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Bowling v. Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

March 5, 2018



          Danny C. Reeves, United States District Judge

         This matter is pending for consideration of Defendant Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc.'s (“Ryder”) motion to dismiss, which the Court construes as a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. [Record No. 19] For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the defendant's motion.


         Plaintiff Dannie Bowling (“Bowling”) was employed by Ryder as an over-the-road truck driver from 2012 through 2017. [Record No. 1, ¶¶ 6-7] Bowling contends that he began to suffer from a serious medical condition in February 2017. Id. at ¶¶ 29, 31, 34. Bowling called Ryder on February 4, 6, and 7, 2017, to say that he would not be reporting to work, but it is unclear whether he reported having a serious medical condition at that time. Id. at ¶ 32. On February 6, 2017, Ryder disciplined Bowling for not working. Id. at ¶ 27.

         Bowling alleges that he presented Ryder with a doctor's note stating that he was unable to work from February 4 through February 9, 2017. Id. at ¶ 38. He contends that he requested time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., but the defendant refused the request. Id. at ¶¶ 39-40. Ultimately, he contends that Ryder interfered with his ability to exercise his rights under the FMLA and retaliated against him for attempting to exercise those rights. Accordingly to Bowling, his employment was eventually terminated because of his inability to work due to illness. Id. at pp. ¶¶ 49-51.

         Ryder filed a motion to dismiss on January 30, 2017. [Record No. 19] In support, it contends that Bowling filed a Voluntary Petition for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in 2015 but failed to disclose this cause of action as an asset in the bankruptcy case. [See Record Nos. 19-2, 3.] Ryder argues that as a result of this failure, Bowling is judicially estopped from pursuing the action. Alternatively, Ryder claims that Bowling lacks standing to pursue the action because only the bankruptcy Trustee may do so unless the Trustee has abandoned the claim.


         Ryder has styled its request for relief as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, motions under Rule 12(b)(6) must be made before a responsive pleading is filed. Ryder filed its Answer on October 10, 2017. [Record No. 6] Accordingly, the motion to dismiss is construed as a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). See Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 11 (6th Cir. 1987).

         A party's Rule 12(c) motion may be granted when there is no issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, 510 F.3d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 2007). The Court accepts as true “all well-pleaded material allegations, ” but “need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Id. at 581-82 (quoting Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999)).

         Motions to dismiss under 12(c) are reviewed under the same standard as those under 12(b)(6). Lindsay v. Yates, 498 F.3d 434, 437 n.5 (6th Cir. 2007). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must allege sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible on the face of the complaint. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Peatross v. City of Memphis, 818 F.3d 233, 239-40 (6th Cir. 2016). The Court may consider “the Complaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to the defendant's motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008).


         Bowling acknowledges that he filed a petition under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code in 2015 and that the bankruptcy case was ongoing when he filed this suit against Ryder in August of 2017. See Bankruptcy Action No. 15-61142 (E.D. Ky.). [Record No. 21, pp. 1-2] A bankruptcy petition is signed under penalty of perjury, with a continuing and affirmative duty to disclose all assets, including any potential legal cause of action. Lewis v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 141 Fed.Appx. 420, 424 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing In re Coastal Plains, Inc., 179 F.3d 197, 2085th Cir. 1999)). Bowling concedes that he did not amend his schedule of assets to include his FMLA claim against Ryder. Id. at p. 3. He asserts that he had no obligation to do so for two reasons. First, he contends that “everyone knew” that Ryder had fired him. Second, he points out that his bankruptcy case ultimately was dismissed and did not result in the discharge of his debts.

         Regardless of Bowling's reasons for failing to disclose the existence of his legal claim against Ryder, it became property of the bankruptcy estate, at the latest, when Bowling filed this civil action in August 2017. See In re Simmerman, 463 B.R. 47, 55 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2011) (“[I]n Chapter 13 cases, the estate also includes assets acquired by the debtor after the commencement of the case but before the case is closed, dismissed, or converted.”). See also 11 U.S.C. §§ 541, 1306 (defining “property of the estate”); Audau v. Wet Seal Retail, Inc., 698 F.3d 902, 904 (6th Cir. 2012) (age-discrimination claim accrued and became property of bankruptcy estate when plaintiff was fired).

         Before a party may assert any action, it must have standing. This is a jurisdictional prerequisite, based in the case-or-controversy requirement of Article III, Section I of the United States Constitution. At its most fundamental level, standing means that the plaintiff must have suffered some type of “concrete and particularized” injury.” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). ...

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