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Stowers v. Kings Daughter Hospital

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

May 6, 2018



          David L. Bunning United States District Judge.

         This case is before the Court on King's Daughters Medical Center's[1] Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 8) this employment-discrimination action. For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the Motion to dismiss and dismiss this action.


         According to Plaintiff, he began working at Ashland Hospital Corporation d/b/a King's Daughters Medical Center (“the Hospital”) on September 12, 2016. (Doc. # 1 at 1). A little more than one month later, a Plaintiff's physician gave him a note indicating Plaintiff could work forty hours per week so long as he wore a specific boot and tried to stay off his foot. Id. That same day, Plaintiff alleges that he approached “Sis Hineman, Kitchen Supervisor” with his doctor's note and asked for a job with lesser standing requirements. Id. Allegedly, Sis Hineman responded by saying, “If Human Relations knows of you having any restrictions they will let you go. You will no longer be working here.” Id. According to Plaintiff, he then approached Hospital Human Resources employee Megan Clark Brown to explain that he was “going to lose his foot and part of his leg” and wanted to make sure he would be able to return to his job as soon as his doctor had released him to work. Id. Megan Brown allegedly told Plaintiff that “she would have to get back to him.” Id.

         That very same day, Plaintiff alleges that he was rushed to the Hospital with a high fever and fading health. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the following day both Megan Brown and Sis Hineman visited him in the hospital and urged him to resign from his employment, which he refused. Id. According to Plaintiff, one week after these visits, Megan Brown called him while he was still in the hospital to inform him that he had been fired, effective November 26, 2017, and that he no longer had health insurance through the Hospital. Id. at 1-2.

         On or about February 15, 2017, Plaintiff's doctor released him to work with no restrictions. Id. at 2. Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and on August 30, 2017, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue . (Doc . # 1-1) . Plaintiff filed this prose action on November 28, 2017, alleging that the Hospital had wrongfully terminated him. (Doc. # 1). Plaintiff's Civil Cover Sheet for this case indicates the action concerns Plaintiff's employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). (Doc. # 1-2). The Court denied Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel, (Docs. # 3 and 6), and summons was issued to the Hospital on January 23, 2018. (Doc. # 7). The Hospital filed the instant Motion to Dismiss soon after, arguing that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6), and for insufficient service of process under Rule 12(b)(5). (Doc. # 8). Plaintiff having responded (Doc. # 9), and the Hospital having replied (Doc. # 11)[2], the Motion is ripe for the Court's review.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) permits a defendant to challenge the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction. A Defendant's motion to dismiss an action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) is premised on the axiom that the burden of proving jurisdiction rests with the plaintiff. RMI Titanium Co., v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996). “Motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction fall into two general categories: facial attacks and factual attacks.” United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir. 1994). While factual attacks focus on the factual existence of subject-matter jurisdiction, facial attacks challenge the sufficiency of the pleadings. Id. In considering a factual attack, “the court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself of the existence of its power to hear the case.” Id.

         Here, the Hospital has moved to dismiss the Complaint, arguing that Plaintiff has neither alleged the minimum amount in controversy to secure jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, nor alleged sufficient facts to establish federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Doc. # 8 at 6-8). Plaintiff claims, however, that he “has sufficiently established federal question jurisdiction over his ADA claims.” (Doc. # 9 at 4). Because Plaintiff's does not argue that the Court has diversity jurisdiction, the Court will focus only on whether Plaintiff has proven that federal-question jurisdiction exists.

         The “well-pleaded complaint” rule requires that “a federal question be presented on the face of the complaint.” Mich. S. R.R. Co. v. Branch & St. Joseph Ctys., 287 F.3d 568, 573 (6th Cir. 2002). Put another way, “a case arises under [federal-question jurisdiction] when it is apparent from the face of the plaintiff's complaint … that the plaintiff's cause of action was created by federal law.” Id.; see also Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 257 (2013) (“A case arises under federal law when federal law creates the cause of action asserted.”). Thus, Plaintiff's Complaint must show on its face that his cause of action is created by federal law.

         That said, “pro se complaints are held to ‘less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” West v. Adecco Emp't Agency, 124 Fed.Appx. 990, at *1 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). However, this does not eliminate the pro se plaintiff's obligation to “conduct enough investigation to draft pleadings that meet the requirements of the federal rules.” Id. (quoting Burnett v. Grattan, 468 U.S. 42, 50 (1984)).

         The West case provides appropriate context in this matter. In West, the pro se plaintiff had attached a copy of his EEOC right-to-sue letter with the complaint filed in court. Id. at *1. The letter itself indicated that the plaintiff had a right to sue under Title VII or the ADA. Id. The Sixth Circuit found that although the plaintiff did not specify which law he was suing under, the right-to-sue letter was sufficient to show that the plaintiff had intended to sue under one of the two federal employment laws mentioned in the letter, either of which would provide federal-question jurisdiction. Id. Thus, using “the less stringent pleading rules for pro se litigants, ” the Sixth Circuit found that the complaint sufficiently stated grounds for subject-matter jurisdiction. Id.

         Like the plaintiff in West, Plaintiff has attached his EEOC right-to-sue letter and indicated he is bringing this action under ADA. (Docs. # 1-1 and 1-2). He has also alleged that he was employed by the Hospital, and that he was terminated by the Hospital in relation to the loss of his foot and part of his leg. (Doc. # 1). Liberally construed, Plaintiff's well-pleaded complaint sufficiently states the grounds for federal-question ...

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