ 10. Additionally, the plaintiff "has failed 5 different drug trials, as well as behavioral cognitive therapy." Id.

         The plaintiff alleges that her psychiatric conditions were caused by incidents at work involving violent patients. Id. In March of 2016, McCarthy took medical leave "in an effort to recover from . . . multiple traumatic events." Id. ¶ 12. She sought treatment from a private physician, who prescribed anti-depressants and a medication for anxiety. Id. When McCarthy returned to work in May of 2016, she requested, and was granted, accommodations for her impairments. Id. Specifically, McCarthy requested that she not be assigned to violent patients and that she work only eight-hour shifts from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Id. With these conditions in place, as well as several new policies addressing staff safety, "the plaintiff felt safe enough to return to work." Id.

         McCarthy alleges that her requested accommodations were honored until January of 2018. Id. At some point that month, McCarthy was assigned a patient who had previously assaulted multiple staff members and proceeded to hit, kick, and spit on the plaintiff. Id. ¶ 13. That same month, McCarthy "suffered an incident of sexual misconduct by a demented patient" and was assigned two other patients "with known histories of post seizure violence." Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.

         On June 21, 2018, McCarthy filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that she was denied a reasonable accommodation for her disability in violation of the ADA. Charge of Discrimination, Dkt. No. 12-1. McCarthy reported that she had not returned to work since February 4, 2018 and that she had been placed on short-term disability leave. Id. McCarthy is now on long-term disability leave based on "multiple psychiatric diagnoses." Compl. ¶ 4. The plaintiff alleges that she is currently unable to work as a nurse in any capacity. Id.

         Procedural History

         McCarthy filed the instant action against the UVA Health System, Dr. Fountain, Garnett, Patterson, and Anderson on December 28, 2018. McCarthy indicates that Dr. Fountain is the director of the unit in which she worked, that Garnett is the unit manager, and that Patterson and Anderson are shift managers. The plaintiff claims that the defendants failed to accommodate her disability, in violation of the ADA. The plaintiffs complaint also includes a single reference to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794.

         On March 27, 2019, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.[1]

         Standards of Review

         Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to move for dismissal of an action for lack of subj ect matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Evans v. B. F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate "if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Rule 12(b)(6) permits a party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When deciding a motion to dismiss under this rule, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and draw all reasonable factual inferences in the plaintiffs favor. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94. "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to provide the grounds of [her] entitlement 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) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). To survive dismissal, "a complaint must contain ...


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